In a season of many firsts for the Okanagan Athletics, the Kelowna-based club hopes to write one more piece of history before closing the book on the 2012 campaign.
The A’s will play for their first ever B.C. Premier Baseball League title this weekend in Nanaimo.
Okanagan, the host Pirates, Coquitlam Reds and North Shore Twins make up the PBL’s Final 4 Championship beginning on Friday afternoon at Serauxmen Stadium.
The regular season champs, the Langley Blaze, won’t be in the mix after being upset in the first round of the playoffs by North Shore.
Athletics general manager Gary Yates said all the ingredients are in place for the Okanagan club to take a run at the PBL crown.
“We have a very good, strong hitting team and we think we match up well against any team in the league in that department,” said Yates. “As for our pitching, we’re 100 per cent healthy for the first time probably in about 60 days. We go into the weekend with every kid healthy, so that’s a bonus for us.”
The No. 2-seeded A’s will open the round-robin format Friday at 2:30 p.m. against the Reds.
On Saturday, Okanagan will play North Shore and top-seeded Nanaimo.
The top two teams will collide on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in the PBL championship game.
This season, the A’s posted a Kelowna team’s first ever winning record (32-16) in the PBL, earned their highest ever finish (tied for third), and last weekend won their first ever playoff series.
Kelowna has had teams competing in the PBL since 2004.
Okanagan took down the Abbotsford Cardinals Saturday at Elks Stadium, winning the best-of-three first-round series in straight games.
In Game 1, James Ward’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh scored Morgan Lofstrom to push the A’s past the Cards 8-7.
At one point, the A’s had the game well in hand with a 7-2 lead, but the Cards made it interesting with five runs over the final two innings to tie the game.
Yates said the fact that Okanagan emerged with the win in Game 1 was once again a credit to the team’s character.
“The players have never given up this year, that’s kind of been their trademark. There have been a lot of situations where they’ve been down in the seventh and they seem to find a way to come back. With the power we have in our bats, this has been a very resilient team all year.”
In Game 2, with momentum on their side, Okanagan rolled over Abby 11-0. Dillon Kakoshke tossed five innings of shutout ball, while Nathan Ackerman drove in four runs to complete the sweep for the A’s. Dawson Yates added three hits and two RBIs, while Nolan Handley had three hits and scored twice.
With one weekend and four games of baseball now separating the A’s and their first PBL championship, Yates expects the team to be zoned in on the task at hand.
“All the boys are super excited to be going to the final, but that being said they know there’s more to be done,” he said. “We celebrated our playoff win when it happened, it was important to them, but now the guys have moved on. They’re very motivated and focused on this coming weekend.”
To follow the A’s at the BCPBL championship, visit www.bcpbl.com