A little run support went a long way for White Rock pitcher Claire Eccles Sunday in Victoria, as the 19-year-old Elgin Park Secondary grad earned her first career West Coast League victory, leading her Victoria HarbourCats to an 11-2 win over the Kitsap Bluejackets.
Pitching in front of nearly 2,400 fans – who cheered Eccles on loudly and enthusiastically – at Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park, Eccles took to the mound, allowing just two runs in three innings of work. She also recorded her first career strikeout.
Eccles, who also plays softball for the UBC Thunderbirds, made history in May when she began the first female player in West Coast League history.
“As much as this is an accomplishment for myself, I can’t help but realize that this is a step in the right direction for any girl with a dream of playing baseball,” she said at the time her signing was announced.
Prior to Sunday’s starting nod, Eccles had one other appearance with the HarbourCats since she joined the team in early June – two innings of relief work.
Standing just five-foot-eight, Eccles isn’t one to overpower hitters, but instead relies on a knuckleball, which, back in May, she told Black Press she perfected after “throwing it just for fun,” in warm-ups and practices.
On the softball diamond for UBC, Eccles plays in the outfield, and last September represented Canada at the 2016 Women’s Baseball World Cup in South Korea.
On Sunday, Eccles appeared to tire in the third inning, as she walked three batters and gave up a pair of singles and two runs. She managed to work her way out of a bases-loaded jam to end the top of the third, however, helped by a running catch from right-fielder Jake Garella with her team still leading 5-2.
The ‘Cats made it 7-2 in the bottom half of the inning and added four more runs in the next two frames to ensure Eccles’ would be credited with the ‘W.’
With Victoria up by nine runs, the game was shortened to seven innings because Kitsap needed to catch a ferry.