Hot-hitting HarbourCats roll into playoffs

If there was ever a West Coast League equivalent of the New York Yankees’ famous Murderers’ Row, the 2019 Victoria HabourCats were it.

The HarbourCats set WCL records for the most runs in a season with 415, most hits with 581, most RBIs with 339, most home runs with 53 and best slugging percentage at .440.

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“We consistently wore out baseballs,” said HarbourCats batting coach Curtis Pelletier.

“It becomes contagious when everybody buys into it [the team’s hitting approach].”

Victoria also carries an eight-game winning streak into the post-season while its North Division opponent, the Wenatchee AppleSox, have lost four straight games. But as everybody in sports knows, you toss the regular season results and glories into the stadium trash bin once the playoffs begin.

“We have to be wary not to try to overdo it and not try to do too much. Just play our game and be ourselves and do what we’ve been doing,” said HarbourCats slugger Harrison Spohn, who hit seven home runs to tie for the team lead with Nick Adams.

Fellow HarbourCats slugger Nick Plaia, who hit six home runs, concurred: “We have to stay consistent and not attempt to do too much and just treat these like we would any other games.”

The HarbourCats (21-6 in the second half and 39-15 overall) won the North Division first-half title and playoff berth that goes with it. Victoria, which fell one win shy of the 2016 franchise record of 40, also won the second-half and overall division titles.

The AppleSox (17-10 and 29-25), the second-half and overall runners-up, got the other North Division playoff berth.

The Corvallis Knights and Walla Walla Sweets play in the South Division final.

The North and South champions will meet in the best-of-three WCL final Aug. 18-20. Corvallis (42-12 overall) would have home-field advantage over the North representative. Victoria would have home-field advantage over Walla Walla (30-23 overall).

Victoria is making its third playoff appearance in four seasons and reached the league final in 2017, losing 2-1 in games to the eventual-champion Knights. The AppleSox are making their first post-season appearance since 2013.

Victoria won the regular-season series against Wenatchee 5-1, although the teams haven’t played each other since June.

The best-of-three division final begins tonight in Wenatchee, Washington. The second game is Wednesday at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park. The third game, if required, will be in Victoria on Thursday.

Tonight’s Victoria starter in Game 1 will be Dakota Hawkins, who is 1-1 with a .312 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 312Ú3 innings pitched.

Doing team-by-team analysis for the playoffs in summer collegiate ball is tricky due to so many players having already left their teams to head back to the NCAA because the academic year in the U.S. begins in late August.

“I made a commitment to the team that I would see it through to the end, until we win the championship,” said two-season HarbourCats star Plaia.

Plaia’s name was added to the HarbourCats’ Wall of Honour along the main grandstand of Royal Athletic Park, becoming the eighth player to receive that recognition. The NCAA Cal-Baptist fielder joins the likes of hometown Victoria product and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta and former ’Cats shortstop Alex De Goti, now a Houston Astros prospect in Triple-A.

That honour was bestowed on Plaia — whose 35 stolen bases surpassed De Goti’s former career franchise record 34 — during a ceremony ahead of Sunday’s regular-season-ending 6-0 victory over the Port Angeles Lefties at Royal Athletic Park.

Starter Zach Swanson, son of GM Jim Swanson, took the win by spinning a two-hitter with five strikeouts over five full innings. Spohn had a three-run homer while Adams and Tyson Hays contributed doubles.

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