Battling the West Coast League’s best team proved a difficult challenge for the Victoria HarbourCats as they fought for the final playoff spot Wednesday at Wilson’s Group Stadium.
The hometown Cats fell behind early and never caught up, as the powerful Portland Pickles ended Victoria’s season with a 10-3 win.
Given that Bellingham wound up winning both the first and second half in the North Division, the HarbourCats were presented with an opportunity to grab a post-season berth if they swept their series against Portland and got some help from other teams.
But the Pickles, who scored eight runs in losing the first two games at Royal Athletic Park, chalked up eight runs in the first four innings Wednesday, and relied on their pitching staff to shut down the locals the rest of the way.
Victoria starting pitcher, left-hander Ethan Fox, lasted three innings and left with his team behind 6-2. The HarbourCats rallied in the bottom of the third, loading the bases at one point but only coming away with one run, as the Pickles scored an inning-ending double play.
Daniel Lopez smacked a pair of home runs for the winners, while Gabe Skoro added another, one of his four hits on the night.
Victoria totalled just five hits in all. Michael Frias took over for Portland starter Damon Treadwell in the third inning and over the next six limited the HarbourCats to a single hit from Ryan Ober in the bottom of the sixth.
Seven different pitchers took the mound for Victoria.
Before the game, the HarbourCats handed out their team awards. Nick Plaia, who on Wednesday set a new club record for stolen bases with 19, was named player of the year.
Bellingham plays Kelowna in the North Division playoff series, while Portland takes on the Corvallis Knights in the other. Both series start Friday night.
The crowd of 3,076 fans pushed Victoria’s league-leading attendance mark to 62,599 for the season, which broke their own WCL record.
Next up, the HarbourCats will host the 2018 Baseball Canada Men’s Nationals Championship, which run Aug. 23 to 26 at Wilson’s Group Stadium. HarbourCats managing partner Jim Swanson will be at the helm managing the host Victoria Mavericks, who will join provincial champion Coquitlam Angels in representing B.C. at the tournament.