High-A Vancouver gets redemption, convincingly wins 2023 NWL title

Blue Jays prospects earn franchise's fifth title since 2011

September 17th, 2023

After coming tantalizingly close to winning a title last season, the Vancouver Canadians were able to reclaim the Northwest League crown on Saturday night in manager Brent Lavallee's second season at the helm.

The Blue Jays' High-A affiliate won in convincing fashion, mounting an early lead on the Everett AquaSox before cruising to a 10-2 win in Game 4 of the series at Nat Bailey Stadium.

It was a long time coming for a franchise that won three straight titles from 2011-13, and again in 2017, but had come up short since.

"It feels amazing," said third baseman , Toronto's 16th-ranked prospect, who played the entirety of his year for Vancouver. "I mean, we've worked so hard this year. Just to come out on top is a really special feeling with a great group of guys. It was a great season."

The Canadians could almost reach the championship trophy in 2022 -- they led in all three games -- but ended up getting swept by the Eugene Emeralds. However, they were able to channel that experience into results the second time back to the Finals.

Left fielder , who also played on the 2022 Vancouver team, came up big on Saturday with a team-high three hits, including a pair of RBI singles. Toronto's No. 27 prospect was the team's most productive player during the Championship Series, going 7-for-16 with a hit by pitch.

Vancouver was able to maintain an early lead as starter Ryan Jennings threw three hitless innings. Garrett Spain hit an RBI double in the second, and Jommer Hernandez brought in another run on a bases-loaded double play. The Canadians truly broke the game open in the fourth, though, when they scored on four consecutive plate appearances, highlighted by Doughty's double.

Although the AquaSox were able to claw back with two runs in the top of the fifth, Vancouver's pitching shut them down for most of the game. Anders Tolhurst recovered to throw four strong innings and earn the win, and second baseman effectively put the game out of reach with a two-run homer in the seventh, making it an eight-run Canadians lead.

The Canadians are certainly worthy Northwest League Champions after winning the first-half title at 38-27 and carrying the best record all season (77-54). Additionally, they had quite a bit of roster turnover, as 12 of their 31 players on the Opening Day roster were later called up to Double-A New Hampshire.

Lavallee's managing tenure is off to a smashing start with a pair of top-two finishes. As for next year's team, it may well have many new faces as these championship Canadians continue on to join their former teammates in Double-A. But one thing is for certain: Vancouver will need to build a new flag poll to accommodate its fifth championship banner.

"We've got a great group," Doughty said. "We're going to keep winning and doing our thing. I'm going to enjoy this as much as I can with the fellas and the family and the people that I've made relationships with. I'm just fired up for tonight and really blessed."