History was made Wednesday evening as Claire Eccles became the first woman to play in the West Coast League when she entered to pitch the eighth and ninth innings against Wenatchee. This was her first official pitch. She gave up 2 runs on 1 hit in her 2 innings of work (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart
June 7, 2017, Victoria, BC – The Wenatchee AppleSox used a 12-hit attack to outscore the Victoria HarbourCats 9-0 Wednesday night to take the rubber match of the three-game West Coast League (WCL) series between the two teams, but that did not seem to matter to the 1,263 die-hard fans in attendance, as they got to see history being made when Victoria’s Claire Eccles entered the game to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, thus becoming the first woman to play in a WCL game.
Eccles was slated for possible relief action tonight and that became a reality when the AppleSox roughed up HarbourCats starter and eventual loser Colin Ashworth (0-1) for three runs over the first two innings and then touched up reliever Adam McKillican for another four runs in the sixth and seventh to build a 7-0 lead over the home side.
Eccles began her outing a little shaky, but settled in nicely, allowing two runs on one hit, while walking just one in her two innings of work, with both her teammates and the crowd cheering on every pitch.
“It was pretty surreal, walking in from the bullpen and hearing the crowd and my teammates supporting me,” said Eccles following the game. “Honestly, I think it was even louder than when I pitched in the Pan Am Games.”
Asked about her nerves coming in, Eccles said she was not nervous, but was having some trouble getting used to the mound and was slipping a bit. That cost her a leadoff walk that eventually scored in the eighth, while a hit batter in the ninth also came in to score, her only two blemishes on the night.
“I wish I didn’t walk a guy, I wish I didn’t hit a guy,” added Eccles, “I just wanted to play and to go out and show that I can compete. I’m glad the pressure of the first appearance is over, but as I’ve said before, there are lots of girls out there that can play and I just want them all to have the same opportunity as me.”
Lost in all the excitement of Eccle’s first outing was an outstanding performance from Wenatchee starter Mason Shaw, who gave his bullpen depleted team a 6.2 inning outing, giving up six scattered hits, walking seven and striking out three. He made pitches when it counted, as the HarbourCats left 13 runners on base.
Jalen Garcia closed out the win with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Offensively, Wenatchee was led by Dugan Shearer who had a three-hit night while scoring three runs, while Evan Johnson had a three RBI night. Adrian Vela and Jack Machtolf also chipped in with a pair of hits each.
For Victoria, Po-Hao Huang led the way with a three-hit night, while Kekai Rios chipped in a pair of hits including a double.
The win was Wenatchee’s second of the season and clinches their first series win of the season after they were swept by Walla Walla in their opening series. The HarbourCats fall to 4-3 and with the loss drop into third place in the North Division.
Both teams will be up early Thursday morning to race each other to Wenatchee, where they will renew their rivalry with a three-game set starting Thursdaynight. The ‘Cats then return home for a pair of games with the Port Angeles Lefties on Monday and Tuesday June 12 and 13. Game times for both are 6:35 PM.
Cat Scratches: With the arrival of new full-time players, some 10-day players and others will soon be leaving. The first of these casualties was right-handed pitcher Ryan Ricci, who injured his arm last week while on the road and has headed back home. More releases are expected later this week.