Kelowna Falcons The Kelowna Falcons celebrated clinching the WCL’s North Division first-half title on Monday night.

Falcons lock up playoff berth

Kelowna secures first half title in North Division with win in Yakima

Just halfway through the West Coast League season, the Kelowna Falcons already know what they’ll be playing for in early August.

With a 5-3 win Monday night over the Yakima Valley Pippins, the Falcons (17-10) sewed up the first-half title in the North Division.

With the victory, the Falcons earn a spot in the best-of-three divisional final in a month’s time against the winner of the second half title.

Kelowna will host Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) of the divisional series.

In compiling the roster for 2017, both GM Mark Nonis and field manager Bryan Donohue had a hunch the Falcons would be competitive this season.

With a North Division first-half title already locked up, Nonis said his club has even exceeded expectations.

“We thought we had put together a pretty good group and that we’d be able to compete,” said Nonis. “We knew we were going to hit a little bit, but the guys have done exceptionally well with the bats.

“The guys have come on strong and it’s been a nice surprise.”

As for nailing down a playoff berth with a half a season to go, Nonis said there are both pros and cons that come with it.

“One thing we don’t want to do is slack off and get into some bad habits,” said Nonis. “But it’s also a good time to take a deep breath, and it gives our guys a chance to work on things they need to improve on.

“There’s no pressure on us, a lot of the weight has been lifted but at the same time we want to be playing our best baseball when that best-of-three series comes around.”

In Monday’s clincher, Falcons’ starter Cal Hehnke threw seven shutout inning to push his season record to 4-0. Matt Bottcher paced the offense with three hits and a run scored.

The Falcons are playing host to the Victoria Harbourcats tonight at Elks Stadium to open a three-game series and the second half of the season.

First pitch is 6:35 p.m.

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