Rajin Neger will start Game 1 of the Abbotsford Cardinals' first-round playoff series vs. the Coquitlam Reds.

Rajin Neger will start Game 1 of the Abbotsford Cardinals' first-round playoff series vs. the Coquitlam Reds.

Red-hot Cards host Coquitlam in first round of playoffs

Abbotsford's DeLair Park will play host to the best-of-three series.

Regardless of what happens during their first-round B.C. Premier Baseball League playoff series this weekend, the Abbotsford Cardinals know they’ll live to play another day.

That’s by virtue of their status as hosts of the league’s Final Four tournament, which runs July 26-28 at DeLair Park. Even if they’re eliminated by their first-round foe, the Coquitlam Reds, the championship schedule would be adjusted to accommodate the host Cardinals, and become a Final Five.

That said, the Cards don’t want to take the so-called back door route – they want to come charging through the front.

“It’s definitely important, not just so we earn our way there, but to make it a Final Four instead of a Final Five,” noted Abbotsford second baseman Coleton Besse. “It means there’s one less team we have to beat. Coquitlam, they’re a good team, and we don’t want to have to play them again (at provincials), use another pitcher. It’s tougher if it’s five (teams) and not four.”

The best-of-three series between the Cards and the Reds opens Saturday at DeLair Park, with games at 12 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, will go Sunday at noon, also at DeLair.

The Abby club is coming in hot, having gone 10-4 down the stretch of the regular season to finish in fourth place in the BCPBL at 29-19. The 29 wins are a team record.

But in Coquitlam, they’re facing a club that’s beaten them in all four of their previous meetings in 2013.

“I couldn’t tell you – I wish I knew,” pitcher Daniel Koo said with a wry chuckle, pondering why the Cards have struggled vs. the Reds. “We haven’t fully played to our potential.

“But we’ve played very well over the last two weeks, and I’m sure we’ll live up to the hype this weekend and hopefully beat Coquitlam.”

Cards coach Corey Eckstein will start lefty Rajin Neger (5-2 record, 1.52 ERA) in Game 1, but as of Wednesday, he hadn’t decided on the rest of his rotation.

“Raj has been a big-game pitcher for us,” Eckstein said. “He doesn’t throw hard, but he fills up the strike zone and he’s got a high compete level.”

Pitching has been Abbotsford’s strength this season – their recent hot streak was highlighted by six complete games.

“Coquitlam’s got a couple good arms that can shut any offence down,” Eckstein noted. “At the same time, I think we feel the same way as far as our staff is concerned.”

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