In one of the tightest playoffs battles in recent years, the Vancouver Canadians edged out the rival Eugene Emeralds by one game in the standings to become Northwest League West second-half champions. This guaranteed them a first round playoffs series with the first-half-champion Everett AquaSox. Going into their final five-game series at Yakima on August 28th, the C’s were tied with Eugene for the best second-half record. After dropping their first game to Yakima, they fell behind Eugene in the standings and were on the brink of missing the playoffs just one year after winning the league championship. However, the Canadians turned to their stellar pitching staff and won their final four games, ensuring them a chance to repeat as the Northwest League’s best team.
Here is a running summary about how the C’s prevailed in their final week of the regular season against Yakima:
August 28th: Lost 9 – 1
The C’s got off to a rough start as starter Ben White gave up seven earned runs in the first two innings. Combine that with the fact Vancouver’s offense only mustered three hits in the whole game, and the Yakima Bears easily handled Vancouver in the series opener. To make matters worse, the Eugene Emeralds won their game that night by a score of 5-4, moving them ahead of Vancouver in the standings.
August 29th: Won 3-2
Canadians starter Kyle Anderson battled through five hard innings and gave up only one run. Going into the eighth inning, though, the Canadians were down by a score of 2-1, and that’s when the heart of the C’s lineup stepped up. With two runners on base, Balbino Fuenmayor delivered a two-run double that put the Canadians up 3-2. Relief pitchers Wil Browning and Arik Sukula worked scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to preserve the win. This helped the C’s to stay on pace with Eugene, who blew out Spokane 8-2 that night.
August 30th: Won 7-1
This game defined the stellar season by C’s pitcher Taylor Cole. Going into the game, Cole was all but guaranteed to finish tops in the league for ERA and WHIP. However, the BYU standout delivered one of the best pitching performances of the year, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning before being taken out due to pitch count. His dominant, six-strikeout performance lowered his season ERA to a ridiculous 0.81. The Canadians provided the offense late in the game, scoring three runs in both the eighth and ninth innings to wrap up the game with a final score of 7-1. Unfortunately, the team could not gain ground in the standings as Eugene continued their hot streak by winning their game 4-3.
August 31st: Won 3-1
- A day after Cole stifled the Bears hitters with his dazzling performance, the C’s turned to their other ace, Javier Avendano, and he did not disappoint. The league leader in wins pitched five solid innings, giving up one run on two hits. In the 6th inning, with the game tied at one, it was the team leader, Balbino Fuenmayor, who again lifted the C’s with a RBI single. The pressure-tested trio of C’s relievers, Colton Turner, Will Browning, and Andrew Sikula, finished off the rest of the game without giving up another run to the Bears. As C’s outfielder D. J. Davis caught the final out of the game, the Canadians took a sigh of relief, since Eugene had lost their season finale which guaranteed the C’s a playoff spot.
September 1st: Won 4-1
- With the playoffs spot in hand, the C’s rested some of their regular starters, such as heavy hitters Balbino Fuenmayor and Art Charles. The C’s still wanted to finish the regular season strong and carry a strong momentum into the playoffs, though. Pitcher Daniel Norris tossed 4+ innings of one-run ball before handing the ball to an array of C’s pitchers who finished the game in style by working a scoreless second half of the game. The game actually went into extra innings before Canadians utility man Derrick Chung stepped up in the 11th inning and played hero for night. With two runners on base, Chung tripled to center field, scoring both runs and opening up a lead for the Canadians. But Chung wasn’t done. In the very next at-bat, Bears pitcher Blake Forslund threw a wild pitch. Chung took the opportunity and touched home plate, giving the C’s a three-run lead in the process. Zack Breault finished off the game for the C’s, as Vancouver won its last four games en route to a second-half pennant.
The Canadians finished off their second half of the season with a record of 24-15, followed closely behind by Eugene at 23-16. This was definitely one of the most exciting weeks of baseball for this club. Ultimately, as many championship teams would agree, it came down to stellar pitching and timely hitting to secure a playoff berth for Vancouver.