By winning their last six games, the Okanagan Athletics gave themselves a fighting chance of sneaking into the B.C. Premier Baseball League playoffs.
But when all was said and done, the defending champs didn’t get the help they needed to latch on to the eighth and final post-season berth.
Heading into the last week of play, the A’s (23-25) were battling both the Vancouver Cannons and Nanaimo Pirates for the last playoff spot.
The Athletics needed the Cannons to lose just one of their last three games, while two Nanaimo losses would have also been enough to get them into the playoff dance.
Neither happened, as Vancouver swept its final three games, while the Pirates took two from North Shore to leave the A’s on the outside looking in.
Okanagan finishes the season in ninth place, a game back of Vancouver (24-24) and two behind Nanaimo (25-23).
“You hate having your fate in other’s team’s hands,” said A’s coach Evan Bailey,” but at the same time, we wouldn’t have been in that position if we’d have won a few more games early in the season. That’s the way it goes.”
The A’s undoing this season was a horrendously slow start which saw them go 5-17 over the first 22 games. Okanagan finished strong with 18 wins in their last 26, but it was too little, too late.
Due to an injury to last year’s ace, James Walker, and the occasional absence of Morgan Lofstrom who played with the national junior team, the A’s pitching staff struggled for much of the season.
“Offensively we had the second best team in the league and defensively we were very good, too, third best in errors,” Bailey added. “But our pitching didn’t help us. If we have Walker, that’s probably six more wins and we’re into the playoffs easily. I thought we did the best with what we had.”
Still, Bailey said the A’s success can’t simply be measured by their record in 2013.
“As much as you want to win, a season isn’t just about wins and losses,” he said. “You get to see and help players move on and that’s essentially what this league is about. We had a player (Morgan Lofstrom) get drafted, and we had player get an opportunity to play Div. 1 (Dawson Yates). Those are the kinds of things that are pretty satisfying to see.”
With a strong corps of Grade 12s moving on to another level, including Lofstrom, Yates, Josh Croft and James Ward, Bailey said 2014 will be a rebuilding year for the A’s.
The team will also move forward without Gary Yates, who is stepping aside after three seasons as the A’s general manger. Bailey said Yates will be sorely missed.
“I can’t tell you how much he’s done for the program, we wouldn’t have been close to where we are if it wasn’t for Gary,” said Bailey. “The amount of time him and his wife, Jackie, put into the team was unbelievable. I loved working with Gary, he took care of so much and made my job a lot easier. He can’t be replaced.”
Bailey will return in 2014, his fifth season as head coach of the Athletics.