Jason Willow scored twice, and knocked in two runs in the HarbourCats comeback victory tonight over the Portland Pickles. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)
Story by Josh Kozelj
PORTLAND, Oregon — In a series mired by late inning collapses, the Victoria HarbourCats (11-7) turned the tables and used a furious ninth inning rally of their own to stun the Portland Pickles and leave the City of Roses with a victory in the series finale.
Victoria blew two separate 4-0 and 5-2 leads in a 6-5 loss to the Pickles on Friday, and squandered a two run lead in the last night’s 3-2 loss, but rebounded in a big way tonight by scoring four times in the final two innings to cap off a dramatic 7-5 comeback victory.
With the win, the HarbourCats kept pace with the Bellingham Bells (12-6) in the race for the First Half North division crown. Victoria remains a single game back with nine games remaining in the first half schedule.
The offence once again carried Victoria early in the game, beginning with a solo homer from Chase Wehsener in the first. The HarbourCats scored twice two innings later in the third, jumping their lead to three with a Jason Willow long ball.
However, the Pickles, who have showed incredible resilience throughout the entire series, responded in a big way off ‘Cats starter Cade Smith in the game’s middle frames.
Smith, who retired nine of ten Portland batters to start the game, ran into some trouble in the home half of the fourth. Chase Luttrell smacked a leadoff homer off the Abbotsford, B.C. native to begin the inning, and Portland climbed within a single run with back to back singles in the next two at-bats to make it a 3-2 game.
The Pickles took their first lead of the night one inning later, scoring three times in the fifth to end Smith’s night. Smith would go 4 2/3 on the evening, racking up five strikeouts and not yielding a walk in the start.
The game remained scoreless until the eighth, when Victoria gave Portland a taste of their own medicine.
Willow started the inning with a single, and after Wehsener advanced off a fielder’s choice, Nate Pecota brought Willow home with a single two batters later to cut Portland’s lead to one.
Trailing 5-4 heading to ninth, Nick Plaia started the rally with a walk, and after the Pickles got two quick outs, Wehenser ignited the comeback bid with a two out RBI single that levelled the game at five. Frankie Niemann followed his teammate up with a single that edged Victoria out in from by a run, while Griffin Paxton added an insurance run in the next at bat to make it a 7-5 score.
In the end, Victoria brought eight men to the plate in the ninth, and collected three hits with two outs to earn a victory in the series finale.
The HarbourCats will enjoy an off day tomorrow, before returning home for a three game set against the Wenatchee AppleSox beginning Tuesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35p.m. at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park.