Kelowna Falcons

Game #1 Victory

The Kelowna Falcons used a strong effort from the pitching staff and runs in three straight innings to help them to a 4-2 victory over the Bellingham Bells in Game #1 of their best-of-three North Division Final series on Friday night at Elks Stadium.

Jared Akin threw 6.1 strong innings before Isaac Olson and Cal Hehnke shut the door from the bullpen while Taylor Wright homered in a complete team offensive performance as the Falcons picked up their first playoff win since 2015 and moved just one win away from the West Coast League Final.

The game started well for Bellingham as Akin struggled to find the strike zone early on, allowing four walks in the first two innings of play and the Bells were first on the scoreboard with a sacrifice fly from Matt James to jump ahead by a 1-0 score after a half an inning.

Akin stranded a pair of runners on base in the top half of the 2nd which allowed the Falcons offence to go to work in the bottom half of the frame as Austen Butler laced an RBI single to right field to drive home Tylor Nixon and tie the game at 1-1 after the first two innings of play.

“I knew early on that they had some runners on so I had to minimize what I was giving up and leaving two on in the first and second innings was pretty big,” commented the Falcons starting pitcher, “It let our offence get back in the game and gave everyone a bit of a spark.”

From there, Akin settled into a nice groove and put three straight scoreless innings together and Kelowna came through with the bats as second-year Falcon Taylor Wright collected his first career playoff hit, in a big way.

Wright came into the game 0-for-8 in the playoffs after the Falcons two-game series against the Victoria HarbourCats but squashed that on the first pitch he saw in the 3rd inning as he lifted a high fly ball deep to right field for his first postseason home run and gave the Falcons their first lead of the game at 2-1.

Kelowna tacked on another run in the 4th inning, what would turn out to be the eventual game winning run, with Garret Kelly getting on and moving into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. He was driven in as Matt Land sent a ball to right center field for an RBI single put Kelowna on top by a 3-1 score.

Akin lasted 6.1 innings pitched as Bellingham got within a run on an RBI single from Matt McLain in the 6th off of Akin as Isaac Olson came on in relief and finished off the frame, stranding McLain at third base with two outs to keep the Falcons lead intact.

Olson pitched a scoreless 7th and 8th inning as the Falcons added a big insurance run in the bottom half of the 8th inning as Kelly brought in a run with two outs, dropping an RBI single to center field to score Dan Pruitt from second base and put Kelowna ahead 4-2 into the 9th inning.

Cal Hehnke came on and sat the Bells down in order for the save and help Kelowna to the Game #1 victory. Akin picked up the win with his strong performance, allowing two runs on five hits, five walks and striking out four while Justin Armbruester was saddled with the loss for Bellingham, pitching five innings and giving up three runs on eight hits, no walks and nine strikeouts.

The Falcons have a chance to advance to the WCL Final for the first time since 2015 as they make their way south to face-off against the Bellingham Bells in Game #2 of the best-of-three North Division Final series. First pitch is set for 6:35 PM with the game being broadcasted live on with the Voice of the Falcons, Trevor Miller.

PHOTO: Cary Mellon

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