August 13, 2023
VICTORIA, B.C. — For the third time in the last five seasons of play, the Victoria HarbourCats will play a one-game, winner-take-all contest for the West Coast League title.
And for the third time, that game will be played in Corvallis, OR.
The HarbourCats, looking to become the first Canadian-based team to claim the WCL crown, advanced to Monday’s game — which will start at 8pm at Goss Stadium, the time set due to extreme heat conditions— with a heart-attack of a 7-6 victory over the Bellingham Bells in Saturday’s game at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park.
The HarbourCats captured their third North Division playoff title (also doing so in 2017 and 2019, with no play in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic), but escaping the clutches of the Bells in the playoffs for the first time. Bellingham prevailed in previous meetings in 2016 and 2022.
The Bells started off strong on Saturday as the first two batters singled, followed by a three-run blast by Andrew Valdez — 3-0 before an out was recorded by HarbourCats starter Logan MacNiel. It didn’t get easier in the second as MacNiel put two runners on and both those runners scored to make it a 5-0 Bellingham lead after one and a half innings, quieting the crowd of more than 3,600.
That silence didn’t last long.
Victoria scored two in the bottom of two off Isaac Yeager, the Bells starter, thanks to an error and a sacrifice fly, and the game was back in reach.
The big inning was the bottom of the fourth. The HarbourCats plated five to take a 7-5 lead, the last dagger a two-run, two-out single by Hudson Shupe off Trevor Moore, the third Bellingham pitcher of the inning.
Jake Finkelstein shut the Bells down in relief of MacNiel, with a dominant five and a third innings with two hits allowed, no runs, and three strikeouts. Josh Berenbaum then entered in the seventh and quashed a bases loaded jam, and pitched into the ninth.
Bellingham would make it exciting in the ninth, getting to within a run and having the tying run on second when Dustin Davidson induced a fly ball, and Brett Harvey closed it out with a fly to right and a pop up to first base to end it, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Jack Johnson had three RBIs and a stellar defensive play at third base in the third inning, and Dallas Macias made a game-changing catch in left field in the sixth inning.
The West Coast League Championship game will be held in Corvallis, Monday night at 8pm. The winner of this game will be crowned 2023 West Coast League Champions.