Clock strikes midnight in historic, and storybook, HarbourCats 2019 season

For the second time in three seasons, the Corvallis Knights won a deciding game three in the WCL Finals to prevent Victoria from earning their first championship in franchise history. Andy Atwood (above) celebrates with his Corvallis teammates after stealing home to score the first of three runs in the opening inning. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Story by Josh Kozelj

Photos by Christian J. Stewart


CORVALLIS, Ore. — The clock struck midnight on the Victoria HarbourCats storybook 2019 season, as the ‘Cats fell one game short of the ultimate fairy tale ending for their record breaking summer—winning their first West Coast League title in franchise history.

Instead, the Corvallis Knights won their fourth consecutive WCL championship, and seventh overall, with a 11-1 victory over the HarbourCats Sunday evening at Goss Stadium on the campus of Oregon State University in Central Oregon.

Victoria starter Dakota Hawkins walks off the mound in the third inning, as Manager Todd Haney looks on. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

After knocking off Knights 5-2 last night in game two of the WCL Finals, to knot the series at one game apiece, Victoria and Corvallis needed a winner-take-all game three in the WCL Finals for the second time in three seasons.

Todd Haney makes eye contact with his players in the dugout, urging them to keep fighting in the deciding game three. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Two summers ago, the Knights clinched their second straight title with a 4-2 win over the HarbourCats in a deciding game three in the WCL Championship Series.

Unlike that game, which saw Victoria score first, the HarbourCats struggled to contain the Corvallis bats early on in the final game of the 2019 season.

Victoria native Ty Schindel had a hit tonight, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Knights from winning their fourth straight league title. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Dakota Hawkins got the call on the hill for the HarbourCats, and after retiring Jake Holcroft to start the home half of the first the Knights began to rally. Hawkins would hit Andy Atwood in the next at-bat and walk Briley Knight to put two runners on base, but get Brooks Lee to pop out and put two outs on the board.

However, the Knights wouldn’t go down without putting a dent in the score, as Zack Moeller started a two out rally by drawing a walk to load the bases, and one batter later with Michael Curialle at the plate, Atwood stole home to draw first blood for the Knights.

For the second time in three seasons, the Corvallis Knights knocked off the Victoria HarbourCats in a deciding game three of the WCL Finals to earn a league championship. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Curialle would then hit a two-RBI single to put Corvallis up three, putting an exclamation point on the opening inning.

In a season where the HarbourCats offence broke nine all-time WCL records in 2019, three individual franchise records, and became just the third team in WCL history to lead the league in five of the seven major offensive categories—Victoria couldn’t capitalize with men on base tonight to clinch their first title in franchise history.

Nick Plaia celebrates after scoring off a Harrison Spohn sac-fly in the third, bringing the ‘Cats within three runs—but it wasn’t the closest they’d come tonight. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Nick Plaia walked to begin the first, and Ty Schindel was hit by a hit to put two men on for the ‘Cats, but Plaia would be picked off at second. Tevita Gerber, the Knights starter, then retired the next two Victoria batters to end the first.

Jake Harvey slides safely into second earlier in the game. Harvey had two hits, a RBI, walk, and scored a pair of runs from the nine-spot in the order. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

The southpaw from Dixie State College finished the regular season with seven wins and a 2.20 ERA, however, in his lone start against the HarbourCats on June 9 Victoria tagged him for six hits and four runs in an early season 4-1 victory. Over two months later, though, Gerber was able to manoeuvre out of trouble to limit any potential damage.

One inning later, Liam Ballance led off the second with a walk and Nick Adams smacked a single to put two men on base for the second straight frame, but Gerber avoided any trouble by sitting down the next three consecutive HarbourCats to end the frame.

Nick Plaia celebrates with hands in the air after hitting a double to kick off the third. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Once again in the third Victoria started the inning with two straight hits, before the HarbourCats finally broke through against the lefty with a sacrifice fly from Harrison Spohn to score Plaia from third and put Victoria on the board. Gerber ended the third by striking out Kyle Sherick and inducing a fly out from Liam Ballance.

Following the third, Gerber allowed just two baserunners, and his offence went to work for their starter.

After Hawkins exited in the third, Tyler Hilton pitched five innings in relief—racking up seven strikeouts, and allowing just five hits and three runs out of the bullpen. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Corvallis added a run in the second after the Knights three-run two out rally in the first, and made it a 6-1 ballgame by scoring two more runs in the bottom of the third. Jake Harvey then launched a solo homer in the sixth to give the Knights a seven run lead, before Corvallis all but sealed it with two more runs in the seventh.

Gerber would last until the seventh, until a Tanner Haney single ended the southpaw’s evening—Gerber finished with eight strikeouts over six innings, scattering four hits and allowing just the single run in the third inning.

After coming into the game in the seventh, Abbott Haffar helped to finish the game out of the Knights bullpen by pitching 2 2/3 innings of no-hit ball, before Colton Meyer recorded the final out to clinch the title for Corvallis.

With the 2019 season over, and many new all-time WCL and franchise records shattered, the HarbourCats will begin preparation for the 2020 campaign—set to begin next summer. The 2020 schedule will be released sometime in the fall.

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