They’ve had the best season ever for a Kelowna team competing in the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
This weekend the Okanagan Athletics look to keep the positives rolling as the BCPBL playoffs begin.
The Athletics host the Abbotsford Cardinals this weekend in a best-of-three first round playoff series with a trip to the PBL’s final four championship tournament on the line.
“This is what we have been waiting all year for,” said Athletics coach Evan Bailey. “It’s going to be an interesting weekend. It should be a pretty good series.”
In the standings, the Athletics and Cardinals appear pretty evenly matched. Okanagan finished fourth in the 13-team league with a 32-16 record, by far the team’s best record since entering the BCPBL in 2004. They were in a dog-fight for top spot most of the season but fell off the past few weeks to finish fourth. Just four games behind the Athletics was fifth place Abbotsford which finished at 27-19 and have been playing its best baseball in the second half of the season.
“I think we match up with them pretty well,” said Bailey. “We split he season series. They have a couple of good pitchers and we have some guys that can throw as well. We just have to make the basic plays. That’s what the playoffs is all about: Taking care of the ball and not giving up extra bases.”
The team’s will play a double-header Saturday at Elks Stadium (10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.) and if a third and deciding game is needed it will go Sunday morning (10 a.m. Elks)
The A’s will turn to veteran right-handed Clint Heidebrecht in game one, a fourth year player for the Athletics who missed the start of the year with injury before compiling a 3-2 record with a 2.26 ERA.
With either team needing just two wins, a good start to the series is important.
“A quick start is huge,” said Bailey. “In this league and in these games where you are only playing seven innings, if you can jump out to a quick lead that’s a huge advantage.”
Bailey hadn’t committed to his second game starter, saying that he will see how game one goes before deciding on his pitcher.
After such a stellar regular season, the A’s coach also added that it’s important for his team to follow that up with a good playoffs.
“I’m a firm believer that your season is only as good as the way it ends,” he said. “It was important this year that we establish ourselves as a good program and I think we did that. We want to get into the final four. That was our goal this year and I think that’s the next step for our program.”
The winner of the series will join three other teams in the BCPBL year end tournament in Nanaimo on the August long weekend. Bailey says the key to success for his team is playing the same way they have all year long.
“I told my guys to come out with a lot of intensity and play the way we’ve played all year long. Nothing changes because it’s the playoffs. It’s the same game. You have to play on an even keel. You can’t get too up and you can’t get way down.”
The other BCPBL playoff series features the Victoria Mariners against Coquitlam. Langley and Nanaimo finished first and second and have byes into the championship tournament.