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Fueled by the home crowd, the C’s race to a strong start

The Vancouver Canadians matched its stellar season-opening series against Spokane with another 4-1 series win over the Tri-City Dust Devils at home this past weekend. After dropping the season home opener on June 20th, the C’s rallied back and won the next four games against the Dust Devils, the same team they beat last year to win their first Northwest League Championship. Although it is early, the Canadians are the first team in their league to reach the 8-win mark and look to be in great shape to chase for the league championship again.

With the sold-out crowd on site for the home opener on Wednesday, the excitement was flowing throughout the stadium. From the glittering fireworks to the delicious smell of popcorn, and the ever-popular ‘Kiss Cam’, Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium was the place to be on the beautiful Wednesday night in Vancouver. The players themselves were dazzled by the atmosphere.

“I heard it was a great atmosphere [so] I came in with high expectations.” Starting catcher, Tucker Frawley said. “But it even exceeded my expectations. It was a great crowd. It was one of the better crowds I’ve ever played in front of. So it’s definitely exciting to play in this atmosphere.”

Starting pitcher, Eric Brown, who played his college ball at UBC, expressed his gratitude as well. “Playing here in the Nat, there are great fans. I was a little excited, a little amped up. Took me a little time to settle down but it’s always great to play in here.”

On the field, the Canadians fell behind in their home opener as their 9th inning rally fell just short and they lost by a score of 5-3. The C’s were not without chances as they loaded the bases on several occasions but were only able to convert a two-run single by Canadian Dalton Pompey (OF), before Nicholas Baligod grounded out to end the game.

The roles were reversed in the next game as it was the C’s that converted with RISP (Runners in Scoring Position). After going 0-for-4 in the home opener, the C’s slugger Balbino Fuenmayor clutched up and doubled in two runs in the 8th inning to break open a 1-1 tie. Drew Permison (RP, 2 Saves, 0.00ERA) and the defense worked a scoreless ninth that included a game-ending double play, as the crowd celebrated the team’s first home victory.

This young team not only recognizes the importance of defense but they are also confident in using that as a recipe to their success. As starting pitcher Taylor Cole (1-0, 0.82ERA) stated: “The pitchers have to have confidence in his team. A lot of the times, I was throwing it, trying to make contact with the hitter, and I did have confidence in my teammates. So it was fun. I am glad we were able to get the win.”

The players on the field echoed the same opinion, as shortstop Eric Phillips (Georgia Southern U) described the team’s defense as “one of the biggest parts of the game.” And added, “When you make plays and your pitchers throw strikes, it makes it a lot easier for them.”

This may come as no surprise, but it is important to instill these fundamentals into a young team. Combine this mentality with the timely hitting that C’s have been getting, this season should be one filled with improvements and success.

Another thing that the players agree on is the home crowd. When asked about playing at home, Eric Phillips added “any time there is a big play or somebody gets a hit, the crowd just goes crazy, it’s hard to hear on the field.

“It’s a great atmosphere, probably one of the best in the minor league system.”

Relief pitcher, Arik Sikula (South Charleston, WV), “I get on the mound and I can’t even hear what my catcher is telling me. During the opening series, I was nervous but it was a good adrenaline, as there are great fans. It was loud and it was great to see such wonderful support.”

The Canadians will be looking forward to those loud cheers as they return home on June 28th for a three-game stand against Eugene after a three-game road trip to Everett.