Claire Eccles . Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

University of Victoria Thunderbird, Claire Eccles became the first female baseball player to start a regular season West Coast League game, as she took to the mound for game two (of three) against the visiting Yakima Valley Pippins on Wednesday.

Eccles previously started the first of an exhibition doubleheader against the Cowlitz Black Bears. She earned her first West Coast League strikeout and win in that game. She left the mound after three complete innings with strong offensive support. In that game, Eccles gave up two earned runs and walked three. She was hit just twice with an earned run average of 6.00.

Game report:

Christian J. Stewart

It was a busy night for the scorekeepers at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria on Wednesday night, as the Victoria HarbourCats and Yakima Valley Pippins combined for 23 runs and 26 hits in a back-and-forth West Coast League (WCL) affair that saw the HarbourCats eventually pull out a 13-10 victory.

The game featured a bit of history at the start, as Victoria’s Claire Eccles became the first woman to start a regular season WCL game, giving up a pair of runs to the Pippins in the first, but then blanking them in the second and thanks to some early HarbourCats offence, holding a 5-2 lead after two.

She would work her way into the third inning, where the Pippins managed another pair of runs off of her, but she left the game with a 5-4 lead, handing the ball over to the usually efficient Blake Hannah.

Hannah was anything but efficient on this night, giving up four runs – two of which came on a two-run, fourth inning home run from the Pippins Lucas Denney, as the Yakima squad, like they did Tuesday, overcame the early deficit to the ‘Cats to take an 8-5 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth.

Unlike Tuesday however, the HarbourCats would have an answer for the Pippins, scoring three of their own in the bottom of the fourth to tie the score 8-8, thanks in part to a bases loaded walk to Harry Shipley and an RBI single from Hunter Vansau.   The ‘Cats would add two more in the bottom of the fifth, as a double off the wall from Shane McGuire scored Po-Hao Huang and a Shipley single scored McGuire to put them up 10-8.

After the teams traded runs in the sixth and the Pippins notched another in the seventh to cut the Victoria lead to 11-10, the HarbourCats added some insurance in the bottom of the eighth on a Shaps solo home run and an RBI double from Garella, handing a 13-10 lead to closer Travis Kuhn for the ninth.

Kuhn was impressive and despite a Pippins batter reaching on a HarbourCats error, their fourth of the night, struck out the side to end the game and give the HarbourCats the win.

McGuire had quite the night to lead the HarbourCats offence, striking for three hits, including his double, two RBIs and scoring three times.  Shaps also had a three-hit, three-run night with his home run and a double, while Shipley finished with two hits, two walks, three RBIs and a run scored. Garella also kept his four-game hit streak intact, with a pair of hits.

For Yakima, Denney led the way with a four-for-four evening, with his homer, four RBIs and four runs scored.  Toro Otsuka, Dustin Yates and Nick Plaia also had two-hit evenings, with Otsuka and Yates chipping in two RBIs each in the losing effort.

On the mound, Noah Prewett (2-0) takes the win in relief, allowing one earned run on four hits and one walk, while striking out three in his three innings of relief. Indigo Diaz and Shaps then helped set things up for Kuhn, who earned his league leading seventh save of the season.

Pippins starter John Fuqua made it through three innings (5R, 4H, 3BB, 1K) before being replaced by Kyle Nicol, who gets tagged with the loss, giving up five runs on four hits in two innings of work.  Yates mopped up with three innings of relief.

The win improves the HarbourCats second half record to 6-3 (20-16 overall) and they now jump into first place in the North, a full game ahead of Wenatchee (3-2) who fell 12-4 to Cowlitz Wednesday. The Pippins drop to 2-3 (15-17) and now sit two games back of Cowlitz in the South.

The deciding game in the three-game set goes on Thursday night with the HarbourCats sending Jack Owen (3-0) out to face the Pippins Taylor Dollard (3-0). Game time is 6:35 pm at Royal Athletic Park.

Cat Scratches:  Injuries continue to plague the HarbourCats, as third baseman /catcher Bryce Bonner had to leave Wednesday’s game after appearing to strain his arm on a tough throw from third to first. He is listed as day-to-day and will be evaluated further in the morning. border=