HarbourCats take fans on thrilling ride

The exhilarating ride that was the 2016 Victoria HarbourCats baseball season has come to a close.

By Jonathan Hodgson

The exhilarating ride that was the 2016 Victoria HarbourCats baseball season has come to a close.

In an abrupt ending to an all-around tremendous season, the HarbourCats were swept in two-straight games by the Bellingham Bells in the West Coast League north division final last week.

After falling on the wrong side of a close 3-2 final in game one at Joe Martin Field in Bellingham last Tuesday, the Bells ran away with the deciding game two at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, scoring two runs in the first inning and five in the second, setting the tone en route to a 12-1 victory over the HarbourCats, sweeping the best-of-three series and advancing to the WCL championship Series against the Corvallis Knights.

For the HarbourCats, it ended a memorable, record-setting season of firsts that raised the bar for the club going forward in many ways.

Between the white lines, they set franchise and league records for wins (40), winning streak (19), and tied a league record for home wins with 23.  A team-record eight current or former HarbourCats were also selected in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft.

The fans of Victoria responded and created an electric atmosphere at Royal Athletic Park all summer, setting new franchise and league attendance records in the process including season total (60,466), per-game average (2,239) and single-game (5,133 on June 30).

The HarbourCats saw increased attendance and raised their win total for the fourth straight year, each year of their existence, and on June 30, clinched their first-ever playoff berth by winning the WCL north division first half pennant with a 23-4 record.

It was not only the franchise’s first playoff berth, but meant that playoff baseball would return to Victoria for the first time in 64 years.  Victoria has a proven love for baseball, with a long history of well-supported teams, but prior to this HarbourCats squad, none had played postseason baseball since the Victoria Tyees class-A minor league team won the 1952 Western International League pennant.

On the final day of the regular season, an 11-4 win over the Yakima Valley Pippins gave the HarbourCats a record of 40-14, the best ever in WCL history as the first team to ever win 40 games.

The early playoff exit certainly comes as somewhat of a disappointment after the type of season it was in Victoria, but does not dampen the excitement within and surrounding the club as they head into their fifth season in the West Coast League.

Much of the season was uncharted territory for the HarbourCats as they checked numerous firsts off their list. In 2017, this club will be a seasoned contender that is not happy simply to be there, but will be hungry, and will have the experience to take the next step.

The current state of the HarbourCats can be likened in ways to the emergence of the Toronto Blue Jays.  Last season was their first time for everything, and they ultimately bowed out to the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals, a franchise that had been to the playoffs the year before.

That dynamic holds true in the WCL. The Bellingham Bells who were in the playoffs for the third straight year and won the 2014 WCL championship were the team that eliminated the HarbourCats. The Corvallis Knights advanced to the 2016 championship series out of the south division in their remarkable 10th straight playoff appearance and are looking for their fourth title in their eighth trip to the finals.

The Victoria HarbourCats and the fans of Victoria left no doubt that the B.C. capital is a great baseball town. The future of baseball in Victoria has never been brighter.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria police are seeking home surveillance video and witnesses following a prowling incident in Esquimalt Jan. 20. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt prowler removes air conditioner, peers into person’s home

VicPD is seeking video footage, witnesses following Jan. 20 incident

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
School bus driver laments motorists who pass while red lights are flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

A cyclist navigates the shoulder in traffic along Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria. (John Luton Photo)
Oak Bay council supports Fort Street bike lanes

Victoria bike lanes would connect to Cadboro Bay Road

The Victoria Fire Department extinguished a 15 foot tent fire in the 500-block of Ellice Street Jan. 19. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police investigating after 15-foot flames engulf tent

Flames damage nearby business in 500-block of Ellice Street

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Most Read