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Canadians take opener in NWL Finals09/10/2011 1:53 AM ET
By David Heck / Special to MLB.com
Kevin Pillar didn't play a single regular-season game for the Vancouver Canadians, but he's been a big part of their postseason success.
The Blue Jays prospect went 3-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored Friday as Vancouver defeated the Tri-City Dust Devils, 6-3, in Game 1 of the Northwest League Championship Series.
Pillar is 7-for-14 with four RBIs and four runs scored in three playoff games for the Canadians. The 22-year-old outfielder batted .347 with seven homers and 37 RBIs in 60 games for Rookie-level Bluefield.
"It's just kind of been a special year so far," Pillar said. "I worked really hard in Bluefield with hitting coach Kenny Graham and the stuff that we worked on down there -- fine-tuning my swing and, more importantly, my approach -- it carried over even coming up here into this league."
The Canadians never trailed after putting up three runs in the top of the first inning. Other key offensive contributors included Nicholas Baligod, who hit a solo homer, and Kevin Patterson, who doubled twice and drove in two runs.
A 32nd-round Draft pick in June, Pillar spent the entire year with Bluefield until the Blue Jays were swept by Johnson City in the Appalachian League Finals. Afterwards, he was informed he would be moving up to Vancouver.
"It was tough because that loss was so emotional that I was ready to get home," Pillar said. "It's been a while since I've been home to see my family and friends. But I knew the way I was playing, it was one of those seasons I didn't want to end. When you've got a hot bat, you've got to keep riding it until it cools down. I'm happy I got a chance to play in the postseason and win a championship."
Pillar took over in center field for Jonathan Jones, who was promoted to Class A Lansing late in the season. Canadians manager Rich Miller put his faith in the California native by batting him second in all three games he's played.
"Whenever you get a chance to play, you want to make an impact," Pillar said. "Hitting second allowed me to get on base and spark some rallies. I've seen lot of pitches and, hopefully, guys behind me are watching and seeing what the pitchers are throwing. It's a huge honor to be promoted and get thrown right in."
By winning on the road, Vancouver will have two chances to take the championship at home. Saturday's game will be the first time Pillar has played at Nat Bailey Stadium.
"We're going to play tomorrow's game like a championship game," he said. "You never want to give the team a chance because you never know what's going to happen. ... We understand they're going to try to come in and take one. Everyone's really excited to play in front of the fans."