A’s lead off hitter Kade Kozak slides into second against the North Shore Twins Sunday at Elks Stadium. -Image: Douglas Farrow

Athletics start playoff journey in Victoria

The A’s will play Mariners in three-game series, then host the PBL finals Aug. 3 to 5 at Elks Stadium

Regardless of whether they win or lose their playoff series this weekend in Victoria, the Okanagan Athletics will be in mix for the 2018 BC Premier Baseball League championship.

As the host team, the A’s have an automatic berth into the season-ending tournament, Aug. 3 to 5 at Elks Stadium.

Still, head coach Evan Bailey said the Athletics would prefer to earn their way into provincials, as opposed to backing in and adding an extra variable to the mix.

“If we lose, a fifth team would get in, instead of having four, and that’s not what you want,” said Bailey. “We want to win and be playing well heading into the last weekend.”

The A’s and Mariners will meet in a best-of-three first round series, with Games 1 and 2 set for Saturday in Victoria. Game 3, if needed, would go on Sunday morning.

“No matter who you play, you’re going to have to play well to get out of the first round,” Bailey said. “In these three-game series, it’s often a matter of what you can do in a six-hour span.

“It’s whoever is the best team that day, so there’s minimal room for error,” he added. “You can throw everything that happened before out the door.”

With nine wins in their last 10 games, no team finished the PBL regular season on a bigger upswing than the Athletics (30-18.)

In fact, no PBL club was better over the final 2 1/2 months of the regular season. After stumbling out to a 5-12 start, the A’s hit their stride, ripping off a 25-6 record to finish out the campaign.

ALSO READ: Athletics push PBL winning streak to eight

Based largely on the depth their pitching staff—not to mention having a solid offensive and defensive game—Bailey said the 2018 version of the A’s is among the most capable teams he’s coached.

“We’ve been playing really good baseball down the stretch and that’s what want, to be peaking going into the playoffs,” he said. “We feel like we have a really good chance. We’re deeper on the mound than in past years, and our veteran leadership is really solid.”

The A’s finished off the PBL regular season last weekend, taking three of four from the North Shore Twins (31-17) at Elks Stadium.

In Saturday’s opener, Jackson Borne had three hits and two RBIs in a 4-3 Okanagan win. Adam Sarafinchin picked up the win in relief.

In Game 2, the Twins rebounded with a 12-5 win.

On Sunday morning, Sarafinchin singled home Marcus Strother with the winning run in the eighth inning as the A’s prevailed 3-2.

In the series finale, Cole Van Every delivered two hits and three RBIs in a 5-2 A’s victory. Sarafinchin (5-2) earned his second win of the weekend, once again in a relief role.

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