Christian J. Stewart/Christopher Kelsall
In one of the wackiest baseball games ever to be played at Royal Athletic Park, the Victoria HarbourCats prevailed by scoring 10 runs during their final four at-bats, including six during the bottom of the ninth inning.
The 'Cats overcame 7-1 and 11-6 deficits and walked-off with a 12-11 victory over the Cowlitz Black Bears in West Coast League (WCL) action Thursday.
The dramatic comeback gave Claire Eccles, who entered the game and pitched the top of the ninth, the win; her first ever in the WCL. This, in a game that featured 10 different pitchers - five for each team - and 36 hits - 21 for Cowlitz and 15 for Victoria. Eccles winning, sent the approximately 1,000 fans home with big smiles on their faces.
Victoria started Xavier University's Matt Kent on the hill. He acquitted himself well, giving up five hits in the process of working his way out of a few jams.
The HarbourCats actually gave Kent a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, thanks to an RBI double from Kevin Collard off Bears' starter Davis Baillie. The double scored Hunter Vansau, but the Black Bears would get that run right back in the top of the second on a Jace McKinney single that scored Nick Roberts.
The teams exchanged runs in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh respectively and then the HarbourCats, who this year seem to have a knack for scoring runs in the later innings, finally began to find their bats. Thanks to a Riexchangedcek three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, they pulled to within three with the score 8-5.
A Kona Quiggle two-run blast in the top of the eighth upped the Bears lead to 10-5, again seeming to dash any comeback hopes. Victoria's Tanner Rempel would get one of those back with a solo shot of his own in the eighth, but another Cowlitz insurance run in the top of the ninth, off HarbourCats Eccles, pushed the lead to 11-6.
Victoria kept battling and during the bottom of the ninth, Zayicek led off with a single and then came home to score on a two-run homer from Vansau, his fourth hit of the evening. Harrison Bragg then singled for his third hit of the night and then a two-run homer by Collard (his third hit of the night), to cut the lead to one, 11-10.
Enter Ethan Lopez, who was hit by a pitch and newcomer Andrew Shaps who walked, with both advancing on a wild pitch from Cowlitz reliever Kevin West. After pinch hitter Po-Hao Huang was hit by a pitch, Lopez would then come in to score on another wild pitch, tying the game 11-11.
That set the stage for Noah Prewett, who after fouling off four pitches in a row, stroked a base hit, his second of the night, to score Shaps and give the HarbourCats and Eccles the incredible win.
Lost in the HarbourCats comeback was a pretty impressive offensive performance from the Bear's Devlin Granberg who had three hits, including a home run and a double, four RBIs and a pair of runs scored. Ryan Kim also had a four-hit night with a double and a pair of RBIs, while Roberts finished with three hits and a pair of runs scored.
The HarbourCats comeback also put a bit of a dent in the Black Bears first-half South Division playoff hopes, as in a quirk of WCL scheduling, heading into tonight's action, Cowlitz still had six games to play in the first half and at 3.5 games back of Corvallis in the South Division, have a mathematical shot at the Division title. Thus, every game for them in this series has some deeper meaning and tonight's loss hurt those chances significantly, as they now fall four games back of the idle Knights.
The HarbourCats on the other hand, had just two games remaining in their first-half schedule and given that they started the night 3.5 games behind Division leading Kelowna (15-9), they have no chance of winning the first-half title, so tonight's win will go down as an incredible character builder and a game that will get them nicely prepared for Friday's Fireworks NIght and then Saturday's matinee finale with Cowlitz that will will be the 'Cats first game of the second half and one that then counts toward a possible second-half Division win and ultimate playoff spot.
Game time for Friday's match is set for 6:35 pm with Isaac Mullins getting the start for Victoira while Corbin Powers goes for Cowlitz. After the game, fans will be treated to an 18-minute fireworks show.
Saturday's Canada Day matinee starts at 1:05 pm and the 'Cats will roll out 3-0 Adam McKillican while Cowlitz will start Nico Tellache.