With two of their key players on the shelf at the most critical time of the season, the rest of the Okanagan Athletics will need to summon up some postseason magic this weekend in Kelowna.
The undermanned A’s are playing host to the five-team B.C. Premier Baseball League championship tournament beginning Friday at Elks Stadium.
The double knockout championship is set!! 1. Langley 2. Abbotsford 3. North Shore 4. Victoria 5. Okanagan Friday Aug. 3rd Game 1: 12pm Victoria vs Okanagan Game 2: 3pm Abbotsford vs North Shore Game 3: 6pm Langley vs Game 1 winner Saturday August 4th Game 4: 11am Game 1 loser vs Game 2 loser Game 5: 2pm Game 2 winner vs Game 3 winner Game 6: 5pm Game 3 loser vs Game 4 winner Sunday August 5th Game 7: 11am Game 5 loser vs Game 6 winner Game 8: 2pm Game 5 winner vs Game 7 winner Game 9: 5pm Game 8 winner vs Game 8 loser (if necessary)
Already carrying one of the league’s sparsest rosters, the A’s will be without arguably their best all-round player, Cole Van Every, along with starting third baseman Mason Glowacki.
The 18-year-old Van Every, who led the PBL in strikeouts (86) this season while batting .337 and providing defensive stability in the infield, broke his ankle last weekend in Game 3 of the A’s playoff series in Victoria. Glowacki will miss the provincial tournament with a concussion.
Still, with just 13 players on the roster, head coach Evan Bailey said his club can’t afford to dwell on its less-than-enviable position.
“We have to move past it, we really don’t have a choice,” said Bailey, the Athletics’ head coach and program director. “It’s pretty untimely for us, a tough situation for the guys but they have to go out and play. I think we’re resilient, I’m not worried about the guys morale. But we’re facing teams with 22-man rosters, so it’s going to be a challenge. But as we know in baseball, anything can happen.”
Okanagan will be joined by the four winners of last weekend’s first-round PBL playoff series’—who also happen to be the top four teams from the regular season—in the Langley Blaze, Abbotsford Cardinals, North Shore Twins and Victoria Mariners.
The A’s open up the provincial tourney Friday at noon at Elks Stadium against the Mariners.
At 3 p.m. Abbotsford takes on North Shore, followed by the Langley Blaze who will meet the winner of the A’s-Victoria matchup.
Adding to the challenge this weekend is the double-knockout format, putting pressure on both the A’s and Mariners—the fifth- and fourth-place teams—to get out of the gate fast. Only one team will.
“The double-knockout makes it tough, it’s never been used before,” Bailey said. “Basically, if we lose our first game, we have to then win five in a row. That’s not what you want to be facing.
“It’s always been a round-robin format in the past, giving you a little bit more room for error,” he added.”But, it is what it is. We have deal with it the best we can.”
Okanagan had a chance to bump Victoria from the postseason picture in the quarterfinal round last weekend, but the hometown Mariners earned their way into the PBL finals with a 2-1 series win over Bailey’s club.
The PBL championship will be decided Sunday, with the finals at 2 and 5 p.m., if necessary.
The A’s won their only previous PBL title in 2012.
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