The Okanagan Athletics are on the way to their best finish ever in the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
But when it comes to what might have been, head coach Evan Bailey admits the 2011 campaign simply hasn’t unfolded the way he expected.
Okanagan (19-20) is currently tied for sixth spot in the PBL with the Fraser Valley Chiefs, 3 1/2 games back of fifth-place Coquitlam and four back of fourth-place Parksville.
True, the A’s are an excellent bet to make the playoffs for the first time, but it’s been a frustrating season for the team and its head coach nonetheless.
Bailey has watched his club lose nine one-run games, many as the result of a banged-up pitching staff.
With three quality starters on the shelf with injuries—Jake Maters, Nolan Handley and Clint Heidbrecht—the A’s have battled through much of the last month with just three pitchers. Other position players have filled in on the mound, including three catchers.
Before the season began, Bailey envisioned a top-five finish and as many as 30 wins for the A’s—but with just nine games left the club will be hard-pressed to get close to that.
“I’m not going to lie, personally it’s been a disappointing year,” said Bailey, who led the club to its previous high of 15 wins last season.
“I’m not disappointed in the kids at all, they’ve worked their butts off and have left it all out there. The outcomes just haven’t gone our way. I had six pitchers to start the year, now I have three. Most teams have nine or 10.
“We’ve been in so many tight games, but it’s tough to win when you get to the third and fourth games of the weekend and don’t have anyone left to pitch.”
The A’s are coming off a four-game split with the 11th-place Vancouver Cannons last weekend at Elks Stadium.
The home team had 17 hits in the series finale, but Vancouver took advantage of a piecemeal Okanagan pitching staff for an 11-10 win on Sunday afternoon at Elks Stadium.
Still, there were a number of highlights for the A’s during the Vancouver series. On Saturday, Jeff May (4-4) tossed a four-hitter in a 2-1 win. On Sunday, Dillon Kakoshke had a season-high five RBIs in an 11-4 A’s win. In the 11-10 loss, Nathan Ackerman drove in four runs.
Also on the plus side, the A’s are closing in on a playoff spot for the first time in the Kelowna-based club’s eight seasons in the PBL.
Bailey said the most likely of scenarios would see Okanagan finish in either sixth or seventh, resulting in a first-round playoff matchup on the Island with either the Victoria Mariners, Nanaimo Pirates or Parksville Royals.
“We’ve got some games left to play, so we can still make something good out of this,” said Bailey. “The good thing is that if we can somehow get healthy, I’m not worried about playing any team in the league. Anyone in this league can beat anyone else and that includes us. The guys have played hard and deserve a good finish. I’m hoping we can have a good end to the season.”
This weekend, the A’s will be in Spokane for a 48-team tournament.
They’ll return to PBL action July 7 in North Delta for a make-up game with the Blue Jays.
The A’s will then head to Langley for four games against the Blaze July 9 and 10, before closing out the regular season July 16 and 17 at home to the Abbotsford Cardinals.
• Junior A’s
Like their parent club, the Okanagan junior A’s are getting ever closer to a post-season berth.
With eight games to play, the Athletics (20-20) are tied for sixth spot with the Victoria Mariners.
Eight teams will make the playoffs.
On July 9 and 10, Okanagan will travel to Vancouver for four games with the Cannons, then will return home July 16 and 17 to close out the regular season with a pair of twin bills against the Victoria Mariners.
The junior A’s took three of four games from the Fraser Valley Chiefs last weekend at Lombardy.
In the opener, James Walker spun a three-hitter through six innings in a 2-1 A’s win.
In Game 2 Saturday, Eric McGinn pitched three innings of one-hit relief for his sixth win in another 2-1 victory.
On Sunday, Walker had three RBIs and Luke Cooke added two hits and two RBIs in a 6-4 win. Mike Tongue pitched three innings of one-hit relief for the victory.
In Sunday’s finale, Will Russell had two RBIs as the A’s lost 16-4.