Little more than a month ago, White Rock Tritons coach Russ Smithson said he was confident that his team – which struggled early in the BC Premier Baseball League season – could play themselves back into the thick of the playoff race.
Perhaps the veteran bench boss should buy a lottery ticket, because his predictive powers proved accurate – with two weeks to go, the Tritons sit with a win-loss record of 14-25 – one spot back of the final post-season berth, even after a four-game stretch last weekend that saw them go 2-2.
“We got the split, but the closest team to us was Coquitlam, and they lost three, and then lost again (Tuesday), so we made up some ground,” explained Smithson, after his team won two games Saturday against the Victoria Mariners, before dropping a pair to the first-place Victoria Eagles Sunday.
Now, the Tritons have the eighth-place Abbotsford Cardinals in their sights.
“They’re one game up on us, but they have a really tough schedule the last two weeks, and they play us in their last two games, so it could come down to that,” Smithson said.
“We hold our own fate in our hands.”
Last week, White Rock earned 4-0 and 5-2 wins over the Mariners, and in Game 1 were led by pitcher Patrick van den Brink, who has been one of the league’s most dominant pitchers of late – he leads the BCPBL in strikeouts and has pitched four straight complete games.
Against Victoria, he struck out six while giving up just one hit over seven innings.
“He has just put us on his back, and really led our pitching staff, which has been outstanding lately,” Smithson said.
In the nightcap, pitcher Barry Caine followed van den Brink’s lead, going the distance for the Tritons while striking out three while scattering seven hits and two runs.
And while losing twice Sunday to the Victoria Eagles stung, Smithson said the play of a few players, especially infielder Anthony Walcott – who hit a home run in a 14-6 loss in the second game – was encouraging.
“We played really well on Saturday, but just didn’t have a lot left in the tank Sunday,” he said. “But Anthony has really kind of busted onto the scene here lately. He struggled a bit earlier in the year, but he’s really picked it up.”
Now, White Rock will take aim at Abbotsford, and can make up some ground this weekend when they host the last-place Parksville Royals Sunday at South Surrey Athletic Park. After that, they have one game Tuesday against the Langley Blaze before ending the regular season with a two-game set against the Cardinals.
“If we can slide into eighth place and get into the playoffs, we don’t care who we play (in the first round),” Smithson said. “The league this year is so tough, and it’s so hard to win games – even the bottom half of the league is tough to beat.
“But it’s exciting. You can’t ask for anything more.”