Thursday, May 21, 2015

HarbourCats sign seven but lose three star pitchers

As Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s deja vu all over again.” We recently learned that three more players have been forced to back off their commitment to play for Victoria this summer. This time it’s Ryan Wilson (innings quota), George Alamillo (injury) and Zander Clouse (reasons unknown) who have pulled out, bringing the total number of cancellations this off-season to a whopping 16 players. We’ll have plenty to say about this latest trend in a future blog post, but for now let’s concentrate on who will pick up the slack for the departed hurlers.

The team also announced today that they have signed one import to a full-season contract and six Canadians to 10-day contracts.

Left-hander Nick Wojtysiak is a freshman at Pepperdine University. While he has only thrown three innings this spring for the Waves and he has posted a 12.00 ERA, he put up gaudy numbers as a senior at Fountain Hills High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Wojtysiak was nearly unhittable in that magical season, as he posted a 0.32 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 44 ⅓ innings pitched. Not only did opponents hit a feeble .101 against him, but he struck out an electric 15.0 batters per nine innings. Let’s hope that Wojtysiak recovers his mojo this summer, because he has a very high ceiling.
Kenton Schroter

Kenton Schroter is a right-handed pitcher with the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute (VIBI) Mariners, a team that plays in the Canadian College Baseball Conference. Schroter, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, should return to US college baseball in 2016 after blowing out his elbow in 2013 with Cochise College in Arizona. His comeback has gone swimmingly so far, with the Nanaimo native posting a 1.49 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 89 innings pitched with the VIBI Mariners. Schroter’s 2013 numbers with Cochise College were excellent (2.87 ERA and 1.28 WHIP), so the HarbourCats may have uncovered a real pitching gem here. Keep in mind that that former HarbourCat Connor Russell posted the fourth-lowest ERA in ‘Cats history after putting up less impressive numbers than Schroter has with the Mariners.
Justin Clarkson

Third baseman Justin Clarkson is a sophomore with Midland College, a Division I junior college in Texas. Clarkson, another Nanaimo native, hit .335 with an impressive six homers and 39 RBI in 182 at-bats this spring. The left-handed slugger also showed great strike-zone judgement (17 BB and 18 K), so I’m expecting him to feel comfortable against the tough pitching in the West Coast League this summer. Don’t be surprised if he hangs around with the ‘Cats for longer than ten days. Quite frankly, I'm surprised a player of this caliber wasn't signed to a full-season contract last fall.

Brady Rogers is Alex Rogers' (fraternal) twin brother and a teammate of A-Rog’s at Trinidad State Junior College. Brady was the team's starting shortstop this spring and the left-handed hitting Nanaimo native hit .292 with a fabulous .443 on-base percentage in 96 at-bats. His breakout offensive performance was a huge step up from his freshman season with Colby (Kansas) Community College. He may play a key role in the early going with the HarbourCats, considering that the team has a dearth of experienced shortstops.
Brady Rogers

Evan Willow is a freshman catcher at McPherson College (NAIA Division II), although he can also play first base and DH. The former Victoria Mariner put up a tidy .293 / .373 / .436 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) this spring and led his team in doubles, homers and slugging percentage. He also tied for team lead in total bases and walks. Willow was named Freshman of the Year in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and he received honourable mention for the All-Conference team at designated-hitter. It's worth noting that Willow actually dressed for the Victoria HarbourCats in the last three games of the 2013 WCL season, but he did not appear in any games. With four catchers already signed to full-season contracts, Willow is going to have to impress the ‘Cats early to stick around for any length of time.

Utility infielder Morgan Varley is a freshman at Thompson Rivers University, a rival of the VIBI Mariners in the Canadian College Baseball Conference. Varley hit .317 with no homers and 10 RBI in 63 at-bats with the Wolfpack this spring. The former Victoria Mariner played against the HarbourCats in a June 5, 2014 exhibition game and went 1-for-4 with a walk. He played shortstop than night and singled off of Alex Rogers.

Zach Diewert is a high school senior who is currently playing for the Nanaimo Pirates in the BC Premier Baseball League. The native of Chemainus is currently hitting .413 with two homers and a league-leading 26 RBI in 75 at-bats. He’s headed to Polk State (Florida) College, a Division I junior college, in the fall.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Pac-12 edition

OSU slugger Gabe Clark is back in action
The NCAA baseball season is down it its final few games before the conference tournaments which then leads to the selection of the 64 teams that make it to the "Dance". What better time to check in with our boys in the Pac-12 since at least two of them will be making an appearance, hoping to make it all the way to the College World Series in mid-June.

The Oregon State Beavers - who are the home for two future HarbourCats - have only lost once in their last thirteen games and that includes a rare 2-2 tie against the Washington Huskies who had to halt the game in order to catch their ride back to the Apple State. The Beavers have made a jump up to number 18 in the latest D1Baseball.com rankings after not being ranked at all for several weeks.

While I cheer for our lads on Oregon State, it is with mixed emotions. If the Beavers soar and make a deep run, it means that they will not join the HarbourCats until a few days after their season ends. That said, the experience would be amazing and in the end...go OSU! To be honest, I'll just be happy to have a leader like Gabe Clark stay committed to playing this summer because some of the previous "commitments" have not been so solid.

On to Beavers third baseman Michael Gretler, who has been thrust into a starting role in recent weeks as the everyday third baseman. Regular starting shortstop, Trever Morrison, went down with a season-ending hand injury at the end of April so third baseman Caleb Hamilton slid over to short and YAHTZEE, Gretler gets the nod at third.

Mr. Gretler has played in 11 straight games and it didn't start off all that well. In the first six games, he was hitless in twelve at bats before hitting safely in four of the next five games. His average over that span was just .118 but as I said, he is starting to pick it up, just in time for the stretch run. Over that span he has struck out nine times and walked four, while making three errors in the field (but none in the last five games). All in all, he seems to be rising to the occasion lately and here's to hoping it keeps up AND follows him on his plane to Victoria this summer!

OSU first baseman/DH Gabe Clark has not seen a lot of action lately, only playing in two of the last thirteen games. I was thinking he must be nursing some sort of injury or something but it seems that was not the case. Prior to this stretch, he had been struggling a bit at the plate hitting .245 and striking out quite a bit and in a recent online article in the Oregonian, they maintain that he was taken out of the lineup to "recalibrate" his approach .

In the two recent games where he HAS seen some action, he has gone one for four with two K's an a walk. That one hit was a big one though, another home run for the hard hitting DH. And no, he's not just a DH, as he saw a rare stint at first base where I am sure we'll see him a lot this summer.

In Washington, the remaining HarbourCat, catcher Zach Bonneau, has seen no action since the last update. Unfortunately for Zach, all Pac-12 starting catcher Austin Rei returned from thumb surgery on April 17th and has been on an absolute tear. Rei is leading the team in hitting at .346 and has an unworldly OPS of 1.145. Hard guy to knock out the lineup, for sure!

Finally, I don't think we'll see our UCLA third baseman, Scott Jarvis, in action this year as second ranked UCLA make a serious charge (again!) for the title and seem to be quite happy with their current lineup .

And I don't think it's just me...the Victoria weather also seems to be dreaming of baseball these days with temperatures "soaring" into the mid-20's as we anxiously await the arrival of that primal scream - "Play Ball" - in the friendly confines of of the RAP.

Only 16 more sleeps...


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - final JuCo edition

Alex Rogers and Chris Fougner, the two HarbourCats who play for junior colleges ("JuCo's"), had their seasons end with an interesting twist last weekend. Rogers pitches for Trinidad State (Colorado) Junior College, while Fougner is a right fielder for Salt Lake Community College, and the two Canadians faced off in an elimination game in the Western District Tournament in Henderson, Nevada on Saturday.

"A-Rog": HarbourCats'
staff ace in 2015?
Rogers made sure that he’d hold bragging rights for the entire summer by pitching a complete-game victory and limiting the dangerous Fougner to only a double and an RBI in four at-bats. Rogers was his usual self in the big game, as he only gave up three earned runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out five. Unfortunately for Trinidad State, they were eliminated later that same day by the College of Southern Nevada.

Rogers, who won both of his playoff starts, finished the season with a 3.70 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 75 ⅓ innings pitched. Most impressively, the Nanaimo native only walked eight batters all season against 53 strikeouts -- that’s a Greg Maddux-like 0.96 walks per nine innings. His 2015 numbers are a significant improvement on his freshman performance, so as long as his rubber arm holds out we can expect even bigger things from "A-Rog" this summer.

Fougner can be proud of his impressive freshman season with Salt Lake CC. Over his last 10 games, the former Victoria Mariners star went 8-for-32 with eight RBI to finish the season hitting .291 with three homers and 40 RBI in 189 at-bats. Those 40 runs batted in are pretty darn good for a hitter in his first season of collegiate baseball, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Fougner playing NCAA Division I baseball at some point. Hopefully the HarbourCats can find him some at-bats this summer in their star-studded outfield.

Only 17 more days until Opening Day…

HarbourCatNip
  • Alex Rogers' (fraternal) twin brother Brady also plays for Trinidad State Junior College. Brady was the team's starting shortstop this spring and he hit .292 with a fabulous .443 on-base percentage in 96 at-bats. His breakout offensive performance was a huge step up from his freshman season with Colby (Kansas) Community College. I wouldn't be shocked to see the two brothers in the HarbourCats lineup at some point this season. What a great story that would be...

Monday, May 18, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - final WAC / NWAC edition

We’re less than two weeks away from the first game of the HarbourCats’ pre-season, so we’re running out of time to publish player updates. In this edition, we’ll give you the latest on the three HarbourCats who play for schools in the Western Athletic Conference (NCAA Division I) and the trio of ‘Cats who play for community colleges in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC).

The WAC regular season wrapped up this weekend and all three HarbourCats (Griffin Andreychuk, PJ Floyd and Dane Fujinaka) will move on to the WAC Tournament from May 20th-24th at Hohokam Stadium in Arizona, the spring training home of the Oakland Athletics. The winner of this tournament gets an automatic bid into the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament that begins on May 29th.

A good sign: Both Griffin Andreychuk
and the weather are heating up
Griffin Andreychuk was one of the big reasons why Seattle University won six of their last eight games in the regular season to snag the top seed in the WAC Tournament. Since our last update on the Nanaimo native, Andreychuk has been tearing the cover off the ball, going 16-for-40 with three homers and 12 RBI. His white-hot finish to the regular season gives him a stellar .318 / .417 / .443 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 201 at-bats this year. Andreychuk ended the regular season as the team leader in batting average, on-base percentage and RBI (41), and he finished tied for the team lead in hits (64) and home runs (4). Oh, and he has reached base safely in 25 consecutive games, the second-longest streak since Seattle U returned to NCAA Division I competition in 2010. The Redhawks’ first game in the WAC Tournament will be on Thursday at 7 p.m. (opponent TBA).

The Sacramento State Hornets were picked as the preseason favourite to win the WAC, but they enter this week’s WAC Tournament as the fourth seed based on their 16-11 record in conference play. Unfortunately, the two HarbourCats who play for Sacramento State have been used sparingly of late. Junior catcher Dane Fujinaka has only appeared in a pair of games in the last two weeks and he went two-for-six to finish his disappointing regular season hitting .258 with no homers and 13 RBI in 89 at-bats. In the last seven games, PJ Floyd has only seen action as a pinch runner twice and as a pinch hitter once (he struck out). His frustrating regular season comes to an end with the freshman posting an anemic .205 / .278 / .250 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 88 at-bats. Floyd is expected to be used by the HarbourCats at shortstop this summer, although he has yet to appear at that position at the collegiate level and he struggled with an .867 fielding percentage for the Hornets while splitting time between second and third base. Sacramento State play their first game in the WAC Tournament on Wednesday at 3 p.m. against #5 Utah Valley University.

Meanwhile, the NWAC Super Regionals were played this weekend in various locations in Washington and Oregon and two of our HarbourCats have advanced to take part in the championship tournament from May 21st-25th at Story Field, home of the Cowlitz Black Bears.

Sophomore Jamie Umbinetti of Edmonds Community College went into a rare hitting funk during the last four games of the regular season. The normally reliable Umbinetti went 0-for-10 with a walk, but he still finished the regular season hitting .312 with two homers and 18 RBI in 109 at-bats. That performance earned him 1st Team All-NWAC North honours and the NWAC North gold glove at third base. The Tritons finished in first place in the NWAC North Region for the second year in row, bypassing the Super Regionals and earning a spot in the NWAC Championship tournament. Edmonds CC (18-6), the defending NWAC champions, play Tacoma Community College (20-5) on Thursday morning in the first game of the double-elimination tournament.

Everett Community College won their Super Regional tournament this weekend with victories over Linn-Benton Community College and Pierce College to advance to the NWAC Championship tournament. The sole HarbourCat on the Trojans, freshman pitcher/outfielder Kyle Francis, did not appear in the Super Regional. He pitched one scoreless inning on the final weekend of the regular season to give him a flattering 2.89 ERA that camouflages an ugly 1.61 WHIP in 28 innings on the hill this spring. Francis hasn't made a plate appearance since May 3rd, so he is still hitting .236 with no homers and five RBI in 55 at-bats. Everett (17-7) plays Lower Columbia (24-1) on Thursday night in their tournament opener.

Victoria native Brendan Somers went 1-for-7 at the plate for Southwestern Oregon Community College in the Tacoma Super Regional this weekend, but they were eliminated from postseason play. Somers, a sophomore DH and right fielder, finished the season with a .209 batting average with no homers and 10 RBI in 110 at-bats.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A few last-minute HarbourCat college updates before we begin

As the NCAA Div 1 regular season comes to a close, here’s a last look at some of our future HarbourCats before they don the navy, white, and teal over on Pembroke street…

Stajduhar, 19 Doubles
UNM’s Carl Stajduhar has continued to impress, winning the Mountain West conference player of the week honours. Staj went 10-16 with 12 RBI, a double, triple, and two home runs last week. The freshman is absolutely on fire to end the season – he’s close to breaking several New Mexico freshman records. With three games left to play in the season, he’s only 2 RBI shy of the freshman RBI record, set back in 2005. He also leads the Lobos with 19 doubles and 7 home runs. Coach Ray Birmingham says of Stajduhar “He's going to be a big-time draft pick in a couple years”. 

Lobos pitcher Preston Ryan hasn’t seen any action lately – his ERA has been on a steady climb over the past 3 weeks, and now sits at 5.74. That’s RAP beer-price high, he’ll be looking to improve that with more work over the summer…

Another freshman making waves this past week is Pittsburgh Panther reliever Josh Mitchell. Mitchell is currently building on a 7.2 inning scoreless streak out of the pen over the past 4 games. In 15 appearances for the Panthers this season, he’s worked his ERA down to 3.86.

Pepperdine’s Ryan Wilson has remained steady, although his record has slipped a bit with a couple tough late-season losses. He still leads the Waves with 7 wins on the season, sporting a 3.76 ERA in 76.2 innings pitched. He should see one more start before the end of the year. OF Chase Lambert will be happy to get here and see more playing time – his 69 AB the season is second lowest on the Pepperdine active roster. 

At St. Mary’s, C Jackson Thoreson continues to hit .303 for the year in 76 total AB. He should see about the same amount of time here this summer, given the ‘Cats current wealth of catchers. RHP Sean O’Toole will likely see more work that the 10.2 innings he’s had for the Angels this season, hopefully regular work will help reduce his 5.06 ERA.

A reminder the drive to the 2015 NCAA Division 1 College World Series starts next week for most schools as they begin their regional tournament. The selection show is set for May 25. Once those are complete, we will have a firm idea of who will be joining the ‘Cats to start the season, and who will be delayed while they compete in the playoff round. Stay tuned for a complete recap once all that is known.

HarbourCatNip

As Gus mentioned yesterday, pitcher Alex Fagalde - whom we had been touting as a potential WCL All-Star and cornerstone of our pitching staff this year - has exceeded his pitch count for the year and will not be coming North this summer. He’s pitched 85.1 innings this season (after pitching 34.0 for Victoria last summer). I guess Cuesta College’s coach (Bob Miller) wasn’t overly concerned with Alex’s summer ball plans this year… 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

HarbourCats sign seven more

It’s not a sentence we like to hear: “I have good news and I have bad news.” Personally, I like to get the bad news out of the way as quickly as possible in these situations, so let’s deal with the negative stuff first.

Three more players who were previously signed won’t be suiting up for the HarbourCats this summer. Alex Fagalde, Curtis Bafus and John Naff have all pulled out over the last few days, each with a different reason. Fagalde has exceeded his innings limit for the year with Cuesta College, Washington State University has asked Bafus to attend a summer program in Pullman, Washington, and Naff is unable to play for Victoria due to academic requirements. The loss of Fagalde really stings, since he may have been the staff ace this season. The three cancellations bring the total number of players who have backed out during this offseason to 13, a new high-water mark for the team.
Austin Guibor

But here’s the good news: The HarbourCats have signed seven more players to make up for all of the departures, and the new crop is heavy on both talent and experience.

Austin Guibor is an outfielder from the San Francisco Bay Area who is completing his sophomore season with the Fresno State Bulldogs. Guibor has compiled an impressive .331 / .435 / .484 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) so far this season. Not only can the 5-9, 185 lb. left-handed hitter get on base, but he also has some pop in his bat and has swatted four homers in 157 at-bats.
George Alamillo

The ace of HarbourCats pitching coach Alec Adame’s starting rotation at East LA College, righty George Alamillo, has also been signed. The redshirt freshman posted a fantastic 1.87 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 57 ⅔ innings pitched this spring, although he only struck out 3.8 batters per nine innings. I would expect those strikeout numbers to climb, because Alamillo struck out 11.7 batters per nine innings in his senior year at Marshall High School in Los Angeles. Alamillo had a baseball scholarship at Pepperdine University, but he was redshirted by the Waves in 2014.

Henry Omaña
Hardcore HarbourCats fans may recognize Henry Omaña, a hard-throwing reliever from Cal State Fullerton (CSF). Omaña was a workhorse for the Cowlitz Black Bears over the last two summers, as the 6-4, 225 lb. right-hander appeared in 22 (of 54) games each year. Last summer, the junior from Walnut, California had a 3.69 ERA with one save in 46 ⅓ innings. In 2013, Omaña registered a 3.99 ERA with five saves in 38 ⅓ innings pitched with the Black Bears. He has been used sparingly this spring by CSF, giving up seven earned runs in only 5 ⅓ innings on the hill, so Omaña should be fired up this summer. Don’t be surprised if he nails down the closer’s job with the HarbourCats.

Shawn Kennedy II is a right-handed pitcher with Georgetown (Ky.) College, an NAIA Division I school. The 5-11, 180 lb. junior had a 5.40 ERA and 1.76 WHIP with 36 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched this spring. Kennedy had a stellar 1.98 ERA when he pitched for Adame at East LA College in 2014. He hails from San Dimas, California, a city of 33,000 people in the San Gabriel Valley.

Dominic Topoozian
Dominic Topoozian is a junior at Fresno State. The right-handed pitcher has been used in relief by the Bulldogs after mainly starting in his two previous seasons at Fresno City College. Topoozian posted ERAs of 2.03 and 2.64 in the first two years of his collegiate career, but his ERA has ballooned to 6.00 this spring after making the jump to NCAA Division I baseball. He’s obviously capable of handling a heavy workload, because he logged a combined 190 ⅔ innings pitched in his freshman and sophomore years.

The youngest signing in the group is Josh Walker, a freshman pitcher from Grand Canyon University. The right-handed reliever, who is built like a young Pedro Martinez, has only pitched 5 ⅓ innings so far this season and he has allowed eight earned runs on five hits and three walks. Walker had an impressive senior year at Chino Hills (Ca.) High School, as he recorded a 1.05 ERA and 0.98 WHIP and struck out a Craig Kimbrel-like 14.2 batters per nine innings.

Brendan Somers
And last but not least, Victoria native Brendan Somers was signed to a 10-day contract. The former Victoria Mariner is currently a designated hitter and right fielder with Southwestern Oregon Community College, where he has notched a .214 batting average with no homers and 10 RBI in 103 at-bats so far in his sophomore season. Somers put up a solid .290 / .405 / .355 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) with El Paso Community College in 2014.

There are now 36 players on the current roster: 15 pitchers, 4 catchers, 8 infielders and 9 outfielders.

HarbourCatNip
  • The team also added a pair of coaches to help out Craig Merritt and Alec Adame. Jerry Pena of East LA College was named the team’s first-ever hitting coach. Joe Meggs, son of renowned University of Washington head coach Lindsay Meggs, was named as a third assistant coach. For more information on the new coaches, check out the HarbourCats’ press release.
  • That same press release also contained information on the HarbourCats Junior Cats Camp.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - CCCAA / Big West edition

All three HarbourCats who play in the California Community College Athletic Association have now wrapped up their college seasons, so this will be our last CCCAA update of the year. However, we’ll bring you additional Big West Conference updates after this one, as there are still two weeks remaining in the NCAA Division I regular season. Now on to the updates...

Alex Fagalde
Cuesta College’s Alex Fagalde sure picked a great time to deliver his best start of the season. In the opener of a three-game playoff series against Golden West College, the sophomore right-hander threw a complete-game shutout to lead the Cougars to an 8-0 victory. Fagalde scattered eight hits on the day while he struck out eight and did not walk a single batter. Unfortunately, it was the only game that Cuesta would manage to win in the series and their season came to an abrupt end.

Earlier this week it was announced that Fagalde earned second-team honours on the all-Western State Conference team. In 85 ⅓ innings on the hill this year, he posted an excellent 2.95 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Considering that Fagalde was one of top pitchers for the HarbourCats last year, I would expect him to be one of the elite pitchers in the West Coast League this summer.

Los Angeles Mission College dropped their winner-take-all playoff game against Irvine Valley College on April 28th to end Mareno Rankin’s freshman season. The speedy outfielder went one-for-three with two walks and a run scored in that game to finish the season hitting .311 with no homers and 11 RBI in 90 at-bats. Rankin posted an impressive .452 on-base percentage in his rookie campaign and was a perfect five-for-five in stolen base attempts. This dynamic player will be a treat to watch at Royal Athletic Park this summer.

As we previously reported, sophomore centre fielder Kevin Amezquita’s season with East LA College ended on April 24th, as his team failed to advance to postseason play. Amezquita finished the regular season hitting .252 with one home run and 16 RBI in 139 at-bats. However, he led the team in walks (19) and had a robust .360 on-base percentage.

UC Davis freshman Matt Blais continues to struggle in his freshman season. The right-hander made one start and one relief appearance over the last couple of weeks, but his ERA climbed further still. In those two appearances, he gave up seven earned runs on 14 hits in seven innings on the mound, and he now has a 5.59 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 29 total innings this season. Blais has plenty of potential, so don’t be surprised if he settles down nicely this summer with the HarbourCats.

UC Irvine has dropped out of the Top 25 in the Division I baseball rankings, but they still share first place in the Big West Conference with Cal State Fullerton with two weeks to play (UC Santa Barbara is ranked 7th in Division I baseball in spite of the fact that they trail both UCI and CSF by a game in the standings). Freshman corner outfielder Adam (AJ) Alcantara has seen limited action over the last few weeks due to a leg injury, but he finally returned to the starting lineup in the last two games against Cal Poly this weekend. Over the last couple of weeks, Alcantara has gone 3-for-9 with an RBI to raise his average to .305 on the season.

Freshman right fielder Ben Polshuk of Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) has appeared in three games as a defensive replacement and pinch runner over the last couple of weeks, but he still hasn’t set foot in the batter’s box since April 11th. He’s 1-for-18 at the plate this season. The other current HarbourCat on the Cal Poly squad, freshman Austin Dondanville, has yet to make his college debut on the mound.

HarbourCatNip

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

2015 Preview part 2: More of what's coming this season!

Yesterday we looked at the organizational changes around the park and some of the game-day differences you will experience this year. In today's final segment, we'll concentrate more on the fan experience... 

Here are the second five of my "Top Ten" things I’m excited to see at the park this season. 

Gastronomy

Hipster-wear anyone?
Probably not the right word for “Ball Park” food, but it may be getting close.  First off, let’s all have a moment of silence for Bin4 Burgers leaving the park… Thank you. For no other reason than the fact that they are expanding to more locations around town ( they were probably the most successful vendor in RAP history), they have given up the reigns to the BBQ area to Floyd’s Diner. Known for their funky decor and hipster staff, it should be interesting to mix that with ball-capped baseball fans.  Perhaps there will be a HarbourCats Fedora, or a hipster touque & beard on the merch stand this year?

That’s what you’ll find in the old 3rd base side BBQ area. New to the park this year, is the 1st base BBQ area. Gone are the ugly aluminum bleachers in section 7 (right behind the main entrance and ticket booths), to be replaced with a new food area and picnic tables. Fans will see the majesty of the ballpark as soon as they enter the gates, and can stop at new food partner Fat Daddy’s Catering for some potentially game-changing culinary items. We will have to see what their final menu looks like, but the plan is for plated items like pasta, veggie options, and hopefully smoked meats. Fat Daddy’s is known for their smoked  pork and beef creations!

Apart from that, the usual fare is back – Romeos will have slightly warm pizza slices, the odd food truck will show on weekends when something bigger isn't going on around town, and the city will once again insist that they can be the only place to buy the traditional ball park frank (or anything that looks like a hot-dog). In the past, other vendors couldn't even do veggie dogs, because they look like dogs, and the city must do dogs. But they won’t do veggie dogs. Spot the issue? Beer selection will remain the same, with Spinnaker’s leading the way.

Radar Gun

“How fast was that pitch?” “Was that a Slurve?” “Darth, even you could hit that fastball.”… We won’t have to guess anymore, thanks to a brand new radar gun being installed at the park. At this time, there’s no way to get the display directly onto the video board, so watch for a separate display somewhere near the 3rd base dugout. I just hoping for something less “cheesy” than my artistic rendition here…

New Uniforms!

We saw the new road jerseys at the ownership announcement, but that’s just one set. There are a total of three new uniforms this year, replacing the complete set from the first two years. We will reserve judgement until we see them of course, but there are new hats, new logo designs (they are moving away from the HC logo as well), and a full set of new merch matching the new designs. I’m especially interested in seeing the alternate jersey set including fuzzy pants, gloves, undershirt, and shoes that make all the players look exactly like Harvey. To be unveiled on Furry Day at the Park in late June - stay tuned for that one.

I’m kidding of course. You can’t play solid defense in furry shoes.

Returning Players

Everybody loves seeing a recognizable face. In 2014, Alex Degoti was an instant fan favourite as a returnee from the HarbourCats first year and he brought a tiny bit of consistency to an otherwise inconsistent environment. This year, at least six will be returning from last year, including some top-notch talent and local favourites. Gabe Clark, Griffin Andreychuk, Preston Ryan, Alex Rogers, Alex FaGalde, and Mikey Wright are all planning to rejoin, and there may be more as the season gets closer. While fans will still need to learn a good portion of the new roster, it will be invaluable to have recognizable names in the list.

Another good point is that having players return at all means they enjoyed their time here last year and saw some real benefit. Kudos to the club for making that a priority last year, and again this year.

Ticketing System Changes

Not that I had a ton of issues with the old ticketing system, but on occasion I heard rumbles of the system being down, or not producing tickets, etc. A new system upgrade is underway and should be in place for opening day. Again not something I was concerned about last year, but know that when you sign on to pick up your game tickets this year, you should be greeted with an easier-to-use and more convenient option. It will come with all the latest bells and whistles though, including paperless ticketing with mobile device tickets, specific seat selection as before, and a mobile front-end so you can buy from your phone.

As you can see, there are plenty of positive things going on at the park, not just the same product being repackaged. Lots of thought is going into enhancing the fan experience, and I think it’s safe to say that your experience will be different this year.  At first glance, it looks like all the right things are being addressed, and different will mean better too. Like you, I can’t wait to see it all in motion opening day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 Preview part 1: What's on deck for the HarbourCats season!

It’s officially a month away - the start of the 2015 West Coast League season. The Victoria HarbourCats are about to do what no baseball team has been able to do in Victoria since the 1940s – open their third consecutive season. Not the Seals, or the Capitals, Blues, Mussels or Tyees. Not since the Victoria Athletics played here for 6 seasons from 1946-1951 has our town seen the same organization take the field for a third opening day in a row.

As expected, this is the biggest year yet for the HarbourCats. For most sports teams, year three is where the fan base decides if it’s going to stick with the team. Year one is all about the thrill of the new baby, the new car smell. Pretty much a free pass, people are just happy to be at a ball game. Year two is more objective, but is still full of anticipation of seeing something better than year one, and watching it grow. Lots of new fans who may have missed it the first time around, coming out to see what all the talk is about. Your first year fans are still interested, and you’re gaining momentum with sponsors and new fans who realize you’re not just a fad.  Year three? Well now there’s expectations. Fans have sat through a couple losing seasons, and seen some moves on and off the field that have left them frustrated and scratching their heads. They want more this year, they want the organization to give back as much as they have invested in the first two years.

So the HarbourCats set out to do what most teams try to do in year three - they alter the formula slightly, shuffle the pieces around a bit, and try and build on past success while introducing something new. Keep the old fans, bring in the new - the recipe for success in the Victoria sports scene. We go into this season knowing full well that some things will change, while some things will remain the same.

What can you expect will happen in 2015? Today we look at the first five of my "Top Ten" things I’m excited to see around the park this season...

New Ownership Group

Jim, call for you on... every line actually!
I can’t start the list without getting this one out of the way. Back in the fall it seemed like the 2015 HarbourCats season was in danger when it was announced that owner John MacLean had lost the team. The danger was never really there, but thanks to some sensational press at the time, it seemed like we would be back watching Game of Thrones reruns this summer instead of baseball. Such was not the case, and it’s gotten better since then. With last month’s announcement of another ownership change – this time to a local group, that cloud can be lifted for good.

I like the local flavour, and if nothing else it makes sure that everyone in the organization from top to bottom is rowing in the same direction: Keeping HarbourCat baseball in Victoria for the long term. This is further solidified by the fact that new part-owner Jim Swanson remains the VP and GM (and part-time announcer, program seller, chief cook and bottle washer, etc.).  The HarbourCats are pretty much Jim’s third child, and he’s making sure that everything that happens at the park and beyond is done to make the team successful. It’s a tall order for anyone, but if anyone can do it, it’s probably Jim Swanson.

New Coaching Staff

Being an IT guy, I appreciate the binary nature of life in general. On or off, black or white, good or bad. I think we are in for that with the coaching staff this year. Coach Merritt is one of those guys who will either knock it out of the park, or crash and burn. We’ll see which way it goes, but one thing is for certain – it will be entertaining. The past two years, you half-expected the coaching staff to pass out and fall over down the first base line, but I don’t expect that this year. I expect animation, volatility, a few choice words overheard by the first couple of rows, and even a couple ejections. The passion should play well with the 19-21 year old's holding the gloves, and should keep the fans entertained as well. I’m hoping it turns out a binary 1…

Quinn Keeler (and the rest of the game-day team)

Ms. Keeler running the show
Does anyone even realize what Quinn Keeler does each game for the HarbourCats? She runs the place. While the rest of the management team smiles and presses flesh with fans around the park, Quinn single-handedly moves the game from inning to inning, managing the on-field and off-field antics that keep the masses interested on those long winter-like evenings. Of course she has her trusty street-team with her in tow, but it’s her show. Quinn will have more to manage this year as well, given a couple significant…

…Game-day Presentation Changes

This year will see less happening on the field, and more happening in the seating areas – meaning more fan interaction. The on-field mic and personality has been (refreshingly) removed, and has been replaced with a more dynamic in-game announcer (Dan Salmon),  who will regularly move around the park interacting with fans and announcing from places other than the stuffy booth above home plate. Expect to see additional local faces (like the recently announced Mira Laurence) as well. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but it should be a welcome change. Old favourites like the dizzy bat and RC cars will remain, while some new additions (think RC cars on steroids) should bring some big laughs. I am looking forward to seeing what Quinn and crew come up with.

Earlier Game Time – 6:30!

Last year’s convenience store tie-in with the 7:11 start time didn't really add to the experience at the park, but it certainly made for conversation. The HarbourCats had a few late nights at RAP last year, which means a few things: It gets bitterly cold some nights (cold enough that the ice cold water coming out of the bathroom faucets is actually warmer than your hands are at the time); it gets well past bed time for many Victoria fans, especially those coming from areas outside the downtown core; and the city gets a bit silly if the lights are left on past a certain point. Moving the start time to 6:30 should help with all of those problems, meaning more people in the park later in the game, enjoying the odd comeback or dominating closer performance.

Check back tomorrow for the final five items on the top ten list, focused more on the fan experience.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - NWAC edition

There is only one week remaining in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) regular season and our 2015 HarbourCats are in the thick of the action.  Edmonds Community College, the defending NWAC champions, are in first place in the North Region standings with a 17-3 record, while Everett Community College is right behind them with a 14-6 mark. Thanks to some fine work by the NWAC schedule makers, the two clubs are set to face off in a four-game showdown next weekend to close out the regular season. Now let’s get you caught up on what our future ‘Cats have been up to over the last couple of weeks.

Sophomore Jamie Umbinetti continues to be the offensive leader for Edmonds CC, although the slugger has been hitting like a mere mortal over the last couple of weeks. His 11-game hitting streak was snapped on April 26th and he has “only” gone 10-for-36 at the plate with five walks and four RBI since April 19th, but Umbinetti has still posted an incredible .340 / .519 / .468 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 99 at-bats this season.

Zander Clouse made his first appearance for Bellevue College today since his 7-inning no-hitter on April 25th. Clouse proved that he is human after all by giving up four earned runs on seven hits in seven innings of work against those pesky Canadian hitters from Douglas College. He struck out five and walked one on the afternoon to keep his strikeout-to-walk ratio in excess of 3:1 and he still boasts a splendid 2.26 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 63 ⅔ innings pitched this season.
Curtis Bafus

Curtis Bafus has made one start and one relief appearance for Everett CC over the last two weeks. The 6-7, 230 lb. right hander gave up a combined three earned runs on nine hits in six innings on the hill while striking out six and not walking a single batter. Bafus has put up a 3.20 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 39 ⅓ innings pitched this season -- a solid performance in his freshman year. He looks like he could put up some excellent numbers for the HarbourCats this summer.

Everett CC’s John Naff has cooled off with the bat of late. The sophomore has gone 4-for-21 at the plate over the last couple of weeks to lower his batting average to .248. Although that average is below expectations for Naff, he has still managed to reach base at a .359 clip and walk more often than he has struck out (19 BB’s versus 11 K’s).

Freshman pitcher/outfielder Kyle Francis has made a trio of relief appearances for Everett CC over the last couple of weeks after a three-week absence from the pitching mound. Francis, who has battled control issues all season, gave up one earned run on three hits in 3 ⅓ innings pitched while striking out three and walking two batters in those three games. For the season, the right-hander has a flattering 3.00 ERA to go along with a nasty 1.59 WHIP in 27 innings pitched. Francis has gone 3-for-14 at the plate over the last two weeks and he’s hitting .236 with no homers and five RBI in 55 at-bats for the season.

HarbourCatNip
  • The HarbourCats have hired Mira Laurence, a former Senior Sports Anchor with CTV Vancouver Island, to work in a community relations and marketing capacity. Laurence will perform similar duties for the Victoria Grizzlies, one of the three local sports teams that includes John Wilson in its ownership group (the HarbourCats and the Peninsula Panthers are the others). It’s safe to say that we will likely see more sharing of resources between Wilson’s sporting enterprises in the future.
  • According to the latest projections from D1BASEBALL.COM, only three teams with 2015 HarbourCats on it are expected to qualify for the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament that begins on May 29th and concludes with the College World Series finale on June 24th. UCLA (Scott Jarvis), Oregon State (Gabe Clark, Michael Gretler) and UC Irvine (A.J. Alcantara) are projected qualifiers for the field of 64, but there are usually a few surprises each year. We’ll have more tournament updates on the blog as we get closer to the end of the NCAA Division I regular season on May 23rd.
  • Freshman infielder PJ Floyd has continued to struggle in his freshman season with the Sacramento State Hornets. Over the last four weeks, Floyd has split his time between third base and left field, but he has only gone 2-for-25 with one RBI at the plate. He has put up an anemic .207 / .281 / .253 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 87 at-bats this season. On the positive side, his defensive work has finally settled down, but he still sports a troublesome .867 fielding percentage.  
  • Junior Dane Fujinaka has seen more playing time behind the plate for Sacramento State over the last month, but unfortunately his bat has gone ice cold. Fujinaka is 6-for-41 with a pair of RBI in that time. For the season, he’s hitting .253 with no homers and 13 RBI in 83 at-bats.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Pac-12 edition

OSU Beaver Michael Gretler
Canadian (and Canadien) thoughts may be focused in on the developing Stanley Cup playoffs but just south of the border, in the Pac-12, our future HarbourCats toil away on the final stretch of their NCAA college season before making their way up here to Victown. I'm guessing the Canucks early exit may help some locals look more to the mound than the net, but in any case, here's what I know...

Overall, the last couple of weeks have not been too eventful for the the Pac-12 gang. There have been a lot of DNP's (did not play) including - for the first time in a while - our main man at Oregon State Gabe Clark. Gabe has struggled at the plate lately and hasn't played in three of the past four games for the Beavers. Going only a combined one for eleven (.091) in his last four appearances, Clark has found himself on the outside looking in.

The other Oregon State product, third baseman Michael Gretler, was riding the pine for five of the past seven games and has only had three plate appearances and no hits in that time. So not much to say there, other than hoping we get to see more of him down the stretch.

OSU currently sits in fifth place in this very competitive conference after taking two of three from both Arizona and then powerhouse USC. With four big conference series' coming up - all against teams lower than them in standings - here's to hoping both Clark and Gretler get back on the diamond and start "hittin' em where they ain't".

Up in Washington, catcher Zach Bonneau sat for nine straight games before seeing action in the last two. Hopefully that means we'll get to see more of what he can do in the coming weeks. The other Husky prospect, left-handed pitcher Henry Baker has announced that he will not be joining the HarbourCats this summer so that he can refocus his pitching mechanics. You never really know if this is the reason, but looking at his stat line this year at Washington, it makes some sense. Currently, in two and a third (NOT 2.1...that is two and one TENTH) innings, he has a 3.86 ERA but has five walks and two hit by pitches and has allowed no hits. An interesting stat line to say the least! Best of luck to "Hank"!

Our UCLA boy, third baseman Scott Jarvis, is still yet to see action as he continues to play for a hot team behind a solid starter. UCLA is currently ranked number two by D1Baseball.com and has a legitimate shot at making a deep run in the post-season.

In summary, not much insight this week into anything good or bad but I am hopeful that the boys will see some more action down the stretch and if so, you'll be the first to know about it!



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

HarbourCanucks Corner - April 28th edition

Like the three Canadians who’ll suit up for the HarbourCats this summer, we may have one eye on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but we continue to look forward to Opening Day of the West Coast League baseball season (we’re down to only 37 more days!). Now let’s get you caught up on what our local boys have been up to lately.

Salt Lake Community College’s Chris Fougner hit his third home run of the year on Friday to tie for the team lead in round-trippers. The freshman right fielder has gone 5-for-23 with a homer, two steals and five RBI over the last couple of weeks. Fougner is hitting .299 with three home runs and 32 RBI in 157 at-bats this season, and he sports a healthy .396 on-base percentage.

Salt Lake Community College (16-12) is currently four games out of first place in the Scenic West Athletic Conference standings with three games to play. Their regular season wraps up on Saturday afternoon with the finale of a three-game set against the College of Southern Idaho.

Alex Rogers
Photo by Emmy Gazaway
Alex Rogers of Trinidad State Junior College held Otero Junior College to only four hits in seven scoreless innings on April 15th, but then he got knocked around by Lamar Community College on April 22nd. Rogers was pulled after giving up three earned runs on seven hits and a walk in only three innings on the mound in the start against Lamar CC, but the Nanaimo native has turned in a solid sophomore season with a 3.77 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 11 starts. Trinidad State, with an 18-12 record in Region 9 play, wraps up its regular-season on Saturday.

Seattle University’s Griffin Andreychuk had an eight-game hitting streak snapped on April 17th, but the Nanaimo native quickly put together another one and is currently riding a five-game streak. In his last eight games, Andreychuk has gone 7-for-28 with seven walks and a pair of RBI. After a slow start to the year, he’s put together a solid sophomore campaign based on a .298 batting average with a home run and a team-leading 29 RBI. As we have come to expect from Andreychuk, he has also boosted his on-base percentage up to the .392 mark.

Seattle U may have gone 2-4 in conference play over last two weeks, but they’re still only ½ game behind Grand Canyon University for first place in Western Athletic Conference. The Redhawks and Antelopes have a huge three-game series this weekend in Phoenix with the winner claiming sole possession of first place. The WAC regular-season wraps up on Saturday May 16th.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Staj lighting up the Mountain West

Carl Stajduhar is having a fantastic freshman year at the University of New Mexico. 

Stajduhar (30) bumps elbows with old friend Danny Collier (43)
In 42 starts this season, the Fort Collins Colorado native has shown he definitely belongs on an NCAA Division 1 roster. All he’s done so far is hit .320 with 5 home runs, and 38 RBI. His is an impressive stat package all-round. While he started slow, he’s been picking up speed – and hits – over the past month to raise his average forty points in that time frame. This past weekend, while the rest of the Lobos were struggling against a tough Wichita State team and losing all three games, Staj was on fire, going 7-13 with 4 runs batted in. Consistency is a key with this kid – he’s hit safely in 31 of 42 games, and is currently riding a 13 game hitting streak. He goes to the plate looking to hit, not walk – he has only a single free pass in his last 17 games, and only 10 the entire year. Really looking forward to seeing what he can do hitting in the three spot in front of Gabe the Babe this year!

Other HarbourCat Notables making news:

We have lost a UNM Lobo (and a familiar face) since the last update…  P Carson Schneider is taking the summer off to “rest his arm”. Not sure what that means, because since that announcement, he’s been moved from regular starter to a middle-to-late relief lefty (which is his strength), and has gone back to pitching light’s out. He’s given up only a single hit in 9.1 innings across 4 games since. Seems like his arm is doing just fine. We could have used that kind of consistency coming out of the pen!  

That makes 4 of the 6 LHPs that had been signed for 2015 who are no longer coming north this year.

Preston Ryan still has his ticket for the west coast though. He’s continuing to  get consistent work out of the UNM pen in middle inning short relief. There he’s shown signs of brilliance, mixed in with the odd tough inning.  In his eight appearances in April, he’s held opponents hitless 5 times, while getting rocked for a 2 and a 3 run inning. Keeps his ERA around the 4.50 mark, but certainly shows potential. Overall, Ryan has improved significantly from this point last year and should bring that extra experience and confidence North with him.

In San Diego, we have also lost our Toreros since the last update (and yes, I have looked under the couch)!  As reported last week, CF Kacy Smith and RHP Seve Romo are no longer planning to join us this summer. Smith is an interesting case – he had a great college career before switching to San Diego, but hadn’t been playing much this year. Turns out, he’s also an accomplished football star as well, and has a legitimate shot at being the starting safety for USD this coming season. Given that opportunity, he has decided to focus on the odd-shaped ball this summer. We wish Kacy all the luck in his sport of choice. Don't sell your Romo jersey just yet though...

At this point, that leaves us with one pseudo-Torereo in OF Kevin Collard. Still in high school, Collard has signed with USD for the fall - but he may not make it there as he’s being talked about quite frequently in MLB draft discussions. He could get drafted this summer, which means we may have another Nick Pivetta situation on our hands - he may be in town for a couple games, then get drafted and pulled away, or he make take the summer off to prepare. If he does play here, his impressive numbers could help get the 2015 ball rolling in a big way.

And speaking of impressive numbers, I’ll predict right now that Pepperdine’s Ryan Wilson will be 2015’s ace on the mound for the HarbourCats. Wilson has continued his consistent season for the Wave, upping his record to 7-1 while maintaining a respectable 3.25 ERA. His control is outstanding, walking batters at a pace of about 1 every 3 or so innings. That control will go nicely with a burger and side of fries on Pembroke this summer.

As the college season draws to a close in the coming weeks, watch for more player movement, likely a few more no-show announcements due to signings, changed plans, and injuries. It's all expected in Summer leagues - teams that do well are those who are able to adjust and pick up top replacements to fill the departed holes. Like watching the waiver wire in your hockey pool for a late-season rookie, sometimes it's more about luck and being in the right place at the right time. Stay tuned...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - CCCAA / Big West edition

Let’s get you updated on the progress of the 2015 HarbourCats who are playing in the California Community College Athletic Association and the Big West Conference. While there are four weeks remaining in the regular season for NCAA Division I baseball, the California community colleges have just wrapped up regular season play.

Freshman outfielder Mareno Rankin (aka Reno Rankin Jr.) of LA Mission College ended the regular season on a five-game hitting streak. Over the last two weeks, Rankin has gone 9-for-29 with two RBI and seven runs scored, giving him a .310 / .445 / .402 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 87 at-bats this season. The speedster was also five-for-five in stolen base attempts this spring. LA Mission College finished the season 14-8 in conference play and they play Irvine Valley College (10-11) in a winner-take-all playoff game on Tuesday.

Alex Fagalde in action last
summer with the HarbourCats
Cuesta College’s Alex Fagalde may have started the season with four rough outings, but he has been the measure of consistency since then, as the sophomore right-hander finished the season with seven consecutive quality starts. In his last two starts, Fagalde earned both victories and only gave up four earned runs on 14 hits in 16 innings on the hill. He finished the regular season with a 6-5 record, 3.30 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 76 ⅓ innings pitched. Cuesta finished the season 15-9 in conference play, but it is unclear at this point if they will advance to the postseason.

Sophomore centre fielder Kevin Amezquita of East LA College has gone 5-for-24 with five walks, a home run and three RBI over the last two weeks. Amezquita finished the regular season hitting .252 with one home run and 16 RBI in 139 at-bats. However, he led the team in walks (19) and had a robust .360 on-base percentage. East LA College’s season is now over, as the team only finished with a 6-15 record in conference play.

UC Davis freshman Matt Blais has made three appearances over the last couple of weeks, including the first start of his college career. In those three games, Blais surrendered 12 hits and four earned runs in 6 ⅔ innings pitched while he walked one and struck out one. The right-hander now sports a 4.50 ERA and an incendiary 1.73 WHIP in 22 innings pitched this season. His lack of strikeouts continues to be a concern: After fanning 10.2 batters per nine in the California Collegiate League last summer, Blais has only struck out four hitters this season with the Aggies.

UC Irvine came into last week ranked 21st in NCAA Division I baseball, but they dropped a mid-week game to #3 UCLA and then lost two of three this weekend to Cal State Fullerton. Freshman Adam (AJ) Alcantara has been out of action for some time with a quad injury, but he returned to the lineup on Saturday and stroked a pinch-hit single. The corner outfielder has put up a .300 / .386 / .320 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 50 at-bats this season.

Freshman right fielder Ben Polshuk of Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) has only played a half-inning of defense over the last couple of weeks and he hasn’t set foot in the batter’s box since April 11th. He’s 1-for-18 at the plate this season. The other current HarbourCat on the Cal Poly squad, freshman Austin Dondanville, has yet to make his college debut on the mound.

Zander Clouse tosses no-no

Zander Clouse
Zander Clouse's magical season just keeps rolling along. On Saturday, the Bellevue College sophomore tossed a seven-inning no-hitter against Olympic College (Bremerton, Washington), leading the Bulldogs to a 5-0 victory. Clouse, who needed only 99 pitches to toss his masterpiece, walked three and struck out seven on the afternoon.

The stellar outing gives Clouse a 6-2 record, 1.90 ERA and an impressive 0.94 WHIP on the season. After suiting up for the HarbourCats this summer, Clouse will head off to Lynchburg, Virginia to play Division I baseball for Liberty University.

On behalf of all of the scribes at the Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog, congratulations on the no-no, Zander!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

H-Cats introduce their new ownership group

Jim Swanson (L) and John Wilson (R)
sport the team's new road jerseys.
Photo courtesy @WCLBaseball Twitter account.
The Victoria HarbourCats announced today that Bhootan LLC / Matthew Stoudt has agreed to sell the club to a group of four local investors. The transfer is still subject to approval by the West Coast League, however.

The four members of the new ownership group are:
  • GM Jim Swanson.
  • John Wilson, C.E.O and owner of Wilson's Transportation.
  • Ken Swanson (Burnaby, BC), brother of Jim Swanson.
  • Rich Harder (New Westminster, BC), friend of the Swanson brothers.
For more information on this story, please see the following links:
All of us at the Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog would like to congratulate all of the parties involved in getting this ownership issue resolved prior to the start of the 2015 season. The deal goes a long way towards ensuring that the HarbourCats will remain in Victoria for many years to come.

HarbourCatNip
  • The HarbourCats also announced that four more players will not be suiting up for the team this summer (for a variety of reasons): LHP Henry Baker (University of Washington), IF Cam Santos (Chico State), RHP Seve Romo (University of San Diego) and OF Kacy Smith (University of San Diego). The current roster now contains 33 players, but don't be surprised to see more players added before Opening Day.

Monday, April 20, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - NWAC edition

It has been a couple of weeks since we last updated you on our HarbourCats in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), so let’s get you caught up on what our boys have been up to of late.

Not only has sophomore Jamie Umbinetti of Edmonds Community College been hitting the cover off of the ball, but he has also shown incredible plate discipline this season. Over his last seven games, he has gone 9-for-15 with eight walks, a home run, five runs batted in and ten runs scored. Umbinetti is hitting .381 with a slow-pitch-like .571 on-base percentage and a robust .556 slugging percentage in 63 at-bats this season. The left-handed slugger will share first base with Gabe Clark this summer, so you can be sure that there will be no shortage of firepower from that position.
Zander Clouse

Bellevue College’s Zander Clouse has returned to form after a rare bad outing on April 4th. Over the last couple of weeks, the sophomore has thrown a pair of quality starts, giving up only three earned runs on 14 hits over 14 ⅔ innings pitched. Clouse, who will play Division I baseball for Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia) in the fall, now sports a 5-2 record with a sparkling 2.17 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 49 ⅔ innings on the hill this season.

First baseman John Naff has continued to swing a hot bat after breaking out of a lengthy slump on March 29th. Over his last 10 games, the Everett Community College sophomore has gone 12-for-34 with six walks, five RBI and four extra-base hits. Although he was only hitting .140 on March 29th, Naff now has a .260 average with one homer and nine RBI in 100 at-bats. He has also walked twice as often as he has struck out this season (18 walks versus only 9 strikeouts), and he’s 9-for-11 in stolen base attempts.

Everett CC’s Curtis Bafus continues to struggle to find some consistency in his freshman season. The 6-7, 230 lb. right hander only gave up three earned runs today against Bellevue College, but he was tagged for 10 hits and two walks in 4 ⅔ innings. A week earlier, Bafus threw 6 ⅔ shutout innings against Shoreline Community College, limiting the Dolphins to only five hits and two walks while striking out four. Bafus has an excellent 2.97 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 33 ⅓ innings on the hill this season in spite of a trio of poor outings.

Freshman pitcher/outfielder Kyle Francis has seen limited playing for Everett CC this month, especially on the mound. Francis has not pitched since April 2nd due to control problems (5.7 BB/9) and a nasty 1.61 WHIP, although he did get seven at-bats this weekend -- his first since March 29th. Over the weekend, Francis went three-for-seven with a walk, a run scored and an RBI. The offensive outburst raised his season numbers to a .244 batting average with no homers and five RBI in 41 at-bats.

Everett CC (12-4) and Edmonds CC (8-2) are currently first and second, respectively, in the NWAC North Region standings. Although the two clubs have yet to meet this year, the Trojans and Tritons will square off four times to close out the regular season on May 9th-10th.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

T-C report: 'Cats sold to local owners

John Wilson
According to Mario Annicchiarico of the Victoria Times Colonist, the HarbourCats have been sold to a local ownership group that includes GM Jim Swanson and John Wilson, C.E.O and owner of Wilson's Transportation. It is worth noting that the members of the ownership group are still unconfirmed at this time.

The news comes a mere four months after it was revealed that former owner John McLean had lost control of the team to Bhootan LLC / Matthew Stoudt in a BC Supreme Court civil suit. The quick sale shouldn't come as a surprise, as Stoudt had shown little interest in owning a baseball team for any length of time. It's also no shock that local owners stepped forward immediately, especially considering the relatively healthy financial state of the franchise, the favourable West Coast League business model, and the strong support of fans in the league's largest market.

The deal must be approved on Monday at league meetings in Tacoma. Given the current scenario, I wouldn't expect Monday's vote to be anything but a formality (but anything is possible, especially in the sports world). Victoria is the crown jewel of West Coast League franchises and this deal goes a long way towards ensuring that the HarbourCats will remain in Victoria for many years to come.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

HarbourCanucks Corner - April 14th edition

Griffin Andreychuk
Three Vancouver Islanders have been signed by the HarbourCats to full-season contracts for the summer of 2015, so let’s get you caught up on what our local boys have been up to lately.

Griffin Andreychuk continues to hit the cover off of the baseball for Seattle University. The Nanaimo native, who homered for the HarbourCats in a June 24th game at Royal Athletic Park last summer, hit his first career home run for the Redhawks on Sunday to help complete a three-game sweep of the hapless New Mexico State Aggies.

In his last five games, Andreychuk has gone 9-for-23 at the plate with a homer, seven RBI and a pair of stolen bases. Not only has the sophomore pieced together a seven-game hitting streak, but he has also collected at least one hit in 15 of his last 17 games. Andreychuk’s impressive run has moved him into the team lead for batting average (.308) and runs batted in (27), and he has boosted his on-base percentage to a solid .390 mark. The surprising Seattle U squad sits in first place in the Western Athletic Conference with a 11-1 conference record, although Grand Canyon University trails the Redhawks by only ½ game.

Freshman Chris Fougner of Salt Lake Community College had his 10-game hitting streak snapped last Thursday, but the former Victoria Mariner continues to swing the bat with authority. The right fielder went 4-for-12 with five walks and two RBI in a four-game sweep of Western Nevada College last weekend. The sweep helped Salt Lake Community College (12-8) move to within one game of first place in the Scenic West Athletic Conference standings. Fougner, who has started 40 of the Bruins’ first 43 games, has a .315 batting average with two homers and 24 RBI in 130 at-bats. He also boasts an excellent .413 on-base percentage.

Trinidad State Junior College’s Alex Rogers had another good outing on April 10th. The sophomore from Nanaimo held Lamar Community College to two earned runs on six hits and no walks in 5 ⅓ innings pitched while striking out four batters. Incredibly, Rogers has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over seven-to-one and he has only issued five base on balls over the entire season. He currently sports a  3.99 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 47 ⅓ innings pitched.

Monday, April 13, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Pac-12 edition

Washington Huskies catcher Zach Bonneau
It's been a couple of weeks since we checked in with the future HarbourCats of the Pac-12, so I am happy to help quench your thirst for information on the boys of this western conference. It's now time for a lot of conference play as the teams get into the meat of their season.

UCLA is the most successful Pac-12 team, climbing to number three in the D1Baseball.com rankings which is up from number six a week ago. Scott Jarvis, the six foot two freshman third baseman, has yet to play a game so not much to report there, and neither has newly announced 'Cat Jake Pries. In Pries' case though, this is not a bad thing as he is still a senior at JSerra Catholic High School in California.

Jake is a towering six foot four outfielder who helped lead the Lions to a Trinity League championship in 2014 while being named to the Second Team All League. More recently, he and his companions have JSerra as a "Team to Watch" while just last week winning the Boras Classic tournament going away. Our boy Jake had a fine second game where he went three for four with a double, triple and four RBI's. It's always tough to know how these high school freshman will transition to ball at the next level, but we will be able to see for ourselves this summer as he patrols the open fields at the RAP.

Up in Washington, the Huskies have gone 6-4 over the past couple of weeks which includes a convincing 5-1 win and two extra innings losses to the number twelve ranked USC Trojans. One of Victoria's four left handed pitchers, Henry Baker, got a start against the Gonzaga Bulldogs a few days earlier, but unfortunately for him, it lasted only five pitches - a walk and then a hit by pitch - before he was sent to the showers. The Zags eventually loaded the bases without swinging at a pitch and marched a couple of runs across as well, but a seven run fourth inning saved Baker from the loss. He has had a couple of rough outings this year and has not pitched again since this game on March 24. With conference play underway, he might go a little longer before he sees any more action but here's to hoping he gets back on the horse and gets some solid innings under his belt to boost his confidence.

Backup Washington catcher Zach Bonneau has seen the odd inning but has not had an official at bat in his last four outings, mostly coming into games in the late innings as a pinch hitter or simply to catch. Bonneau did, however, drive in a run in a 13-1 thumping of Stanford, getting the Huskies their first series win in Palo Alto since 1997. Zach is one of four signed catchers for the HarbourCats for next season.

Moving on to Oregon State, fan favourite Gabe "the Babe" Clark has recently had a nice run for the Beavers, hitting safely in four of his last six games at a .375 clip in his starting role at DH. His best game in that stretch was a three for four effort in a losing cause to the mighty UCLA Bruins. As a team, the Beavers have fallen away from the national ranking sheet by stumbling to a 4-6 record in their last ten.

Clark is third on the team in strikeouts with 22 in 97 at bats, which is no surprise to HarbourCats fans as he does hold the season record for K's set last year at 42. But that, my friends, is the price you pay for his power. The Babe also holds the 'Cats record for most home runs in a season (with 8) and is third all time in slugging percentage at .494. He is also tied for the OSU team lead with seven round trippers. I, for one, am looking forward to having him shield the sun from his eyes at first base this year in HarbourCat blue and white!

Finally, Oregon State third baseman Michael Gretler has inched his average above the .200 mark and did have a nice two hit game in a losing cause against Oregon this past weekend in the series opener. The following day was not as kind as Gretler stranded five runners while going zero for five, but the Beavs' still managed to sneak away with a 4-2 win.

So overall, not a super-eventful past couple of weeks for our boys in the Pac-12, but lots more baseball to go. I'm hoping some of the lads get a few more innings so we can get a better feel for what they are made of and start to guess at how they will fit into Big Brother's lineup this summer.

HarbourCatNip
  • The HarbourCats announced earlier today that the University of New Mexico’s Carson Schneider will not be joining the team this summer due to an arm issue. Schneider went 1-1 with two saves and a 3.37 ERA in 17 appearances with the ‘Cats in 2014.