As usual, the road to the West Coast League championship runs through Corvallis, Oregon.
Monday night, the Corvallis Knights, aiming for their seventh straight WCL crown, will host the Victoria HarbourCats in the League’s winner-take-all championship game. First pitch is set for 8 p.m. at Goss Stadium. The later start time is due to anticipated high temperatures in Corvallis.
This also marks the seventh straight season with the championship decided in Corvallis: from 2016 through 2019, and again in 2021 (after a 2020 lost to the pandemic), the Knights clinched the best-of-three championship series at home; one year ago, the Knights topped the Bellingham Bells in the WCL’s inaugural Championship Game for their sixth straight league crown.
Drawing the honors of starting the title game will be Corvallis’s Merit Jones and Victoria’s Davis Franklin.
Franklin makes his second start of the postseason; in his first, he tossed five scoreless innings against the Wenatchee AppleSox in the opening round. The University of Puget Sound southpaw mostly worked as a reliever for the HarbourCats this summer and ranked among Victoria’s top arms, compiling a 2-1 record with a 1.44 ERA in 13 regular-season appearances.
Jones, a rising sophomore from the University of Utah, pitched in nine games during the regular season, going 1-1 with a 1.45 ERA. Like Franklin, Jones was brilliant in his first postseason start, allowing only one hit in six innings against the Cowlitz Black Bears last Tuesday.
On their way to this summer’s playoffs yet again, Corvallis captured the second-half title in the South Division, along with the WCL’s best overall record, guaranteeing them home-field advantage throughout the postseason. In the first round, they squeaked past the Cowlitz Black Bears in three close games, then edged the Portland Pickles in Saturday night’s South Championship Game, with hurlers Kaden Segel, Nate Fiest, and Sean Wiese combining for the four-hit, 4-1 victory. Knights third baseman Mason Le (Cal State Northridge) reached base four times and scored three of his team’s four runs.
Meanwhile, the HarbourCats land in the Championship Game on the strength of a home performance for the record books. During the regular season at Wilson’s Group Stadium, Victoria nearly ran the table with 25 wins and just two losses. Now they’ve continued that dominance in the playoffs, topping Wenatchee in Game 2 to close out their Divisional Series, then storming from behind to top the Bellingham Bells in Saturday night’s North Championship Game, 7-5.
After the Bells jumped to a 5-0 lead in the second inning, four Victoria relievers – led by Jake Finkelstein with 5-1/3 shutout innings – created room for the HarbourCats’ hitters, who fought back with two runs in the bottom of the second, then five more in the fourth to forge the lead they would not relinquish, despite the Bells’ ninth-inning rally that ended with the potential tying run on second base.
This marks Victoria’s third North Division championship, as they fell to the Knights in the championship round in both 2017 and ’19. Meanwhile, the Knights aren’t just going for their seventh straight championship; they’re shooting for their 10th title overall, and they’ve now reached the playoffs in 16 straight seasons.
Can Victoria finally bust Corvallis’s championship streak? Tune in Monday night and find out. The game will be livestreamed on the Knights’ YouTube page, and fans can also listen via Corvallis’s 1240 JOE Radio. Live stats for all the action can be found here.
About the West Coast League: The West Coast League is the West’s premier summer collegiate baseball league. Encompassing Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and now Alberta, the WCL showcases pro prospects from major collegiate conferences around the nation. Every summer, the League features unparalleled fan and player experiences, with North America’s best baseball weather and a mix of classic and modern ballparks, all backdropped by the sport’s most stunning scenery. The 2019 MLB amateur draft began with former Corvallis Knight Adley Rutschman selected with the overall No. 1 pick by the Baltimore Orioles, and the 2022 draft featured two West Coast League alumni, Brooks Lee and Gabriel Hughes, among the first 10 picks.