That's a huge monkey -- no, an ape -- gone from the backs of the VIctoria HarbourCats, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
The HarbourCats perservered, relinquishing leads a few times in the game on Wednesday at Joe Martin Field in Bellingham, but ended a season-long drought against the Bells with a 5-3 victory in front of an announced crowd of 552.
The HarbourCats prevailed over the Bells for the first time in six tries this season.
Pinch-hitter Wyler Smith singled in pinch-runner Danny Collier, and Smith later scored on a wild pitch, to provide the margin of victory in the ninth inning.
The HarbourCats held 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads earlier in the game, only to have the Bells find ways to scratch back to even terms, using an error in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game 3-3.
The HarbourCats had been on a three-game losing streak, while league- and division-leading Bellingham (24-7) had won five in a row. The streaky HarbourCats are 14-19, and will have to get hot and stay hot to make up ground on the wildcard playoff spot, which was 4.5 games out of reach entering Wednesday's games.
The HarbourCats got another stellar start from right-hander Alex Rogers, who will be at Monday's all-star game in Klamath Falls. He went 6.2 innings, gave up six hits, two runs, a walk, and fanned five. Sean Watkins, the winning pitcher (and also the DH in the game), went 2.1 innings, gave up an unearned run, and struck out four, including the final out.
Hunter Mercado-Hood twice singled in Nathan Lukes for runs, and both were 2-3 in the game. Gabe Clark was 2-5 with a run. The HarbourCats outhit Bellingham 11-9.
Bellingham won close games in both of the first two outings of the series.
The HarbourCats are home on Thursday night for Pagliacci's Night and Victoria Chamber of Commerce Mixer Night, a 7:11pm start. It is the final non-weekend home game of the 12 games remaining on the Victoria home schedule. The Klamath Falls Gems provide the opposition for games Thursday, Friday (Synergy Health/Harvey Bobblehead Night) and Saturday (Bottle Depot Giveaway Night), and all are 7:11pm starts. The West Coast League all-star game goes Monday in Klamath Falls, with Rogers, Clark and Alex DeGoti representing the HarbourCats.
ATTENDANCE -- With a weekend-heavy home schedule to close the regular season, the HarbourCats remain within reach of approaching the league record for attendance, set by Bend. The team would need to average 2,350 fans over that stretch, and with all weekend dates and outstanding promotions to come, the front office is focused on this goal.
"We have set things up to try and give our players the best support they can have as they drive toward that wild card playoff spot," said General Manager Jim Swanson.
"We have bobbleheads, we have baseball card sets, we have fireworks, we have Thursday's evening with Pagliacci's and the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. Everyone knows, players get pumped up when more people are in the stands, and we hope Victoria will help our guys push in these last four weeks of the regular season."