Junuary and weather more suited to, well, anything except baseball, greeted the start of the 2018 West Coast League season Friday night at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park.
The Victoria HarbourCats’ bats were as cold as the night in a 2-1 loss to the Wenatchee AppleSox before nearly 3,000 fans.
“It was a clean, well-pitched game, with only nine hits total between both teams [five for Wenatchee, four for Victoria],” said HarbourCats head coach Brian McRae.
“We had opportunities to score but couldn’t cash in. But hitting is the last thing I am worried about right now. A lot of these guys haven’t played in a couple of weeks [since their college seasons ended]. The hitting will get there.”
Ethan Fox, a Parksville Royals graduate out of the B.C. Premier League, started for the HarbourCats in the season opener for the second consecutive year.
There were some good moments, and some not so for Fox, who exited following 32Ú3 innings after allowing four hits, two earned runs and four walks. He showed steely resolve during his finest stretch, when he put out three consecutive AppleSox batters to end the second inning, after loading the bases with none out.
“It went all right, although I expected more of myself,” said Fox, who redshirted this season as a freshman at Avila University in Kansas City.
It was a special moment on other levels on his home Island for the native of Campbell River, who turned in several clutch outings during the playoffs last year as the HarbourCats made it to the league final, before finishing one game short of the WCL crown.
“I had a lot of friends and family who came out to cheer me,” said Fox.
And the weather? Piece of cake for an Island guy.
“I grew up on the Island, so I’m used to it, and it didn’t bother me.”
What did, however, was a blood blister late in his outing.
“I couldn’t properly feel the ball in my later innings,” Fox said.
He will be fine as the season wears on, predicted McRae.
“[Fox] red-shirted this season at Avila in Kansas City, so he hasn’t played all spring, and this was his first live action since maybe last fall,” said the Victoria skipper.
The HarbourCats, trailing 2-0, finally warmed up enough to load the bases in the eighth inning with none out, but were able to only squeeze one run out of it.
The HarbourCats and AppleSox close out their season-opening set Saturday night at 6:35 and Sunday at 1 p.m.