Zach Swanson gave it the ol’ college try Friday night, but the big bats of the defending West Coast League champion Corvallis Knights were just too much for the Victoria product, who will head into his second year at San Diego Christian College in a few weeks.
Swanson, making just his second start and third appearance of the season, was called to duty for Game 1 of the WCL final due to the shortage of HarbourCats arms, due to most of their pitchers having returned to their respective colleges.
The young right-hander with an impressive curve ball started strong but the Knights, in their fourth straight league final, got on track in a seven-run fourth inning to beat the HarbourCats 14-8 in front of 1,794 fans at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park. The Knights can now wrap up another league title with a victory tonight in Game 2 at Corvallis, Oregon. A HarbourCats’ victory tonight and the best-of-three series will be decided Sunday afternoon in Corvallis.
After a scoreless first inning, Knights catcher Zack Moeller got the Corvallis offence rolling with a solo homer in the second, but that was matched by a solo homer of his own by HarbourCats first baseman and Vancouver Island University product Liam Ballance in the bottom of half of the inning.
But it was the fourth inning where the Knights, winners of the South Division with a 42-12 overall record, blew it open. They chased Swanson before the rookie could record an out. Jake Holcroft, out of Portland University, hammered a two-RBI double to put the Knights up 5-1 and they never looked back. Brooks Lee, out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo followed with a three-run home run.
The HarbourCats, North Division champs with a 39-15 overall record, finally got to Knights starter David Watson in the eighth. The University of Utah righty, who was 5-1 during the regular season, finished with 7 1/3 innings and left the game with a 13-3 lead.
Trace Hokkanen wore the brunt of the HarbourCats’ frustration as Victoria put up a three-spot in the eighth and another two in the ninth to make it respectable.
Veteran Harrison Spohn of Cal Baptist added a solo home run for Victoria in the fourth inning.
Mikey Callia, Andrew McCuaig and Ty Schindel finished up on the hill for the HarbourCats.