Realignment in the West Coast League of baseball means there will be a new playoff format in place this fall.
Team owners finalized the configuration at spring league meetings in Seattle on the weekend.
Three divisional champions and one wild card will advance to best-of-three series, but the opening game will be played at the home of the lower-ranked team, says Victoria HarbourCats owner John McLean, who represented the second-year team at meetings and had a chance to introduce new general manager Jim Swanson to the stakeholders.
“The rationale behind that is largely economics,” said McLean, who fully hopes to be in the post-season in Year 2 after missing out in 2013. “Clearly, if one team sweeps the first two games, each team will have had an opportunity to host a game. It essentially keeps the costs down. That’s the way to look at that. Costs are a big deal.”
Last year the top two teams in the North and South divisions advanced.
“It’s a little unusual in the fact of having three divisions this year, but there are a lot of miles between Kelowna and Klamath Falls or Medford, the most southern teams, then you add a ferry in for Victoria,” said McLean. “This is designed to keep the boys off the road as much as you can and keep your costs under control.”
Victoria is situated in the West division with Bellingham, Cowlitz and Kitsap.
The league’s championship final will repeat the format with the first game in the park of the lower seed. The regular season ends Aug. 10 at home for the HarbourCats and if they qualify, playoffs start the next day.
On the field Tuesday, the HarbourCats announced the return of three players for the 2014 campaign, which begins in Kelowna on June 6.
Pitchers Bryan Conant and Logan Lombana and infielder Alex DeGoti are back. The versatile DeGoti and left-hander Conant were second-team WCL all-stars last season.
“This is good news for the continuity of our on-field program, and I’m sure fans will be excited to hear that Alex, Logan and Bryan are coming back,” Swanson said of the group.
“Alex’s energy is contagious and everyone remembers his fire on the field and the way he interacted with fans, especially our young fans. Bryan earned a spot on the second all-WCL team last season and was a key part of the pitching staff, and Logan logged important innings last summer and has really raised his game at Long Beach State. Add these three with the other players already announced, and we believe the HarbourCats will be a team that can contend this season.”
DeGoti hit .286 with three home runs and 21 runs batted in for the HarbourCats in their inaugural campaign. Conant was 4-1 with a 1.81 earned-run-average in eight games and gave up 40 hits and 11 walks over 542Ú3 innings.
Lombana saw action in 11 games last season including five starts and posted two complete games (tied him with Ty Provencher for the team lead). Lombana finished with a 2-2 record and 6.00 ERA, tossing 48 innings, fifth-most on the team.