Nick Plaia is congratulated after scoring one of his four runs in the HarbourCats 18-7 win last season over the Kelowna Falcons (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
WHERE: Elks Stadium, Kelowna, BC
WHEN: June 14- 6:35 p.m., June 15- 6:35 p.m., June 16- 6:05 p.m.
HISTORY: Victoria leads all time head-to-head series 19-11
LAST SEASON: Kelowna — 28-26, lost in WCL Championship.
The Falcons won the final two games of the season last summer to clinch a postseason spot for the third time in four years, and went on a magical playoff run that saw them come within a single game of winning their first WCL title.
For the majority of the season, however, it looked as if Kelowna would fall short of the playoffs—never mind advancing all the way to the finals. The Falcons fell well short of the Bellingham Bells in the First Half division standings, and hovered around the .500 mark in the Second Half, until a late season surged propelled them into the postseason with the help of their overall record. Despite having the fourth best record in the North in the Second Half, Kelowna clinched a postseason spot with a better overall season record than both Yakima Valley and Wenatchee.
A date with the dominating Bellingham Bells, who won both the First and Second Half division pennants, in the first round was the reward for the Falcons—but they shocked the Bells by taking two of three to move onto the WCL Finals against the Corvallis Knights. Kelowna would be swept in the championship round, but 2018 marked the first time the Falcons had made the WCL Finals since 2015—where they were also swept at the hand of the Bend Elks.
The Home Team:
Victoria comes into the series after splitting a two game set in Yakima Valley against the Pippins. The ‘Cats were held to just five hits in a 4-2 loss on June 12, and Yakima reliever Mark Woinarowicz pitched five innings of one-hit ball after coming in for relief in the fifth. In the series finale, however, the HarbourCats exploded for nine base hits and used a four-run eighth inning to squeak out a 5-3 victory and get their record back up to the .500 mark on the season—Parker Bramlett led the way with two RBI’s, and Matt Clayton drew four walks and scored two runs on the evening.
Founded back in 2000, the Falcons are one of the flagship West Coast League franchises. Kelowna began play in the Pacific International League earlier in the millennium, and joined the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League (which later became the WCL) in 2004. Kelowna also boasts many notable alumni in the Major Leagues, including the Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis, and Canadian starter James Paxton, who currently pitches for the New York Yankees.
As for this season, Kelowna comes into the series at 1-5, and in the midst of a rough five game losing streak. After winning their season opener in Bellingham against the Bells, the Falcons dropped the next two in Bellingham and were swept earlier this week at home against the expansion Ridgefield Raptors.
Players to Watch:
Austen Butler (OF) — The Port Coquitlam native has led the way for the Falcons at the dish this season, posting an impressive .400 batting average to go along with two RBI’s and a pair of doubles in his club’s first six games.
Jonathan Clark (RHP) — Despite the early season blues up in Kelowna, Jonathan Clark has been a standout in the rotation for the Falcons. Clark racked up a season high nine strikeouts in a losing effort back on June 9 in his last start against Ridgefield, and increased his team lead in K’s to 12.