Claire Eccles wins in first start with Victoria HarbourCats

Robert Frost once compared poets to baseball pitchers in observing: “Both have their moments. The intervals are the toughest things.”

A couple of Victoria HarbourCats pitchers, Claire Eccles and Adam McKillican, had fans and coaches waxing poetic by making the most of their mound moments at Royal Athletic Park.

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On Sunday, 2,373 fans turned out to Royal Athletic Park on a dank day to watch Eccles become the first female to both start and win a game for a WCL team. It was a non-league 11-2 victory against the Kitsap BlueJackets, who play in a Seattle senior league, but memorable nonetheless as Eccles tossed two shutout innings before Kitsap scored two runs in the third inning to make it 7-2 before Eccles’ departure.

“It was cool, with so many friends who came over to be in the stands,” said Eccles, the 19-year-old native of White Rock, who struck out one and walked three.

“My first two innings were really good. I felt comfortable out there and my teammates were getting people out.”

Because the bottom half of the Victoria second inning was long due to an offensive outburst, Eccles said she got cold waiting for the third inning and her performance cooled, too.

Eccles said she felt in command of her knuckleball in the first two innings and gave a shout-out to catcher Riley Guntrip for handling it well.

“It was an awesome experience,” said the silver-medallist with the women’s Canadian national baseball team at both the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and 2016 World Cup in South Korea.

Not that there isn’t room for improvement.

“I hate walking people,” she said, citing a need to throw strikes with more consistency.

“[HarbourCats pitching coach Mike Spears] tells me to just throw it,” said the five-foot-nine lefty Eccles, who became the first female pitcher to throw in a WCL game during two innings of relief against the Wenatchee AppleSox on June 7, allowing one hit and two runs.

University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors slugger Ethan Lopez’s walk-off single gave Victoria a 5-4 win over Kitsap in the second-game of the Sunday doubleheader, with Blake Hannah of UC-Davis picking up the win for two innings work after joining the team earlier in the day from California.

The six-foot-four Courtenay-product McKillican threw a one-hit beauty Monday over 6 2/3 innings, allowing no runs and one walk, with four strikeouts to lead the HarbourCats to a 6-1 West Coast League victory over the Port Angeles Lefties.

A two-run triple by Davis Wendzel from the NCAA Div. 1 Baylor Bears was the key Victoria hit before 3,137 fans on a school-day, field-trip noon start.

“As a pitcher, you never know what kind of day it’s going to be when you wake up,” said McKillican.

It was a good one as he lifted the HarbourCats to 8-8 and dropped the Lefties to 7-10 as Victoria moved to 4-0 in its cross-strait rivalry against Port Angeles.

“My arm felt good,” added the Islander and UBC Thunderbirds hurler.

“The key was I was able to get outs and put quick zeros on the board and keep my pitch count down.”

McKillican (2-0) gave up only a lone first-inning double to Jake Portaro before putting down the next 17 consecutive Lefties batters.

“Adam [McKillican] is throwing the ball well and Claire [Eccles] is stepping in the right direction, with a lot of positives to take out of that performance,” said Victoria head coach Brian McRae.

The HarbourCats begin a three-game set Tuesday night at Royal Athletic Park against the Corvallis Knights and begin another against the Walla Walla Sweets on Friday.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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