The Vancouver Canadians edged out a close 1-0 win against the Everett AquaSox on Monday night to take a 1-0 lead in the West Division final. They are now only one more win away from advancing to the Northwest League Championship final.
Pitching dominated the game and it wasn’t until the bottom of the eighth inning that Canadians third baseman Kellen Sweeney took his most important swing of the season and singled in Jorge Flores for the only run of the game.
AquaSox starting pitcher Dylan Unsworth had one of his best performances of the season and kept the Sox in the game by pitching over six innings of shutout ball, striking out eight C’s batters along the way. However, on this beautiful long weekend in Vancouver, the C’s pitching staff was just a bit better.
Canadians starter Roberto Osuna did his best to imitate his first performance against the Aquasox in July, where he struck out 13 of 15 batters in five innings. Today, under the beautiful sunshine at Nat Bailey Stadium, Osuna pitched three scoreless innings, striking out six without surrendering a hit. C’s manager Clayton McCullough turned the ball over to relief pitchers Jonathan Lucas and Colton Turner, who each pitched a scoreless 2 1/3 innings. With one out left in the top of the eighth inning, Vancouver brought in their set-up specialist Wil Browning, who got the final out of the inning, setting up for a dramatic bottom of the eighth of the anxious fans at the Nat.
With one out in the eighth inning, C’s all-star shortstop Jorge Flores doubled to left field. Flores then flashed his speed and took third base on a wild pitch in the next at bat. After AquaSox reliever Marcus Littlewood struck out D. J. Davis, Kellen Sweeney took center stage. After a tough at bat against Littlewood, the Canadians’ third baseman finally found a pitch he could handle and drove the ball to right field for a hit. This brought in Flores, which would be all that the Canadians would need. Sweeney has been swinging a hot bat of late and there was no better place to have a good crack of the bat than today.
With the crowd on their feet in the ninth, C’s closer Arik Sikula took the mound and faced the NWL 2012 MVP, Patrick Kivlehan, to start the inning. After fouling off a couple of pitches, Kivlehan flied out to center fielder D. J. Davis for the first out. Up next was Dario Pizzano, who Sikula struck out. Finally, with over five thousand fans cheering, Sikula struck out Janelfry Zorrilla for the final out, as the C’s celebrated their first playoff win of the year.
This game featured the remarkable pitching that the C’s have been accustomed to as of late, and hopefully this will continue as they march out Javier Avendano tomorrow, eyeing to clinch the series. The C’s lineup will try to provide more run support tomorrow night at Everett. However, at this point of the season, the only stat the players in the clubhouse are worrying about is wins.