The Abbotsford Cardinals have a tough task ahead of them as they prepare for the opening round of the B.C. Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) postseason.
After three wins in the last five games, the Cardinals clinched the eighth and final playoff spot, but will now face the first-place North Shore Twins in a three-game series beginning Saturday.
Abbotsford finished 16 wins back from the regular season champion Twins, who enter the playoffs 8-2 in their last 10.
Cardinals head coach Corey Eckstein said the Twins’ pitching will be particularly challenging, with aces Braeden Toikka and Matteo Vincelli, finishing first and third, respectively, in wins during the regular season.
The Twins rotation also boasts Will McAffer, who was selected by the Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds in this year’s draft and was named to the Junior National Team.
On the season, Abbotsford is 1-3 against the Twins, surrendering a total of 33 runs in the four games the two teams played.
But the Cardinals are also on a bit of an upswing, having finished the month of July one game above .500 at 5-4.
“It’s nice to be healthy again,” said Eckstein, who’s club was an abysmal 3-13 through the month of May after facing a string of injuries from concussions to torn muscles, facial fractures and more.
Through July, the team managed a sub-par 5-7 record. And despite dropping their final two games of the season, Monday, when they faced the Nanaimo Pirates in a doubleheader at Delair Park, they were able to squeeze into the playoffs.
In the first game, Abbotsford was defeated 12-9 after a terrible fifth inning saw the Pirates notch six runs after being held to just two until that point.
The Pirates scored four more in the seventh as relief pitcher Josh Froese was charged with the loss for the Cardinals. Carter Loewen started the game and pitched four of seven innings.
In game two, the Cardinals’ fate was none better. Abbotsford was thumped 10-0, managing just five hits through six innings.
Marshall Abery pitched through four, allowing eight runs on nine hits with one strikeout. Colton Harold pitched two innings for the Cardinals and allowed two runs.
The previous day, Abbotsford took on the White Rock Tritons Sunday in another doubleheader.
The Cardinals were able to secure critical wins in both games, putting them ahead of the Coquitlam Reds, who finished the season just one win back from Abbotsford.
In the early game, Abbotsford dominated the ballgame in a 6-0 routing of the 10th place Tritons.
Loewen was exceptional on the mound for the Cardinals, pitching a no-hitter through seven innings, tallying 10 strikeouts.
The Cardinals managed six hits with Matthew Ponte going one-for-three, batting in two runs. Tanner Rempel was the most consistent hitter, going two-for-three and batted in one run. Rempel finished with .345 batting average.
In game two, Abbotsford picked up the win by a two-run margin, managing seven hits in a game that ended 3-1.
John Lipp pitched the entire contest. Through seven innings he allowed just one run on three hits, with seven strikeouts.
Abbotsford also managed a win against third place Langley Blaze last Friday, after a five-run fourth inning propelled the Cardinals to a 6-3 victory.
Matthew Selinger pitched through six innings, allowing three runs on four hits, with 11 strikeouts on the night. Loewen closed the game out in the seventh.
The Cardinals will travel to Parkgate Park to play the Twins, July 25. First game starts at noon; game two begins at 2:30 p.m.