After exceeding expectations during the regular season, the Okanagan Athletics were unable to duplicate the same kind of magic in the playoffs.
The Vancouver Cannons defeated the hometown A’s 9-3 Sunday afternoon in the third and decisive game of the B.C. Premier Baseball League first-round post season series.
The Cannons, who lost three of four to the A’s during the 2014 regular campaign, stung Okanagan for six first-inning runs and never looked back en route to their Game 3 win in 30-plus temperatures at Elks Stadium.
Vancouver now qualifies for the BCPBL championship tournament, Aug. 1 to 4 in Whalley, while the A’s reluctantly accept a premature playoff exit.
“I thought at least it would be a close,” A’s head coach Evan Bailey said of the deciding game. “We never gave up six first-inning runs all year. To get down two or three is one thing, but to be down by six right away doesn’t really give you a chance. But I’m proud of the guys for hanging in there and playing to the end.”
The Cannons won Saturday’s series opener 4-1 on the strength of ace Ryan Matsuda’s complete game three-hitter.
Sunday, in Game 2, the A’s rebounded with a 9-2 victory, as right-hander Jared Young supplied a complete-game seven-hitter for the home side. Davis Todosichuk stole three bases, scored twice, and provided a pair of spectacular run-saving catches in centre field.
In the final game, the Cannons touched up starter Easton Forrest for six hits and six runs in the top of the first. The A’s scored twice in the third and once more in the fourth to make it 6-3, but could get no closer as the Cannons secured the win and the series with a deuce in the top of the seventh.
Still, as much as an early exit hurts, Bailey was encouraged by his club’s play in 2014.
The Athletics posted a 28-20 record and finished fourth among 13 teams in the PBL.
“Honestly I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year, I was just hoping we would sneak into the playoffs, but to finish top-four and host a playoff series is a huge accomplishment. I’m more than pleased with the regular season.”
Bailey said four players, in particular, were largely responsible for the club’s success this season—Jared Young, Davis Todosichuk, James Walker and Trevor Lofstrom. The first three are graduating from the program, all of whom Bailey said will be missed.
“It’s hard because I’ve known those guys (Young, Todosichuk and Walker) since the eighth grade and have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours with them,” Bailey said. “Seeing them grow and mature into young men is something you don’t forget.
“The worst part isn’t losing, it’s having the talk at the end, trying to sum up in a just few minutes the years that you’ve been with them. They’re special players.”
Bailey said many of the A’s young players also made big contributions and singled out catcher Chase Decosse as the most improved player on the team.
Bailey said he plans to be back next year for his sixth season at the helm of the Athletics.
With 14 players returning, he expects the A’s to once again contend for a playoff spot.