The Victoria HarbourCats defeated the Bellingham Bells 8-6 on Tuesday night in Joe Martin Field behind a six-run eighth inning that proved to be the turning point in the game. The upset-minded Bells scored four runs in a thrilling ninth inning, but fell just short in the loss.
The HarbourCats struck first in the second inning when they loaded the bases on a pair of singles and an error, then DH Jaydon Malinowski grounded out to first to score Russell Young from third. The Bells evened it up in similar fashion in the bottom of the inning on a groundout by Connor Bourbon that scored Touissaint Bythewood from third.
In the fourth, singles by Josh Walker and Malinowski put runners on the corners for the Cats. Tanner Haney hit a groundout to third base that scored Walker, giving Victoria the 2-1 lead. The HarbourCats found themselves in a position to extend their lead in the sixth, when they loaded the bases with no outs, but reliever Wesley Moore struck out the next three batters to get the Bells out of a major jam.
Ty Saunders drew a two-out walk in the seventh inning, then stole second to put himself in scoring position. Afterwards, Cameron Dayton, who previous to the game hadn’t registered an at-bat since June 27, drove a single down the left field foul line that scored Saunders and tied it back up at two.
Things fell apart for the Bells in the eighth, when the Cats drew three consecutive walks to load the bases. After Payton Robertson replaced Judah Graham on the mound, they walked in two more runs, then the Cats hit three RBI singles and scored another on a passed ball in what was a disastrous inning for Bellingham. The score sat at 8-2 after the HarbourCats blew the game up, but the Bells still had their eyes on the win.
Singles by Kyle Parkman and Easton Amundson, then a HBP, set up Bythewood to draw a bases-loaded walk to score a run. The next at-bat, Bourbon hit a 2-run single, then a balk put the game at 8-6, where it would stay after Malcolm Moore struck out to end the game.
Amundson pushed his hit streak to 11 games with his 2-4 night at the plate, while Dayton went 3-4 with a walk in his long-awaited return to the lineup. Dayton expects to play through the postseason with the Bells, after a brief stint in the Texas Collegiate League in July.
“It just shows we’ve got fight. It shows we’re not going to give up, no matter what the score is,” Dayton said of the late game rally. “Seeing that is really hopeful, as far as going into a playoff run, because there’s going to be bumps in the road, and you’ve got to be able to push over those bumps. I think today, we showed every bit of ability to push over those it, just ended up running out of time in the ball game.”
Josh Verdon (1-2) earned the win for the Cats, despite allowing four runs in his 2.1 innings in the game. Judah Graham (0-1) took the loss for his role in the big eighth inning for Victoria.
The Cats improve to 23-26 on the season with the win, 12-11 in the second half. The Bells drop to 30-18, 11-11 in the second half. Bellingham will look to rebound in the second game of the series Wednesday night with Jack Erdman taking the mound.