Victoria HarbourCats slugger Harrison Bragg watches a hit sail deep in West Coast League action at Royal Athletic Park this season. The play of Bragg, who was among the team leaders in home runs and RBI this summer, was one of many highlights in the HarbourCats’ fifth season. Christian J. Stewart photo/courtesy Victoria HarbourCats

WCL season a win despite finals loss for Victoria: Swanson

Fans, business community, players continue to be attracted by HarbourCats program

They may not have come away with the 2017 crown, but the Victoria HarbourCats continued to show they mean business in the West Coast League.

The Cats dropped a 4-2 decision Tuesday in Corvallis. Ore. in the deciding game of the best-of-three championship series. The defending champion Knights broke open a scoreless game 2 there the night before with six runs in the eighth and win 6-0.

Despite the losses, HarbourCats managing partner Jim Swanson reflected on what he called another successful season on and off the field for the club.

“I think if you told us that we would have been in a tie game in game 2, 0-0 in the eighth and only needing to scratch out a run to [potentially] win the championship, and last night the winning run was at the plate [in the ninth], we would have taken it,” he said Wednesday from the team bus en route to Victoria.

“We were pretty short staffed at the end due to a combination of injuries and academics, but our guys certainly battled and battled hard.”

Already working on recruiting for next year – the Cats signed two players for next year that morning – Swanson said this season, “on the field and off, we’ve shown the maturation of a program that is stable and competitive year after year.”

Not only do players love to play in Victoria, he added, the business community and spectators continue to support the club in a major way. Last Saturday’s game 1 of the WCL final series drew nearly 2,800 fans to Royal Athletic Park, setting a league single-game playoff attendance record.

The HarbourCats have also led the league in returning players in recent years, which is a point of pride for not only the team, but the city, Swanson said.

On the field Tuesday, the HarbourCats led off with a run in the first, but gave up solo runs in the next four innings to face an uphill battle. The visitors showed fight until the end as they attempted to win their first WCL crown in five seasons.

Justin Orton opened the eighth inning with a leadoff double to left, then scored on a Shane McGuire sacrifice fly that made it 4-2.

After Victoria reliever Ethan Fox sat down the Knights in order in the bottom of the eighth, the HarbourCats threatened in the ninth with back-to-back singles by D.J. Porter and Po-Hao Huang. Knights reliever Hazahel Quijada successfully fielded a bunt by power hitter Harrison Bragg to get the force play at third, then struck out Noah Prewett and Orton in order to finish the game.

Victoria starter Blake Hannah went six innings and gave up all four runs, while Knights starter Trenton Toplikar scattered four hits over seven innings, giving up just one run.

Game 1 hero Huang led the HarbourCats with two of his team’s seven hits on the night, while Matt Kelly and Elliot Willy had two hits each for Corvallis.

editor@vicnews.com