Three walk-off victories to mark their arrival in West Coast League baseball must have felt cathartic for the Kamloops NorthPaws.
“No doubt,” said Cole Armstrong, head coach of the NorthPaws. “Just to see the crowd out there and the atmosphere that was created, and to get those three wins in the fashion we did, and especially to have some local guys be such a big part of it, it was pretty special.”
The club, whose scheduled WCL debut in 2021 was wiped out by the pandemic, was forced to wait one more day to open its account when the home- and franchise-opening tilt slated for Tuesday, May 31, against the Edmonton Riverhawks was postponed amid inclement weather.
When opening night finally did arrive on Wednesday, a trio of Kamloopsians contributed to a momentous evening at Norbrock Stadium, where about 900 fans gathered to cheer on the NorthPaws.
Jared Sucro hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure a come-from-behind 8-7 win over the Riverhawks, their expansion cousins from Alberta.
“That was obviously a really cool moment,” Sucro said. “The first night in Northpaws’ history.
“Being able to walk it off in a situation like that was amazing. I was having a little bit of a tough night to begin, but the guys were here to pick me up and help me keep the mojo up and I was able to get it done. I was just happy the team could get a win on opening night.”
Tyrelle Chadwick, the starting hurler and designated hitter, recorded Kamloops’ first pitch, strikeout, hit and run, while Nolan Austin — who was 3-for-4 at the dish — picked up the win on the mound, completing the eighth and ninth innings without allowing a run.
The NorthPaws and Riverhawks played a doubleheader on Thursday, June 2, adding an extra game to make up for the postponed Tuesday contest.
Felix Chenier Rondeau belted the club’s first-ever home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift the NorthPaws to a 4-3 win in the afternoon contest.
Kamloops blanked Edmonton 1-0 in the rematch on Thursday evening, with Dylan Zavala driving in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Armstrong laughed when asked about the team’s start to the campaign, which includes three rainouts, two doubleheaders and four extra-inning tilts.
“To say it’s been taxing on our bullpen doesn’t even scratch the surface,” Armstrong said, noting some pitchers need rest after lengthy college campaigns.
The NorthPaws were slated to make their road debut on Friday in Washington state against the Port Angeles Lefties, but the game was postponed.
Kamloops and Port Angeles (3-3) split a doubleheader on Saturday. The Sunday rubber match was rained out.
The Cowlitz Black Bears (3-1) edged the visiting NorthPaws 6-5 on Monday in Game 1 of a three-game series.
Kamloops (4-2) sits atop North Division standings heading into the Tuesday rematch.
“The only worse thing than taxing your bullpen with multiple extra-innings games is doing it and losing games,” Armstrong said. “We were able to squeak three or four of those out. That was huge for us.”
The NorthPaws will return home to host the Bellingham Bells (3-2) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“I think the first weekend homestand will be a fun one and I think a lot more people will come out, especially after the three walk-off wins we had at home to start the season,” Sucro said.
“We’ve had tons of support.”