If momentum carries any weight, then the Okanagan Athletics will be well-equipped heading into the B.C. Premier Baseball League’s championship tournament this weekend in Abbotsford.
On the heels of finishing with a best ever 30-14 regular season record, the A’s followed up with a dominant performance on Saturday at Elks Stadium in their first round series win over the Whalley Chiefs.
After yielding the first five runs in Game 1, the A’s stormed back, scoring 22 of the next 23 runs—over a span of just 10 innings—to subdue the Chiefs in straight games in the best-of-three.
With 8-6 and 14-0 victories, the Athletics advanced to the PBL’s final four for the third straight year.
“It was a really good day,” A’s head coach Evan Bailey said of Saturday’s sweep. “It was kind of a crazy start, we shot ourselves in the foot, but then the guys completely turned it around. I’ve never seen us hit the ball like that. Everyone, I mean everyone, contributed. “We scored 22 runs in a game and a half and had six guys with at least three hits each. It was fun to watch.”
After slipping behind in the opener, the A’s put five on the board to tie it in the fourth inning, then pulled away for good with three more in the fifth.
Cole Van Every earned the win in relief, while David Tongue struck out the game’s final batter with the bases loaded for the save.
McCoy Pearce and Markus Glowacki paced the offence with three RBIs each.
In Game 2, behind another stellar pitching performance by Matt Brodt, Okanagan had 17 hits in a game called after six innings.
Brodt tossed a one-hit shutout and struck out 11 for his 11th win of the PBL season.
“Matt was his usual self, but even better,” Bailey said of the 18-year-old pitcher. “He was just dominant and didn’t even them a chance. On top of his pitching, he was 4-for-7 at the plate during the two games. It was pretty impressive.”
Sam Avila homered and was 3-for-4 with three RBIs to lead the offense. Tongue added three hits and two RBIs, while Kade Kozak also drove in three runs.
On Friday in Abbotsford, the A’s head into provincials as the No. 3 seed and will open the four-team round robin against the second-ranked Victoria Mariners.
The North Shore Twins are No. 1, while the host Cardinals are ranked fourth.
Abbotsford upset the top-seeded Langley Blaze in the first round.
The A’s have beaten all three teams this season, including sweeping four games from the Twins on July 9 and 10.
And based on all the contributing factors, Bailey expects his A’s to be right in the mix for their second ever PBL title.
“I really like our chances,” said Bailey, now in his seventh season as head coach and program director for the A’s. “This is a situation where I think there’s no favourite, anything can happen. It’s a three-day tournament and whoever plays well for three days, wins.
“We have a team that really does believe,” he added. “We’re riding some momentum and and really excited for this group. It’s been a great season and there’s one more thing we want to accomplish.”
The top two teams from the round robin will meet Sunday in the PBL championship final.
The Athletics won the league title in 2012.