Vansau slams Pickles as HarbourCats push playoff race to final day

After 53 games, it will come down to the 54th and final one of the regular season.

The Victoria HarbourCats are still alive in the West Coast League North Division playoff hunt. The permutations seem as convoluted as fourth-year UVic math, but the HarbourCats can still make the post-season after being all but left for roadkill last week in eastern Washington state.

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That dramatic regular-season finale, against the Portland Pickles at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park, goes tonight at 6:35. If Victoria wins, the HarbourCats clinch the final playoff spot and open Game 1 of the best-of-three North Division final on Friday night at home against the Bellingham Bells.

“Win and we’re in,” HarbourCats managing partner Jim Swanson said.

It is the second season in a row Victoria’s playoff fate has come down to the final day. The ’Cats slipped in last season and made it all the way to the WCL playoff final against the champion Corvallis Knights.

“It didn’t look good for us after we blew that seven-run lead in Yakima Valley last week, or coming back from Wenatchee [after being swept three games], but then some good things have suddenly gone our way,” said HarbourCats head coach Brian McRae.

Maybe it was the retro vibe of Dale Mohorcic and Tom Candiotti being felt Tuesday night. The HarbourCats, wearing the powder blue throwback jerseys of the pro Northwest Division Single-A Victoria Mussels, defeated the Pickles 13-6 before 2,053 fans in the penultimate regular-season game, which set up tonight’s dramatics.

Victoria’s Jaxxon Fagg unloaded a three-run homer and Hunter Vansau a grand slam in the very next inning for the key blows of the game.

“I just flicked my wrist, and I don’t know how it got over the fence,” Fagg said.

“But I just had a feeling about this whole thing — that we would rally and be in position to make the playoffs on the final day,” said the native of Phoenix, Arizona, out of Georgia Southern.

Victoria starter Mason Shaw, from Ferndale, Washington, lasted 21Ú3 innings in giving up seven hits and four runs.

The Pickles, facing the opener Friday of the South Division best-of-three playoff series against the Corvallis Knights, were content to ride starter Brett Walker as long as possible. He gave up eight seven runs on eight hits, including Fagg’s home run.

The key today is simple, said McRae. The 10-season MLB veteran said this sport always comes down to the arms on the mound.

“We will be looking for [today’s starter] Ethan Fox to be strong and go deep into the game for us,” said McRae, who is getting used to this, in his second season as Victoria bench boss.

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