With their backs against the wall, the defending WCL champion Corvallis Knights responded again.
Facing elimination for the third time in the West Coast League playoffs, the Knights erupted for six runs in the last of the eighth inning to defeat Victoria 6-0 in Game 2 of the Championship Series before a loud crowd of 1,655 at Goss Stadium.
The victory evened the finals 1-1 and sets up a winner-take-all Game 3 at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday at Goss Stadium. Trenton Toplikar (UC Riverside) is the scheduled starter for the Knights; they are seeking their fifth championship, the HarbourCats their first.
Corvallis also won two elimination games against Yakima Valley in the South Divisional Series after losing the opener on the road. Victoria won the WCLCS opener 5-4 at Royal Athletic Park on Saturday, Aug. 12 before a crowd of nearly 2,800.
Brilliant pitching by starter Dakota Donovan (OSU) and Kolby Somers (Oregon) and an incredible running, back-to-the-plate catch by Lewis-Clark State’s Emilio Alcantar in deepest part of center field kept the Knights in position to win with their rally.
Donovan (6.1) and Somers (2.2) combined for a two-hit shutout and faced just four batters over the minimum. They teamed up for six strikeouts and only one walk.
Corvallis’ decisive rally broke open a tense 0-0 pitching duel. Taylor Travess (Oregon) reached on an error, then motored all the way to third on Matt Kelly’s (Portland) sacrifice bunt.
Jordan Qsar (Pepperdine) was walked intentionally. A single by Dillan Shrum (Nevada-Reno) scored Travess, and a single by Zak Taylor (OSU) tallied Qsar for a 2-0 advantage.
Elliot Willy (OSU) then blasted a triple to right-center, scoring Shrum. Taylor was thrown out at the plate for the second out, but Cole Johnson (Pacific Lutheran) singled to make it 4-0, keeping the rally alive.
Pinch-runner Jace Duty (San Jose State) stole second and scored on Emilio Alcantar’s (Lewis-Clark State) double. Chad Stevens (Portland) then blooped a single into short right field, scoring Alcantar with the final run.
Donovan retired the first 14 HarbourCats in order. He faced just two batters over the minimum and had a no-hitter through 6.1 innings before an infield single and a hit batsman led to his being relieved by Somers.
Somers retired the side with no damage, then added two more scoreless innings to claim the victory.
Donovan struck out five, allowed one hit, one walk and one hit batter in his longest, and best, outing of the summer.
Alcantar robbed Po-Hao Huang – the hero of Game 3 – of a possible triple with one out in the eighth with a spectacular over-the-shoulder diving catch just short of the warning track in deep right-center field.
Taylor had three hits, Shrum, Johnson and Stevens two each. The Knights stranded six runners and hit into two double plays before finally breaking loose in the eighth.
Victoria will play for its first title tomorrow while the Knights try to repeat.
ABOUT THE WEST COAST LEAGUE
The West Coast League is the premier summer collegiate baseball league west of the Mississippi. The 13-year-old, 11-team, professionally operated wood-bat league located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest features pro prospects from major conferences across the nation and an unparalleled history out west of great fan and player experiences in addition to the best summer weather in North America. 82 players with WCL experience were selected in the MLB 2017 June draft. In 2016, more than 230 WCL alums appeared in affiliated professional baseball including 28 in the major leagues, such as 2015 home-run leader Chris Davis (Baltimore), 2015 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Matt Duffy (Tampa Bay) and rising star pitchers Matt Andriese (Tampa Bay), Matt Boyd (Detroit) and James Paxton (Seattle); and outfielder Mitch Haniger (Arizona, now Seattle). Overall member attendance was 379,611 in 2016.