Claire Eccles’ Victoria debut ‘one of the coolest sports atmospheres I’ve been a part of’

Steve Ewen, The Province, Montréal Gazette, 06.08.2017

Claire Eccles

Taylor Knight wasn’t going to miss Claire Eccles make history.

Knight, a North Vancouver native who played with Eccles on B.C.’s provincial women’s baseball team, was on hand at Royal Athletic Park Wednesday to watch the left-hander come out of the bullpen for two innings for the Victoria HarbourCats in a 9-0 loss to the Wenatchee AppleSox.

In the process, Eccles became the first woman to play in the West Coast League, a college all-star loop.

Attendance was listed at 1,263, although the Victoria Times Colonist reported that about 800 fans were remaining in the stands when Eccles entered the game in the eighth inning. Knight said that group included a handful of teammates from Eccles’ other various teams, including UBC softball. Eccles, a Surrey native, is an outfielder with that squad.

Photo ci-dessus : Claire Eccles throws a pitch for the Victoria HarbourCats of the West Coast League, a collegiate summer baseball league, during a game against the Wenatchee AppleSox at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria on Wednesday. (Photo : Rich Lam/The Province)

“It was one of the coolest sports atmospheres I’ve been a part of … an entire stadium of strangers genuinely rooting for one girl as if they’ve known her her whole life,” said Knight, 20, who has witnessed a few pumped-up Nat Bailey Stadium crowds in her day in her job as a media relations assistant with the Vancouver Canadians.

The HarbourCats played their home opener on Tuesday. Eccles warmed up in the bullpen that evening, but didn’t enter the game.

On Wednesday, the 19-year-old Eccles gave up two earned runs on one hit and one walk over her two frames versus the AppleSox, whose lineup included outfielder Evan Johnson, who hit .306 in 54 games this past NCAA season with Northern Colorado, and outfielder Dugan Shirer, who hit .172 in 28 games with Washington State but was batting .474 through his first five games with Wenatchee.

The 5-foot-8 Eccles hit one batter and threw one wild pitch.

Her first six offerings to the plate were balls. She induced a comebacker from the second hitter she face, Gonzaga second baseman Parker Price, for her first out.

She ended up throwing 33 pitches. Sixteen were strikes.

Eccles has been tagged as a knuckleballer, but she’s tried to play down that designation in interviews, explaining it’s one of three or four pitches in her repertoire. She told the media after the game on Wednesday that threw between six and eight knuckleballs against Wenatchee.

HarbourCats manager Brian McRae, the former major league centre fielder, told the press afterwards: “I just looked at it as another player out there doing their job. It just happened to be a woman on the mound. Over the course of a game you bring someone in, they pitch and try to get outs. I think being able to get in and perform in this situation is going to make her better for the next time she takes the mound. I don’t think she’ll need to be nervous anymore. I think she found out the plate is the same distance from the mound as it always is.”

The HarbourCats and the 11-team West Coast League received considerable media attention when Victoria signed Eccles in the middle of May. Sports Illustrated, ESPN, USA Today and the Washington Post were among those to pick up the story, and Atlanta Braves knuckleballer R.A. Dickey reached out to her on social media.

Eccles won silver medals at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and 2016 World Cup in South Korea with the Canadian women’s baseball team.

She hit .293, with one home run and eight runs batted in, for the UBC softball team in 31 games this season. UBC finished the campaign 15-25.

The HarbourCats led their league in attendance last year, averaging 2,239 fans over their 27 home games. The league average was 1,132.

They carried a 4-3 record into their meeting on the road Thursday night against 2-4 Wenatchee. Their final regular season game is Aug. 6.

Revue de presse publiée par Jacques Lanciault.

Commentaires (0) Trackbacks (0)

Aucun commentaire pour l'instant

Laisser un commentaire

Aucun trackbacks pour l'instant