When you’re in first place, everybody wants to knock you off your perch.
The Victoria HarbourCats, last year’s regular season baseball champions in the West Coast League, are in just such a position in their battle to win the second half of the 2017 campaign and clinch a playoff berth.
Leading the North Division standings entering Tuesday’s game against first-half winner Kelowna Falcons at Royal Athletic Park, the HarbourCats blew a 4-0 lead late and lost 6-5 in 11 innings.
Logan Steinberg drove home the ultimate winning run with a single in the top of the 11th and Victoria squandered an opportunity to score in their half, having had runners on second and third with just one out. The HarbourCats fell to 10-7 in the second half and sat 1.5 games ahead of Bellingham and Wenatchee.
Catcher Shane McGuire continued his sizzling pace for Victoria, going four-for-five at the plate and cracking his third home run of the season to lift his average to .500 in 19 games. Teammate Kevin Collard went three-for-five with a double and a run batted in and Ryan Zayicek went two-for-three.
Victoria starter Jack Owen threw seven strong innings, giving up five hits and no runs to lower his earned-run average to a minuscule 1.02. He could only watch, however, as the bullpen gave up six runs over the next four innings.
Shea Barry, who threw the last three innings for Kelowna, recorded the win after allowing just one hit and walking two batters. Taylor Wright and Cole Mueller had three hits each for the Falcons, who improved their second-half record to 4-12.
Victoria hosts Kelowna for games two and three of their homestand at RAP tonight and Thursday, with both games getting underway at 6:35 p.m. The HarbourCats hit the road to play the South Division-leading Cowlitz Black Bears for three weekend games, then return home for three games with Bellingham starting Monday (July 31).