Monday, July 21, 2014

Gabe Clark wins Home Run Derby; All-Star Game cancelled

HarbourCats supporters have been well aware of Gabe Clark’s power for some time now, but the fans in Klamath Falls and the other players selected to the WCL All-Star team got a first-hand introduction to it late this afternoon. Clark smashed 10 home runs in the opening round of the Home Run Derby and then defeated Cowlitz’s Corey VanDomelen in the final by blasting four more. The secret to Clark’s success? His personal pitcher was none other than his father, Jim, who must have been beaming with pride once it was all over. Congratulations on the victory, Gabe!!

Unfortunately, the Home Run Derby was the highlight of the on-field activities today, as the weather would not co-operate and the game had to be cancelled due to poor field conditions. The cancellation was an unbelievable twist of fate, as today was the only day of rain in Klamath Falls so far this summer. Apparently there is a full tarp at Kiger Stadium, home of the Gems, but the grounds crew was not exactly efficient at getting it rolled out. According to the HarbourCats’ Twitter account, it was the first rainout in the history of Kiger Stadium.
ASG conditions at Kiger Stadium
Photo courtesy @pippinsradio

While the snubbing of Nathan Lukes, Hunter Mercado-Hood (still leading the league in runs batted in!) and Mikey Wright seemed deeply unfair when the All-Star rosters were announced, it turns out that their omission wasn't so harsh after all. The trio of spurned stars got to enjoy a couple of relaxing days in Vic-town and they avoided the grueling 11-hour trip to southern Oregon. Sounds like a fair swap to me! Besides, the real All-Star teams aren't announced until the conclusion of the season.

HarbourCatNip
  • The ‘Cats travel to Longview, Washington to start a three-game set against the light-hitting Black Bears on Tuesday night. The Victoria starters for that series will be Mikey Wright, Alex Fagalde and Quintin Torres-Costa. Fagalde’s start on Wednesday will be his first of 2014.
  • Alex Rogers will start on Friday night at RAP against the mighty Corvallis Knights. Logan Lombana goes on Saturday. Sunday’s starter is yet to be determined.
  • Victoria is still leading the West Coast League in attendance with an average of 1,497 fans per game, 155 more than the Medford Rogues. The Bend Elks led the league in attendance in 2013 with an average of 1,574 per game, but that figure has dropped by a whopping 306 fans per game (19.4%).
  • The HarbourCats have three of the top seven hitters in the WCL batting race: Nathan Lukes (5th, .344), Hunter Mercado-Hood (6th, .344) and Gabe Clark (7th, .341).
  • Only two HarbourCats have walked more than they have struck out: Griffin Andreychuk (17 BB, 13 K, 79 AB) and Nathan Lukes (16 BB, 11 K, 122 AB).
  • With apologies to Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette, here is our first-ever rendition of Heroes and Zeroes:
Heroes: Gabe Clark, Jim Clark, Dion Weisner (the human inside the Harvey the HarbourCat costume), Quintin Torres-Costa, Hunter Mercado-Hood, Nathan Lukes, and Mikey Wright.
Zeroes: Danny The Intern of Kool FM, coaches who overuse bunting, and the person(s) responsible for designing the roster selection process for the WCL All-Star Game.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Long night at the park ends quietly

What for a while looked like another HarbourCat victory-in-the-making ended with a late bullpen collapse in the frigid confines of Royal Athletic Park, as the  Klamath Gems pushed six runs across in the top of the 11th inning to earn an 11-5 victory. In retrospect, if may have been better to leave the scoreboard as it was for most of the night - with the Gems up 6-5 due to the game-long dispute between the coaches and umpires over the score. A late change put it back to 5-5 after the situation was sorted out correctly, giving Klamath 2 runs in the 3rd instead of 3.

Carson Schneider with a strong relief outing
Not a great start for Dylan Stowell, who went 2.1 giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks leaving with the bases loaded in the 3rd. UNM's Carson Schneider came out of the pen and gave up a run on a sac fly. Schneider pitched brilliantly in 3.2 innings of work giving up only 3 hits. Schneider has found his college-season grove of late, giving up only six hits and a single earned run in his last 9 innings of work.

After Carson, Tim Peabody, Preston Ryan, and Ryan Keller gave up 2, 4, and 2 runs respectively in the loss. Ryan actually pitched a solid 2 innings in relief before his wheels came off. He was charged with the loss and 3 of his runs Keller couldn't keep from scoring.

Not much excitement otherwise for Cats fans. Hunter Mercado-Hood had a great night, going 4-6 to raise his non-AllStar average to .344, and keep himself leading in RBI with 35.

It was nice to see Harvey back on the field looking no worse for wear, yet from my standpoint, not moving as limber as usual. At least he's got a week to fully mend his "upper body injury".

In all, a good series for Victoria. Lots of run support, some solid starting and relief pitching, and the return - if only for a few at-bats - of some players who will be needed down the stretch.

Monday is the All-Star game in Klamath Falls - good luck to all four of our participants. It's a short break, the Cats are back in action against Cowlitz on Tuesday night at Story Field.

Friday, July 18, 2014

HarbourCats put on a clinic at STD

There are good ways to start a game, and there are great ways to start a game. The HarbourCats opted for the latter tonight, blowing open the game in the first inning when Alex Degoti and Gabe Clark both smacked 2-run home runs, 2 batters apart. Just over 1700 fans erupted from their seats while the 'Cats batted around in the inning, erasing an early lead surrendered by starter Logan Lombada.

Alex Degoti is congratulated after a 1st inning HR, while Gabe Clark (2nd from left) says "Oh yeah? Watch this"...
The true clinic was yet to come though. In the bottom of the 4th inning, the HarbourCats sent 13 men to the plate, scoring 7 times on 4 hits, 4 straight walks, an error, and a second monster 3-run shot by Gabe Clark.

Not done yet, Clark led off the 5th inning with his third home run of the game, and Victoria scored 2 more in the inning to hit 14 on the night.

Lombana had a decent start, going 5 complete innings giving up only four hits and one earned run. He also walked four batters, making it seem like he was pitching out of jams all night, except for the last of his innings which went 1-2-3. He was aided by a timely double-play in the first, and a Kelly Norris-Jones caught-stealing in the 4th to get him out of a couple potential run situations.

Yes you heard correct - a KNJ sighting! Kelly is now the official starter of all bobble-head games, and he had a pretty fair night. Besides throwing out a runner, he was 2-4 at the plate with a walk. He seemed to sustain an injury warming up in the top of the ninth and had to leave the game unexpectedly, causing Jake Lesinski to hurriedly stretch and get into the game.

And speaking of the ninth... Let's just forget it happened. Mark Marinch came in to mop up the 14-2 lead, and did his best to get the game to extra innings, throwing 22 pitches - only 2 of them strikes, walking 4 and letting 4 runs cross the plate. Andrew Nelson quickly got ready in the pen, and closed out the game after giving up a hit, throwing away a ball into center field on an error, and getting the final three much-needed outs.

Game temperature started at about 15, but dropped to (seemingly) just above freezing by the time the game mercifully ended, 3 hours and 33 minutes after it started. There were not many who stuck around to the end of this one...

My rant for the night comes from the on-field entertainment between innings. The 6th inning's dizzy bat race was taken over by the crew from 107.3 Kool FM, and featured Danny the Intern against morning host Paul Allen in some bet to be each other's slave for a day. After both men had difficulties reaching the finish line, DTI righted himself and threw a full-speed football tackle into an unsuspecting Harvey the HarbourCat, knocking him to the ground in a heap. While Danny paraded around pretending to don a wrestlers trophy belt, Harvey had to be helped off the field and did not return to the game.

To me, this was an absolute disgrace bordering on assault (remember the Marty Marmot incident last year). It's one thing when it's a drunken fan losing control - but this guy is supposed to be a media professional. I don't care what kind of contest you're trying to win - what possesses someone to show that much disregard for a person's health and safety that they would be that stupid. And DTI isn't a petite girl hugging Harvey and knocking him over (which has happened this year a couple times) - he's a big freakin dude, and that was a mean hit. Kool should be ashamed of what was done, and there should be a formal apology to everyone involved - including "Harvey" and his handlers, the team, and the many fans who saw it happen and watched Harvey being tended to in the third base area. I have since heard there was no serious damage done and that "Harvey" is fine. It could have been significantly worse.

HarbourCatNip

  • Nice to see Danny Collier make an appearance in the game as a late-inning substitute. Collier went 1-2, and made a great running grab in left.
  • Norris-Jones' 2 hits raised his average up to .130, and gave him his first 2 RBI of the season. Lets hope the injury he sustained is not significant and he can continue to contribute. He has probably the best defensive arm behind the plate...
  • Noah Cummings got the start at third and had a great game, snagging two hot shots just off the ground that could have easily been hits. One started a double play back at first where the Klamath runner was hung out to dry.
  • Gabe "The Babe" Clark, with his three home runs is now tied for the league lead with 6. Clark went 3-4 on the night, and the one out was another mammoth shot that was actually pulled back from over the fence at the absolute deepest part of the park in center field. Five feet either way and he would have had a fourth dinger. 
  • Clark's home runs are the first time a HarbourCat has ever hit three in a single game. Both Schuknecht Brothers (John and David) hit two in a game last year. Clark is also tied now with Alex Real and John Schuknecht for the most home runs in a season by a HarbourCat at 6. Me thinks he may hold that record on his own pretty soon.
  • The 13 men to the plate and 7 runs in an inning are new HarbourCat records.
  • Alex Degoti's dinger in the first inning was his 4th of the year, surpassing his last year total of 3. His 3 RBI tonight moved him into tenth place in the league with 22, also surpassing last year's total.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

'Cats say mahalo to Quintin

QTC bears down for another strikeout
In the quest to find that elusive fourth starter, the HarbourCats sent erstwhile reliever Quintin Torres-Costa to the mound tonight to face a lower team - Klamath Falls - in a great division. And man, did he get it done. The final line on Torres-Costa was a solid seven innings pitched where he allowed one run on four hits while giving up only one walk in a 7-1 win for the 'Cats. The "K" guys out in right field were tested tonight as they (sometimes aided by a security guard because they were running out of room!) slapped up twelve K's for Quintin alone.

The Gems never once looked like they were going to put up that big inning as the 'Cat pitchers did it right - starter got deep in the game and the relievers shut the door. Angel Delgado and Ryan Keller each pitched a perfect inning and struck out one of their three victims. And there was clutch hitting to boot. Base hits with men in scoring position, back to back hits, with Nathan Lukes leading the way going three for four. Gems starter Jordan Kron entertained the very healthy weekday crowd of 1,635 with his flashy "El Tiante" delivery, but to no avail as he surrendered four of the seven runs off eight hits.

But the story of the game was Quintin Torres-Costa who has looked good in his last four, albeit short, outings, not allowing an earned run and firing a WHIP of just over 1.00. Up until tonight, QTC (or "Cutie"...you know, "QT", for short!) had pitched a total of twelve and a third innings, all from the bullpen except for one start way back on June 7th against Kelowna, where he lasted three innings. On his college team - the Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors - Torres-Costa was also primarily a reliever as well, also getting one start and throwing a max of 56 pitches. So net, he is a short inning, middle-relief kind of pitcher who has thrown a maximum of 46 pitches in an outing twice year for Victoria, most recently when he threw on back to back days against Kitsap. He also had Tommy John surgery back in May of 2013 so really, he was never expected to go much past four or five innings, even if they were to test his arm.

All was on track after his fourth inning of work when he was up to 54 pitches and he was looking solid having whiffed eight batters by then. So far so good. In the sixth, he struggled for a batter or two and the 'pen got busy. But he got out of it and left after throwing 84 pitches. Coming out some time in the sixth would have been exactly what was needed but he strolled out again in the seventh and BOOM...struck out the side. When all was said and done, he had tossed 100 pitches which normally would be about perfect...unless you were a guy who had never thrown more than half of that in a game all year, and making your way back from arm surgery. Hopefully though, he comes through it OK and can be that guy who can be the fourth starter and give the 'Cats five to six innings. Ice, Ice that arm baby! We want you back on the hill!

Highlight of the Night was reserved for Victoria third baseman Bryce Greager who ended the eighth by ranging to his right to snag a nasty grounder and gun out the runner at first. The only cheer bigger than that was when the "K batter of the game" - number eight hitter for the Gems, Jake Whisler - struck out for the third time giving some lucky fan a very nice Keg gift certificate. This dubious honour brought a lot of fan excitement to his at bat and littered the crowd with awesome Ferris Bueller references, thanks to the video board guy.

In other news, congratulations to pitcher Logan Lombana who was named to the All-Star team today making him the fourth 'Cat to be making the trip to K-Falls. Upon hearing the news, Hunter Mercado-Hood, Mikey Wright and Nathan Lukes were heard to ask if there was room for a couple more players...come on coaches??? That's the issue with every All-Star game I suppose, not every deserving candidate gets a shot and there is no one selection system that will fix that, especially in a league like this where coaches are way more focused on their own players vs. looking at the ones they face. Now let's see if Gabe can make some noise in the home run derby!

The "K" guys were busy tonight!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Klamath Falls series preview

After six attempts this season, the Victoria HarbourCats finally defeated the Bellingham Bells. On Wednesday night the ‘Cats knocked off the Bells 5-3 to salvage a game in their three-game series in the City of Subdued Excitement. Wyler Smith knocked in pinch-runner Danny Collier with the winning run in the top of the ninth inning with a pinch-hit single. Hunter Mercado-Hood reached base in four of his five plate appearances and he knocked in a pair of runs to give him 32 runs batted in this season, only one fewer than league leader Kevin Kline of Corvallis.

Sean Watkins picked up the win with 2 ⅓ innings of yeoman’s work on the hill. Watkins threw a season-high 57 pitches (!!) to finish off the Bells. Victoria’s ace of the starting rotation, Alex Rogers, took a tough no-decision in the game in spite of pitching 6 ⅔ strong innings. Rogers gave up only one earned run on six hits and one walk.

It was a night to forget for Victoria third baseman Ted Boeke, however. Not only was he the lone starter who failed to reach base safely, but he also committed a pair of costly errors that allowed the Bells to tie the game in both the seventh and eighth innings.

Tater, Klamath Fall's mascot
Now let’s take off the rose-coloured glasses for a minute: The HarbourCats are, for all intents and purposes, out of the playoff race. Don’t even bother thinking about the wildcard spot -- there are too many good teams between us and the Bend Elks (and we don’t have any head-to-head games remaining to help make up the five-game deficit). But the weather will be warm and the beverages will still be cold in the dying days of the season, so coming out to the ol’ ballyard remains an excellent option for your entertainment dollar. Besides, watching Nathan Lukes gun out a runner from the base of the right-field wall is worth the price of admission alone.

The Klamath Falls Gems are on their way to Victoria for a three-game series that starts on Thursday night at the STD at RAP, and it will be the only series between the two teams this season. Here’s our look ahead to what you can expect to see this weekend.

Tale of the Tape

Victoria: 14-19 (.424), 3rd in West Division
Klamath Falls: 9-24 (.273), 4th in South Division

Hitting 

Victoria: .265 BA. (7th in WCL), .354 SLG (7th), .356 OBP (9th)
Klamath Falls: .262 BA (9th in WCL), .352 SLG (8th), .343 OBP (10th)

Pitching

Victoria: 4.10 ERA (6th), WHIP 1.45 (8th)
Klamath Falls: 6.76 (12th), 1.87 WHIP (12th)

Who to Watch - Klamath Falls

Steven Packard
Photo by Eric Evans
First baseman Steven Packard (.478 BA, 0 HR, 12 RBI) didn't make his season debut until June 23rd, but he has at least one hit in each and every one of his 17 games played. Packard’s hit streak is the longest in the WCL so far this year, so the HarbourCats will have to pitch the junior from the University of Oregon very carefully this weekend.

Cleanup hitter Dennis Morton (3B/SS) has put up excellent offensive numbers (.392 BA, 3 HR, 14 RBI), but his defense has been shaky. He’ll be the only member of the Gems who will suit up in next week’s All-Star Game.

Klamath Falls’ pitching is the worst in the league, which is great news for HarbourCats hitters. Reliever Kody Kuhlman is the only pitcher on their staff (with more than one inning pitched) with an ERA under 4.00. 

Who to Watch - Victoria

Everyone. There are no shortage of interesting plot lines to monitor. Given the recent playing time controversy, can head coach Bob Miller find a way of getting at-bats for most/all of his position players? Can outfielder Danny Collier bust out of his summer-long slump? Will Kelly Norris-Jones get a start in front of the home-town fans? Given the constant bullpen struggles this season, which HarbourCats reliever (not named Sean Watkins) will step forward to help preserve a victory?

Prediction

You can expect a pile of runs in this series -- if offense is your thing then you’ll be in seventh heaven. The Gems come into the series with only 9 wins on the season. However, Klamath Falls is a team that can’t be taken lightly, as shown by their three victories in six games against the pesky Medford Rogues (who took two of three from Victoria at RAP last week). It is also worth noting that Klamath Falls is in the strongest division in the league, so the Gems are better than their 9-24 record indicates. I’m going to be a homer and say that the 'Cats will take two of three from the Gems.

HarbourCatNip
  • I’m not convinced that Bellingham is the class of the WCL, because they have benefited from an extremely easy schedule so far. In fact, the Bells have only played THREE games all season against teams with a record that is more than one game over .500. Bellingham still hasn't played Corvallis, Yakima or Medford this season and they went 1-2 in their only three games against stiff competition (the Bend Elks). We’ll know more about Bellingham in a week, because their next six games are against top teams -- the Corvallis Knights and the expansion Yakima Valley Pippins.
  • Victoria only used five pitchers in the entire Bellingham series (Wright, Ryan, Schneider, Rogers and Watkins).
  • Alex DeGoti was tagged with the dreaded Golden Sombrero on Wednesday night when he struck out four times in the game. It was his second Golden Sombrero of the year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The song remains the same


How the Bells threw tonight!
New day, same story as yesterday...'Cats drop a close one 3-1 to the league leading Bellingham Bells. The only offense Victoria could manage was a solo blast by "all rounder" Sean Watkins in the seventh after they were already down 3-0, which was a Bellingham three-run shot of their own. Up until the Watkins blast, the Bells had a perfect game going. So once again, the Bells' pitching shut down Victoria, limiting them to just three hits.

Pitching was pretty good for the 'Cats though, with new starter Preston Ryan going four innings and giving up the three runs, while reliever Carson Schneider had a good night in his four innings of work giving up only two hits, no runs, no walks and striking out three.

So tonight the 'Cats solved the starter/reliever thing but their bats went to sleep. Bellingham one to five hitters went a combined six for nineteen (.316) and Victoria's one through five batters went one for eighteen (.056). Tonight also shows you how solid the 25-6 Bells' pitching staff is this year...it's not just the HarbourCats, these guys are doing it to everyone.

It was an error-free game that lasted just a few minutes over two hours so the hometown fans must have been loving it. Let's hope we rain on their parade tomorrow in the series finale and prevent the dreaded sweep! Go A-Rog!

All-Star snub a puzzler


Hunter Mercado-Hood - All-Star snubbed
Let's talk about the WCL All-Star selections that were named today. There is no doubt that our representatives are very deserving candidates. Gabe Clark and Alex DeGoti are both hitting well above .300 and at the top of most significant offensive categories. Alex Rogers is an unbelievable story himself, working his way up from a 10-day contract into being a key starter who sits near the top of the league in ERA and second in the league in WHIP with an incredible 0.94 (for hurlers who with a minimum amount of innings). Congratulations to all three!

But to leave out Hunter Mercado-Hood and Mikey Wright? Are you kidding me? Wright is a stud. Pure and simple. In fact, he is the only pitcher in the league with a WHIP lower than Rogers, coming in at an eye-popping 0.85 in his 46 innings of work this year. He also holds opponents to a .176 batting average which is good enough for fourth in league regardless how many innings pitchers have pitched. He has a 2.74 ERA and is third in the league in strikeouts with 37 against only nine walks. And he's not an All-Star? Is it because he goes by Mikey instead of Michael...that's the only explanation that I can fathom.

That aside, what an AWESOME 1-2 punch we are blessed with this year on the mound. And these are guys who are first (Wright) and tenth (Rogers) in the entire league in innings pitched - Logan Lombana (another pitcher worthy of at least some consideration) is eighth. See previous blog posts on that topic.

Now on to HMH. Hunter Mercado-Hood is currently second in the entire league in RBI's and as far as his value to the HarbourCats, he is first on the team in batting average (.339 - good enough for 11th in the league), RBI's, at bats, runs, hits and doubles. He also has the second most walks on the team so has a good eye up there too. HMH is near the top of all other major offensive categories so is basically the best hitter on the team and certainly in the discussion as one of the elite hitters of the league. What does he need to do, sell Bin 4 burgers in between innings? Maybe don the Harvey costume?

And if you are going to pick Clark and DeGoti, what about Nathan Lukes? He is right there as far as numbers go and also worthy of some serious consideration. In terms of hitters, I would have taken HMH (no brainer) and Lukes or Clark - Lukes takes more walks, strikes out less and is a better fielder, but "the Babe" has more pop so it depends if you value power over on-base percentage. That is a reasonable debate to have, but to leave off HMH is a travesty of justice. The voters' baseball IQ's must be questioned on this one.

As for pitchers, both Rogers and Wright should be there - no doubt in my mind. Anyone who thinks differently has obviously been to Seattle recently and is still wallowing in the haze of one of the newly erected head shops.

Hopefully this will be rectified if players need to be added for injury reasons but if not, I'd deem the "All-Star" game either a random player festival or a popularity pageant. On this blog, both Mr. Wright and HMH are first ballot All-Stars with no room for debate.

Monday, July 14, 2014

HarbourCats waste stellar outing from Mikey Wright

Mikey Wright
The powerful Bellingham Bells defeated the HarbourCats 2-1 on Monday night in spite of a masterful outing from Mikey Wright, giving the Bells their fourth win in four games against Victoria this season. The loss leaves the struggling ‘Cats a whopping 11.5 games behind the first-place Bells in the West Division and five games behind the Bend Elks in the wild card race. Unless something dramatic and unexpected happens, the 13-18 HarbourCats are done for the season. You can go ahead and stick a fork in ‘em. On the plus side, the sun will still be shining and the beer will still be cold when the team returns to RAP on Thursday.

Early Monday morning the team announced that both Alex Garcia and Devin Carter have been released. Garcia has returned home due to family reasons and apparently Devin Carter is returning home for “academic reasons”. Given the recent turmoil in the HarbourCats’ clubhouse, one has to wonder if he requested his release at least in part due to lack of playing time. Carter hit .121 in 33 at-bats this season, but only six of those at-bats came in his last nine games with the team. The loss of Carter still leaves the team with six outfielders and at least four others (Fagalde, Torres-Costa, Barnett and Clark) who can play some outfield in a pinch. It's safe to say that we're covered.

In the same Monday morning press release, it was revealed that Noah Cummings was left behind for the Bellingham trip due to a “hand injury.” Cummings has hit .175 in 40 at-bats this summer, but he has only had three at-bats in the seven games prior to the Bellingham trip.

Monday night’s loss wasted an incredible effort from Wright, who limited the Bells to only three hits and two walks over eight innings. Wright struck out eight, but he threw a total of 106 pitches on the night. That high pitch count is yet another example of a HarbourCats pitcher being overused this summer. In fact, it's the seventh time in 2014 that a ‘Cats pitcher has thrown more than 100 pitches in a game -- a number that a pitcher under the age of 25 should never exceed in order to protect the long-term health of his arm. The seven instances are:
  • July 14 - Mikey Wright, 106 pitches
  • July 9 - Tim Peabody, 112 pitches
  • July 7 - Mikey Wright, 104 pitches
  • July 7 - Preston Ryan, 109 pitches (relief)
  • June 24 - Logan Lombana, 104 pitches
  • June 17 - Andrew Nelson, 104 pitches
  • June 13 - Alex Garcia, 102 pitches
By contrast, Corvallis, the model franchise in the West Coast League, has only allowed a hurler to throw 100 or more pitches in a game on one occasion (June 24th). Let’s hope that the HarbourCats can avoid any more of these extended outings this summer, because not only can the team ill-afford any injuries, but the long-term health of our pitchers must always be paramount.

HarbourCatNip
  • The roster for next Monday’s WCL All-Star Game will be announced tomorrow morning. I would expect Hunter Mercado-Hood, Nathan Lukes, Alex Rogers and Mikey Wright to make the team from the HarbourCats. However, considering what I saw with last year’s team, don’t be surprised if there are some major snubs and a few guys on the team whose performance doesn't merit their selection.
  • Preston Ryan gets the start on Tuesday night in the middle game of the Bellingham series. It will be his first start of the summer and his first appearance since his marathon 109-pitch relief outing on July 7th. Alex Rogers gets the ball on Wednesday night for the HarbourCats.
  • Wyler Smith batted ninth in Monday's game. Was this a coincidence given Bubba's blog post on Sunday? Just sayin'.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunny Saturday loss leaves questions unanswered

A great day for ball at RAP on Saturday. Sunshine was plentiful, temperature was near perfect, and fans were out in good numbers. Victoria is a funny town - it's always either too cold, or too hot. This afternoon, it was well towards the latter, but that didn't seem to bother the almost 1,300 fans who flocked to see if the HarbourCats could win the rubber match against the Medford Rogues.

Gabe Clark demonstrates the "unexpected curve-ball" swing
They could not, losing 4-1 to what became a fabulous pitching outing by Cypress College freshman Nathan Kuchta. Kutcha pitched 8.1 innings Saturday, giving up only 5 hits and the single earned run thanks in part to a nasty curve ball that had Victoria hitters guessing wrong all afternoon. He struck out 8, including at least 1 on all but two 'Cats batters - only Aaron Barnett and Alan Baldwin escaped the Kutcha whiff. Ex-HarbourCat Joe Record recorded the last 2 outs for the save - and ironically got Baldwin to strike out to end the game.

Victoria starter Logan Lombana pitched eight strong innings, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits with 4 strikeouts. Fans got a look at Alex Garcia in relief for the first time (not counting the Langley exhibition), and finished the game with the mysterious return of Quintin Torres-Costa.

Torres-Costa is coming back from Tommy John surgery in May of last year, he hadn't pitched in a week after playing in back-to-back games in Kitsap, including a 46 pitch three-inning outing. We were speculating that outing may have been too much for a guy we are supposed to be gently bringing back.  Lets hope he can return to the relief rotation and provide some stability in the second half.

Similarly, reliever Preston Ryan wasn't seen all weekend after throwing 109 pitches in relief in the 14-inning loss to Yakima last Monday. Ryan's previous high-pitch count for the year was 33.

And speaking of returns to action, there were a few friends and family of Kelly Norris-Jones in attendance today after it was announced he would be returning to the lineup after suffering a hand injury the last week of June. KNJ has been cleared to play for a week or so now, but seems to be in coach Miller's dog house as he was removed in favour of Jake Lesinski.

And let me get fully on my soapbox for a minute here. Just what is going on down there in the HarbourCat dugout these days?

It seems pretty clear that Miller and pitching coach Ben Jackson have their go-to guys, and if you aren't one, you're riding the pine. There are players who don't belong in the daily rotation, while others sit and watch. Can someone explain to me why Div 1 All-American Freshman of the year Danny Collier isn't playing regularly in this offence? Does anyone notice #36 each game... he's the first guy off the bench to greet a pitcher after an important 3rd out, or to congratulate a teammate after a great play. He's got more potential to make an impact than just about anyone on the team, yet he sits, and sits. He's had 14 plate appearances since June 25, a span of 14 games.

Collier didn't leave the bench in the series against the Rogues, yet Wyler Smith (who seems to have inherited the lead-off spot now despite having the tenth best on-base-percentage on the team) gets regular duty in left field. Seriously? Nothing against Wyler at all, and he seems to have turned the corner from a slow start - but that's largely thanks to starting all six games against Kitsap where he went 14 for 23. Is he a .300 hitter? Take away the shooting gallery games against Kitsap and he's hitting .202 with one of the lowest OBP's on the team. I'll take my chances with the All-American Collier any day...

Or Griffin Andreychuk. Hard not to have him in the lineup every day, with his second best .423 OBP... While I realize you can't play 12 guys each game, you can certainly rotate the lineup to even up playing time between contenders.

Lets not forget these kids give up their summer to live in a town thousands of miles away from their own, with no friends and family nearby, all for the hope of playing summer baseball. Many of these young players get homesick, become worn out from the grind of the day-to-day schedule, and then are let down by team politics. Standing around watching the game doesn't help - they could stay home and watch someone else play. Where is the value of being here if you aren't going to be given the opportunity to play on a regular basis? Seems like a wasted summer to me if you aren't in the coaches good books and you don't get the chance.

I hope something is done to level the playing field. There has already been one HarbourCat leave the team due to lack of playing time in Cole Kreuter, let's hope that's not a sign of things to come. Not just for this group of players, but for next year's as well. I certainly hope that colleges don't start ignoring HarbourCats phone calls during recruiting season because players don't want to come to Victoria and run the risk of a lost summer.

This could an interesting week for this team - don't be surprised if the HarbourCats looks quite a bit different in the near future.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

An angelic relief outing saves the day

Sean Watkins
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Chuck said it best, so I’ll try not to mangle his fine words. But in all seriousness, the HarbourCats’ season has been a roller coaster ride. The latest low was erased by Friday night’s exciting 9-8 win over the Medford Rogues.

The evening opened with a barrage of hits. Nathan Lukes, Gabe Clark and Sean Watkins all homered in the first two innings to stake the ‘Cats to an early 8-4 lead. While that kind of lead would seem insurmountable to most fans, those in the know were worried.

Thankfully, Angel Delgado was at his best. The newest member of the HarbourCats bullpen threw four solid shutout innings to turn the tide in the game. Ryan Keller did his best to make the game close, but DH/Superman Sean Watkins came out of the pen to nail down the save and preserve the HarbourCats’ victory.

Let’s hope that Watkins will continue to see time on hill and that Preston Ryan will recover from his 109-pitch relief outing and be given more late-inning save opportunities. Now if Quintin Torres-Costa could only get some chances in the late innings then the Victoria bullpen might actually turn the corner. If we are to have any chance of making the playoffs then we'll need everyone in the pen to pull up their socks, so let's hope that happens...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hunter Mercado-Hood named HarbourCats first-half MVP

Hunter Mercado-Hood
photo by Brian Hayes
The scribes at the Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog have named Hunter Mercado-Hood  (“HMH”) as the team’s MVP for the first half of the 2014 season. HMH was the only HarbourCat named on all four ballots cast by the bloggers and he earned two of the four first-place votes.

Mercado-Hood is currently second in the West Coast League with 29 runs batted in -- an amazing total considering that the HarbourCats have played 28 games and he has only appeared in 25 of those games. He is also 10th in the league in hitting with a .347 batting average. Aside from runs batted in, Mercado-Hood also leads the team in at-bats, runs, hits, and doubles. His defense has also been steady, as he has only committed one error while registering a pair of outfield assists.

Sean Watkins finished second in the voting after his surprising first half. We were expecting Watkins to be used as a pitcher this summer, but the recent graduate of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California has put on a show with his potent bat. All the youngster has done so far is notch the sixth-best batting average in the league (.358) while compiling a stellar 1.80 ERA in five innings of relief. Watkin’s high point had to come on June 30th when he almost single-handedly defeated the Kitsap BlueJackets with an eye-popping performance. With the HarbourCats bullpen in disarray, let’s hope that Watkins sees more action out of the pen in the second half.

The full voting results are as follows (number of first-place votes in parentheses):
1. Hunter Mercado-Hood (2) - 9 points
2. Sean Watkins - 4 points
3. Mikey Wright (1) - 3 points
3. Alex DeGoti (1) - 3 points
5. Gabe Clark - 2 points
5. Griffin Andreychuk - 2 points
7. Alex Rogers - 1 point
Honourable mentions: Sean Watkins and Alex Rogers.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

'Cats lose a close one but set a world record!


A-Rog mowin' em down
In a very entertaining game in front of a raucous crowd of 1,606, the Victoria HarbourCats came up just short in the ninth inning to fall 5-4 to the visiting Medford Rogues. The story of the game is an easy one tonight - the 'Cats left the bases loaded FOUR times and three of those times (first, seventh and eighth) they did it with only one out and could not get a single run across. The final time was in an exciting ninth where they did put two runs across but as it turns out, that was one too few.

It really comes down to the clutch hit which seems rarer than a Rosie O'Donnell doggie bag these days. Hitting for average is great and going two for four is awesome, but getting that one clutch hit when you need it is what is going to win games. Again Victoria outhit their opposition (this time 12-8) only to come out on the losing end which must be extremely frustrating to these guys as they are doing a lot of things right out there. Just not at the right time.

That aside, it really was a good game to watch. It was a clean game fielding-wise as there was only a single error by Medford. There was some weirdness too, when a routine single went into the Medford outfield and popped inside the centrefielder's uniform, ever so briefly. But an alert Bob Miller ran out to the umpiring crew and they ruled that this put the ball "out of play" giving the HarbourCat batter an extra base. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama!

Both starting pitchers kept the game moving by working quickly with "Triple M" (the Medford Man Mountain) David Peterson out-dueling Alex Rogers by giving up no runs, four hits/strikeouts/walks in his six and a third innings. Rogers had a good night himself going one out short of the distance (after which the 'Cats gave up two more runs...DOH!) and surrendering four runs, seven hits with four K's and two free passes.

After that it was a battle of which relief staff wanted to win the least. The Rogues tried to give it back by serving up eight more hits, four runs and two bases on balls the rest of the way but again, the 'Cats just couldn't find that final single when they needed it.

It was also a game of "what if's" for the 'Cats. What if Rogers pitched the final out of the ninth? What if Gabe Clark didn't get gunned down trying to get to second base in the eighth (the next batter hit a double)? What if Medford's Yuto Kata (who also went two for two) didn't steal home in the first and then AGAIN with two out in the ninth?

All that said, today was really about the awesome fans in Victoria. Community spirt was soaring as the creative HarbourCats promotional team set out to break the record for most ceremonial first pitches before a game, aiming for a target of 5,000 which was well above the record of 4,218 that they were aiming for, set by the Brevard County Manatees. Danny the Intern from Kool-FM (your kids will know him) kicked off the festivities around 8:30 AM this morning and a steady stream of people of all ages and abilities started hurling (baseballs, that is) all the way up until game time. In fact, a couple of intrepid bloggers were spotted at the festivities throwing their cheese as well. When all was said and done, our city-folk threw a mind-boggling total of 5,253 pitches. A new world record!! Outstanding job Victown!! Pat yourselves on the back and go to the showers now...ya' done good. Now serious question...can any of you throw middle to late inning relief??

And as an added bonus, click here for a view of the 10 WORST ceremonial first pitches. Luckily, this was filmed before I served up my own kitten-like knuckle curve!

One of the 5,253 pitches - probably the best one!

Beware the Rogues of Medford!

Gather 'round the campfire lads, I'm 'gonna spin you a tale...

The Rogues are coming to RAP for a three game set, and ye best beware. Are you familiar with the Rogues? Well according to the wisest scholar in the land (Mr. G. Oogle), a rogue is "a dishonest or unprincipled man". A scoundrel, miscreant, reprobate, rascal, good for nothing ne'er-do-well. Better lock up your women and children, and leave your valuables at home.

Are we inviting these kind of men to our park? Yes we are. They arrive not by bus, but by a grey and green-hulled schooner that pays no heed to hipster kayakers in the inner harbour, dropping anchors through the bows of nearby harbour ferries and pretentious American-visitor pleasure craft. From there they come ashore and pillage their way to the park, gathering wenches and specialty wines along the way.

They arrive at the park singing songs of the sea, brandishing swords bloodied and worn from hard skirmishes with street fowl. They take up camp on the third base side where they sit in the sun, regaling each other of past conquests in nearby taverns and night clubs.

Actually that's not all true. The team name comes not from the quality of men who have joined the team on their journey to Victoria this week, but from the part of Oregon Medford is the center of - Rogue Valley. In the early 1800's when the white-folk were expanding west, the Valley was the site of many bloody battles between the settlers and the three Native American tribes that inhabited the land. The valley was named such by early fur traders for the difficulties that ensued trying to navigate the valley.

The Medford Rogues of the WCL, replaced the Southern Oregon Riverdawgs who were founded in 2001 and played in the West Coast League's Tri-state division. The Dawgs left for the now defunct Far West collegiate league to make way for the Rogues to start the 2013 season. Interestingly, the Rogues are owned by Bill Yuill, a businessman from Medicine Hat Alberta for a nice Canadian connection.

The Rogues had a fabulous "first season" in the WCL, finishing second in the South division, losing in two games to the eventual champion Corvallis Knights. The Rogues finished 30-24, including going 5-1 against the HarbourCats. The one win Victoria had last year was probably the most exciting game of the season though - a 12-11 comeback victory at RAP when Victoria scored 5 runs in the bottom of the ninth off reliever Bo Cornish, including a 2-out double by Dylan Lavelle to score Alex Real and Chris Lewis to win the game.

Unfortunately, Cornish is no longer part of the Rogue's crew for this voyage...

The Rogues are pretty much right where they were last year, in second place in their division, a game and a half back of both Corvalis and Bend. After a good start, they have had a tough July, going 3-7 over their last 10 thanks to a 1-5 set against the Knights. Overall, Medford routinely beats the teams it should, and has trouble with the top teams in the league.

Medford is led by stud 1B Victor Garcia. Garcia's hitting .329 with 23 RBI, and a league-leading 6 home runs. Designated Hitter Nathan Etheridge is also tearing up WCL pitching, sitting fourth in league average at .363. The Rogues have a solid core group, with six starters and eight players in total hitting over .300. Their team batting average of .282 leads the entire WCL.

On the mound, the Rogues have three 3-game winners, and we should see two of them in David Peterson and Jeff Hardy. Past that, the Rogues are fairly evenly balanced with some solid relief pitchers, and some "throw gas on the fire" guys.

The Rogues carry a few of "friendlies" as well - relievers Ivan Dilda and Mat Snider from Pepperdine will enjoy taking a shot at All-American freshman Aaron Barnett, and Trent Shelton from Gabe Clark's Oregon State Beavers will like the same. There's another Wave, and a couple of UNM Lobo's on the Rogues as well (including 1B Chris "The Red Hercules" Devito, who's favourite food is hot dogs). That's hard hitting journalism right there folks...

The Tale of the Tape
Victoria 12-15, 7-3 in their last 10. Medford 15-12, 3-7 in their last 10.
Victoria .265 team average, Medford .282
Victoria 4.09 team ERA, Medford 3.86

All things point to a Rogue domination of this series. Coming off a sweeping at the hands of the Pippens, the HarbourCats will need to regroup in the friendly confines of RAP and come out swinging. They need to get into the heart of a fairly suspect relief core to do some middle-inning damage before the lights-out guys come out of the pen. Given that the Rogues can out-hit any team in the league, and the HarbourCats have not yet proven to be able to stay with a heavy hitting team like Medford, it's going to be a long weekend for Cats fans at RAP. I'm calling a sweep in the wrong direction, but hoping for another 9th inning comeback to get us all out of our seats. Better stay 'till the end folks...


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pippins walk over 'Cats 12-3

The Victoria HarbourCats were glad to get on the bus and head back home Wednesday night after dropping their third game in a row to the Yakima Valley Pippins by a score of 12-3. It was a feast or famine, up and down road trip for the 'Cats who swept Kitsap in a three game series before this last game in Yakima.

It was a sloppy game that saw a combined seven errors - four by Victoria and three by Yakima. 'Cats starter Tim Peabody had some control problems that saw him issue eight free passes to give him an average of one an inning on the year. After walking the bases loaded in the fifth, Peabody turned a 3-1 deficit over to Dylan Stowell who gave up a couple of hits to clear the bases and leave Mr. Peabody tagged with six runs in his four and a third innings of work. Stowell later walked in two of his own runs in the seventh before Mark Marinch returned the favour by allowing a bases clearing triple - all Stowell's runs that do not show up the Marinch crime sheet - to put the game out of reach for good at 11-2. Overall, Victoria ended up walking twelve batters as compared to the Pippins two.

Bryce Greager knocked in a couple of runs in the losing cause going two for four. Gabe Clark was the only other 'Cat who had more than one hit, also ending up two for four.

The 'Cats are back on home soil tomorrow for a mini three game home stand against the Medford Rogues who won tonight but have been struggling of late (mostly because they have been playing the Corvallis Knights). The Rogue Waves break into town with a 15-12 record so it will be another tough test for the boys of Victown. Hopefully the 'Cats will dream of their Kitsap games and come out with the same smoking bats. Starting pitchers have not been announced yet but I'd like to see Lombana, Rogers and Nelson.

Whatever the case, man, is it ever baseball weather. No better three days to come down to the yard and watch your home team jump off the three game losing train. And tomorrow - Thursday - is World Record Pitch Day where the 'Cats need YOUR help. Starting at 8:30 AM the HarbourCats are attempting to set the record for most ceremonial first pitches so you - yes you - can come down and throw one (or more?!) of these pitches and become part of history. So get down to Royal Athletic Park any time after 8:30 AM and before game time and show them your deuce! Come on, it will be fun - before work, at lunch time, in between "The View" and "Young and the Restless", whatever!

Gus working on his ceremonial first pitch

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Victoria bats go silent in the Valley

HarbourCats bats in the Yakima Valley
That sound you hear coming from just south of us, is the HarbourCat offence falling back to earth after a week of playing a team with mediocre pitching in the Kitsap BlueJackets. The Yakima Valley Pippens it seems, do not have that same issue, and the Cats have returned to their whiffing ways at the plate.

The Pippens were the ones pushing runs over at will tonight as they took down the HarbourCats in handy fashion with an 8-1 drubbing. Call it an ode to Brazil perhaps?

Like yesterday, Victoria got off to a good start, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Jake Lesinski cashed in Sean Watkins lead-off triple. Unlike yesterday though, that would be it for the HarbourCat offence as  Yakima Valley pitchers would scatter only 6 more hits over the next 7 innings.

The Pippens put up the consistent scoring numbers on this night, scoring runs in the next 4 innings to take the 8-1 lead. Starter Alex Garcia lasted only 3 innings giving up 3 runs, to be replaced by Angel Delgado who gave up another 3 in a single inning of work, and Ryan Keller who gave up 2 in 3. The only bright spot on the mound was a scoreless inning of work from Carson Schneider.

Lesinski was 2-2 before being pulled, and Bryce Greager went 2-3 in a rare start at first. The first 5 hitters in the lineup went 2-19.

One more game in Yakima before a travel day home to prepare for a three game set against Medford back at RAP.

Monday, July 7, 2014

'Cats drop heartbreaker in fourteenth


After some on-line sleuthing, I deduced from the logo (and Wikipedia) that a "Pippin" most likely refers to the pippin apple which is one of the oldest varieties of this fruit to come out of the Excited States of America. That piece of gastronomical trivia aside, the HarbourCats got right to it in another road series tonight against the Yakima Valley Pippins.

In the longest game of the year for both teams, the visiting 'Cats let one slip away in a fourteen inning nailbiting 6-5 loss, spoiling yet another good pitching performance from Mikey Wright. Victoria led the game by a 5-1 score at one point but could not score another run after the fifth inning, allowing the Pippins to chip away until Josh McCoy singled in Taylor Snyder in the bottom half of the fourteenth inning. "Mr. Wright" was cruising until the sixth when he hit back to back batters and allowed a couple of earned runs which made the score 5-3, but bounced back nicely for a 1-2-3 seventh, finishing with no walks, seven strikeouts and three earned runs.

Reliever Alex Fagalde entered the game in the eighth but could not hold the lead, giving up a two-out double bringing the score to five apiece. Preston Ryan entered the game and pitched extremely well in his five and two thirds innings and 109 (!) pitches of "relief", working out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth to extend the game, and again in the eleventh before giving up the heart-breaking single to McCoy in the fourteenth. Ryan himself batted in the Victoria half of the eleventh (where was the DH??), laying down a nice sacrifice bunt to get things going before Bryce Greager was gunned out in a close play at home. Ryan also struck out in the thirteenth with one out and men on first and third. Strange.

In the field, catcher Jake Lesinski left the game in the sixth due to injury, forcing the 'Cats to move DH Aaron Barnett behind the plate to cover which may have had something to do with why there was no DH in place after that. No word on how serious the injury was, but Jake was starting to find his rhythm at the end of the Kitsap series so this is an unfortunate loss.



In the losing cause, Hunter Mercado-Hood maintained his hot bat going four for seven, Aaron Barnett went three for seven and Bryce Greager knocked in a pair of runs while going one for four. Wyler Smith struggled in the lead-off spot against the Pippin arms going hitless in his seven at bats, but had a key outfield relay to Alex DeGoti in the bottom of the thirteenth as they threw out Justin Jacobs who was trying to score on a two-out Vince Fernandez double off the wall. Exciting baseball!

Aside from McCoy's heroics on the Pippin side, Alex Guenette was hit in three consecutive at bats before waving the white flag and exiting the game, bringing back memories of Coach Ernie Pantusso of Cheers. Jake Roberts was a solid three for seven with two RBI's, Vince Fernandez went three for five and Shawn Wardian also had a a couple of hits, going two for six with the two key RBI's to tie the game in the eighth.

Now that we are closing in on the midway point of the season, it's interesting to take a look at the HarbourCats pitching rotation. Right now the 'Cats seem to have a very solid threesome of starters in Mikey Wright, Logan Lombana and Alex Rogers and they are using them in a semi-regular rotation. These three amigos have ERA's of 2.84 (Wright), 2.48 (Lombana) and 1.77 (Rogers) and respective WHIP's of 0.89, 1.38 and 0.92. Pretty darn impressive numbers over their 14 combined starts. In fact, numbers like that should send fear and dread into the hearts of the heavy hitters of the WCL.

One question is who should be the fourth and even fifth man in this starting group? Andrew Nelson has been a regular in the rotation with five starts, and has followed Lombana in each of his last three starts, but not this one. Nelson checks in with a 5.10 ERA and 1.63 WHIP but after a slow start, he has lowered his ERA in each consecutive outing, with his WHIP also headed in that same direction. All that said, he looks to be a good candidate.

So should he remain as the fourth starter? If not, who should? How about Alex Garcia? In his two starts he has a miniscule 0.81 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP so at least deserves a shot to be a semi-regular starter. The only other 'Cat with more than one start is Tim Peabody but he has a 4.57 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP. After tonight's performance which was somewhat starter-like, does Preston Ryan deserve a shot? Maybe Victoria should stick with the three main starters and fill the last slot by committee, based on who has been going well of late. Or maybe Sean Watkins or Alex Fagalde need a shot (although tonight aside, Fagalde is a nice asset in the pen)? What do you think?

One thing I think, is that it was strange when Don Sullivan got a precious start just before heading back to school to deal with his entry exams. There may have been a good reason to give him the start, but it was also an opportunity to try and answer the above questions too.

And in completely unrelated news, Target Field in Minnesota just announced that they were introducing self serve beer kiosks at the all star game this year! Apparently you buy a prepaid card and use it to dispense whatever amount you desire. Cost would be about 38-40 cents an ounce and you are "limited" to 48 ounces every 15 minutes on a single card. That sounds like a challenge to me!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

'Cats complete the double sweep

All I can say is...wow. Just...wow. Coming in to play Kitsap seven days ago, the Victoria HarbourCats were reeling from a nine game losing streak that had just been ended after squeaking one out against the Cowlitz Black Bears in 13 innings. What a difference a week makes.

After completing the rare double-sweep and beating up the Kitsap BlueJackets yet again by a score of 12-1 this afternoon, Victoria now brings its record up to a respectable .500 (12-12) and stays in second place in the West, teasing the fans again with thoughts of a second half chase for a wildcard birth. The 'Cat bats chased ace starter Joss Moss after just two innings, punishing him for seven runs off eight hits, and they didn't look back from there. Victoria got yet another solid pitching start with Logan Lombana giving up only a single run in his seven innings of work off seven hits while striking out fours and walking one.

That said, let's not get ahead of ourselves here, as plenty of teams will have their way with Kitsap before this year is done. But still, heading into a key series against the surprising expansion Yakima Valley Pippins, it's nice to sit back and admire the fact that they absolutely got the job done each and every game. Good teams beat the teams that they should.

Over the last six games, the 'Cats turned it around completely in every aspect of the game. What was the reason - was it Coach Miller getting tossed while arguing the close call? Did he maybe give them the "lollygaggers" speech? Was it playing the lowly BlueJackets six game in a row? Was it the fact they were sick and tired of losing? Was it a combo of all of the above? Really, who cares...it is just nice to see the lads back on track and soaring with confidence. I believe the 'Jackets were the perfect tonic for a Victoria team that has lots talent on paper, but was maybe lacking in confidence. Now that they have this key trait, we'll see where they go.

In the two series against Kitsap, the 'Cats put us some gaudy numbers. They outscored their opponent 63-13 and outhit them 82-45, despite the fact that they were outhit in two of the six games. Individually, Hunter Mercado-Hood went 11 for 18 (.611) with 11 runs scored and 12 RBI's, the latter which has him now fighting for the league lead. But the man who feasted even more than HMH was the speedy Ute, Wyler Smith, who also put up beer league numbers going 14/23 (.609) while scoring seven and knocking in ten. Smith was batting lead off today and with his speed, as long as he keeps getting on base like this you will see opposing pitchers approaching him with much caution. To put it in perspective, Smith raised his average form .184 to .338 in just these six games. Like I said...wow.

So all that is awesome and the boys are flying but now they have to face Yakima, which have three of the top seven batters (by average) and a very impressive 14-10 record to lead the east division. They will certainly be a good yardstick to see if this recent seven game winning streak was more because Kitsap was not so good or because Victoria has turned a corner.

Will Wyler put the bite on the Pippins? Will the pitching staff continue to throw BB's? Tune in tomorrow fans...same Cat-Time, same Cat-Channel!






HarbourCats win sixth straight over Kitsap

The Fairgrounds in Kitsap - Home of the BlueJackets
The good news, is that there's one more game against the BlueJackets Sunday afternoon in Kitsap, where the 'Cats will try for their seventh win in a row. The bad news, is that the two teams won't meet again until the last weekend of the season.

So much has happened over this stretch of games against Kitsap. Victoria has climbed out of the WCL basement, and is now in second place in the North division. Team batting average has climbed to a lofty .263, and have seven regulars batting over .300. Team ERA is hovering just over the 4.00 mark as well. Things are looking up for the Victoria team.

Saturday's effort was more of what we have seen this past week. Solid starting pitching, this time from Andrew Nelson, who gave up 2 earned runs through 4 innings before giving way to the newest HarbourCat, reliever Angel Delgado (Angel also pitched an inning on July 2nd). Delgado gave up one run, but was in the right place at the right time, and picked up the win. Quintin Torres-Costa threw a masterful 3 final innings for the save.

The right place, right time situation, was the top of the seventh inning, where 3 singles, a walk, an intentional walk, and a hit batter led to four Victoria runs to erase a 3-2 deficit and put the 'Cats up for good. Another hit batter came around to score in the eighth, sealing the game. Victoria walked away with a 7-3 victory.

Alex DeGoti went 3-5 to lead the offence, while once again, Wyler Smith chipped in with 2 hits and 2 RBI. Catcher Jake Lesinski - who just a week ago was hitting .000 also went 2-4, raising his average to .238.

Victoria sends Logan Lombana (3.27 ERA) to the mound Sunday against Kitsap ace Josh Moss, whom the 'Cats haven't seen yet. Moss is 3-0 with a sparkling 2.35 ERA, and gives the BlueJackets their best shot at derailing the Victoria hitting train. Victoria will need its bats once again if they hope to keep the streak alive and hand Moss his first loss.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cats swat BlueJackets a fourth straight time

If only Victoria could go back and forth to Bremerton each week to play the Kitsap BlueJackets... The HarbouCats continued their recent winning ways - their fifth in a row - while handing Kitsap it's ninth loss in a row Friday night, a 4-1 loss at the Fairgrounds.

Wyler Smith is lovin' him some BlueJackets
Kitsap got off to a good start, touching 'Cats starting pitcher Alex Rogers for an early run in the bottom of the first inning, but that's all the young pitcher would give up on the night, as he raised his league record to 2-1 on the year. He ended up scattering 7 hits, all singles except for a double by ex-Cat Dylan LaVelle. Quintin Torres-Costa pitched a perfect eighth, and Tim Peabody worked around a couple of walks in the ninth to earn the save.

Victoria managed only six hits themselves on the night, and were led by a rejuvenated Wyler Smith who went 2-3 with a run scored. He's loving the BlueJacket games - going 9-15 in te four games, raising his average to an even .300. The rest of the Cats bats slowed down tonight, going a combined 4-21 while picking up 5 walks.

Victoria sends Andrew Nelson to the mound tomorrow looking to make it 6 in a row, and continue dominance over the BlueJackets.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

HarbourCats flush away the BlueJackets

Hunter Mercado-Hood
The HarbourCats pasted the Kitsap BlueJackets by a score of 17-3 on Wednesday night, just a day after our American guests were humiliated in a 19-2 Canada Day Massacre at Royal Athletic Park. Neither game could be classified as entertaining baseball, but the surging HarbourCats will gladly take any victory as they attempt to climb back into the pennant race.

Hunter Mercado-Hood (affectionately known as “HMH” is these parts), Alex DeGoti and Wyler Smith all knocked in four runs for the HarbourCats. The smooth-swinging HMH now leads the entire West Coast League in runs batted in with 24. Sean Watkins continued his white-hot hitting with four more base hits, raising his batting average to a slow-pitch-like .463 mark (although he doesn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting race).

With the win, Victoria moved past Kitsap in the standings and they are now in sole possession of third place in the West Division. The ‘Cats now trail the Medford Rogues by only three games for the wild card playoff spot, although there are three teams between Victoria and Medford.

We could go on and on about the team’s offensive exploits against the feeble BlueJackets, but we have much more important news to report: Bubba’s favourite urinal in the RAP restroom has finally been repaired after being covered in a green garbage bag for the last 12 months. If you could only have seen the look in his eyes -- it was as if Christmas had come early for the big man. Apparently all it takes to get the City of Victoria to spring into action is a few snide remarks from a couple of sarcastic bloggers. Who knew we had such power...
There is joy in Mudville!!

The HarbourCats now embark on a six-game road trip with three more against the sad-sack Kitsap BlueJackets this weekend and a trio of games against the surprisingly strong Yakima Valley Pippens next week. The ‘Cats return to the STD at RAP on Thursday July 10th when they will kick off a three-game set against the Medford Rogues.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mikey and the Sticks, eh!

Parachuters kicking off the Canada Day celebration
The HarbourCats hosted a brilliant Canada Day picnic today as they flexed their patriotic muscles and bashed out 19 hits en route to a 19-2 victory. There were a few pesky BlueJackets that tried to ruin the day but they were exterminated early so the hometown crowd could enjoy the beautiful sunshine, good food and good company on this day of the red and white.

It was just "one of those days" at the plate for Victoria and it started in the first when they batted around equaling the run total (7) from last nights game in a single at bat. HMH - aka Hunter Mercado-Hood - looked like he was on HGH, bashing a three run shot to get things moving in his first at bat. The 'Cats followed up with four, three and another three over the next three innings to pretty much seal the deal. Starting pitcher Mikey Wright (now 3-2) showed his appreciation for the early run support by spinning an absolute gem in his six innings on the mound, holding Kitsap to a single hit and lowering his ERA to 2.61 and his WHIP to 0.84.

It was a pleasure to watch the 'Cats excel in all areas of the game. Wyler Smith started off the game with a diving catch in left and the fielding remained tight for most of the afternoon. On the mound, Wright was dominant and the batting just exploded today. Some of the more impressive feats were:
  • Seeing Griffin Andreychuk bat twice in two different innings and walking to the plate five times in the first five innings. He ended up two for four with three runs scored, two RBIs and two walks
  • HMH went a perfect four for four with six, count 'em SIX, RBI's to move him into second place in the league with 20 on the year
  • Alex DeGoti was a perfect three for three and nudged his average above .300 (.302) for the season
  • Wyler Smith's bat also jumped to life as the Utah Ute went three for four and smacked in four runs himself
  • Last night's hero Sean Watkins' bat remained en fuego as he also went three for four, raising his team leading average to a Ted-Williams-like .405
  • It seemed like only a few days ago that we lamented the fact that the 'Cats had no .300 hitters and now they have six, and Nathan Lukes is knocking at the door with .296
Coach Bob Miller was able to do pretty much a wholesale line change after the fifth inning to give his starters some rest and get some innings for the rest of his troops. Mikey Wright was pulled after six to also give some work to Carson Schneider and Dylan Stowell. When all was said and done, 21 different HarbourCats saw the field. I call that a good day at the office.

And the red caps - classy. Especially when paired with the red sleeves a la Griffin Andreychuk.

Not much went well for Kitsap right from the beginning. Starter Zev Egli (is that a Dan Brown word scramble??) gave up eight hits and nine earned runs in his inning and a third of work with the fielding behind him was also looking shaky - and that just seemed to be contagious. The 'Jackets were also victims of the dreaded "sun-assisted single" so just nothing was working.

The game did get a bit interesting the seventh when Kitsap pitcher Max Winklehake decided to start a plunkfest, hitting four of five batters, the first of which (Ted Boeke) was hit in the head and had to leave the game. It was obvious though that this was not intentional - just one of those "Rick Ankiel" moments.

I expect the BlueJackets will just write this one off and come out gunning tomorrow but the HarbourCats are showing some new-found confidence on this three game wining streak so it should be a good finale. There were 2,389 fans there today so let's see if we can top 2K three days in a row. I know it's a Wednesday night but come on...it's free hot dog for the kids/Elvis night!

Just be careful where you park (see below!)



HarbourCats treat fans to some late-game fireworks

"Lets see. First I'll strike everybody out, then I'll go yard. That should do it".
My Dad used to always tell me, "Son, if you want something done right, do it yourself". It seems like maybe Sean Watkins' Dad had the same message to him?

In an interesting Charlie Strandlund-type performance, Sean Watkins started the game at DH tonight, moved to the pitcher's mound in the 7th, hit the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth, and closed out the game in the ninth. Like the star of his neighbourhood little league team, Watkins didn't give up a hit, walked only one, and struck out an incredible 6 of the 10 batters he faced - and yes, he did hit the towering home run that propelled the Cats to Victory.

Watkins' home run in the bottom of the eighth couldn't have come at a better time either. After Logan Lombada gave up a 2-run lead in the top of the seventh, it looked like the balls were starting to bounce Kitsap's way. The Bluejackets had committed five errors on the night and should have been out of the game by that point - but a couple of fortunate bounces and some timely hitting brought them back to even. Then Watkins took over, and just like that, a winning streak is born!

Victoria got a more balanced attack this night, with 6 'Cats registering hits. Catcher Aaron Barnett led the way going 2-4 to raise his team-leading average to .370.

The game was speeding right along until the bottom of the seventh when home plate umpire Chet Masse took a foul-tip off the bat of Devin Carter to the chest. Masse was down for several minutes before leaving the game for good. A two-man crew completed the game. The 15 minute delay actually served a purpose, extending the game long enough to make the park dark enough for fireworks.

2812 fans jammed the park tonight, enjoying the win, the warm night, and the light show that followed. While fans spent most of the game very quiet, Watkins performance in the eighth and ninth got the crowd off it's hands and into the game late. RAP saw it's first wave of the season as well. The HarbourCats needed a win in the worst way, and got just what the doctor ordered.

One thing that I find impressive is the knowledge of the fans sitting around RAP. Lombana was charged with a balk in the third, and I heard at least a half-dozen fans explain the rule and result to the fans around them. In the fourth inning, Nathan Lukes was charged with an error on a throw home that went well wide, and Barnett collided with the home plate umpire (Masse again - not his night) - and fans were quick to acknowledge that there was no interference on the play, that he was in the right position, and that the error put him into the play through no fault of his own. Good fans in Victoria, who know the game they are watching.

The Canada Day hats are also top-shelf, and look fantastic with the uniform - the white one anyway. What baffles the mind though, is why are these guys still wearing last-year's pants? All are dirty, wrinkled, and ill-fitting. Some guys are making due by tucking them into their socks and rolling them up, but it's hard to hide the fact that somebody else's ass had them well-worn before they got here. Every game there's some comment (yes, mostly from females in the crowd) about the state of the white pants. While the new hats are awesome and really remind us all we are Canadian, could we not fork out $40 each in new pants for these boys?

Oh and the fireworks were so well worth it. Another great promotion by the HarbourCats front office, enjoyed by all.

Ooooooh. Ahhhhhh.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kitsap series preview

The Victoria HarbourCats are trying to stop the bleeding this afternoon and prevent being swept for a third consecutive series as they wrap up a three game set with Cowlitz before returning to the RAP for another three game series against West division foe Kitsap BlueJackets. In fact, they will play the BlueJackets in six consecutive games, heading to Kitsap after their Canada week finale on Wednesday.

The BlueJackets are having some struggles of their own as they try and snap a four game skid this evening against the surprising Yakima Valley Pippins. It is possible that tomorrow night may see two teams meet with a combined fifteen losses without a win. The good news for one of them is that somebody has to rack up a few wins and both are probably looking at the other hungrily as a ladder out of the baseball doldrums.

Tale of the Tape (prior to Sunday's games)

Victoria: 5-12 (.294), 4th in West Division
Kitsap: 8-8 (.500), 3rd in West Division

Hitting

Victoria: .231 ave. (12th in WCL), .317 SLG (11th), .322 OBP (12th)
Kitsap: .275 ave. (5th in WCL), .379 SLG (4th), .374 OBP (4th)

Pitching

Victoria: 4.61 ERA (8th), WHIP 1.48 (8th)
Kitsap: 5.55 (9th), 1.68 WHIP (9th)

Who to Watch - Victoria
Oregon State’s Gabe Clark has lived up to promise and sports a .368 average in his first five games with the 'Cats. Clark also has two homers which is second on the team to Alex DeGoti. I'm sensing at least one Pembroke Poke from "the Gabe" this series.

Nathan Lukes and Hunter Mercado-Hood continue to climb the average ladder with both lads now hitting above .300 (.317 and .310 respectively). Prior to last night's nailbiting loss to Cowlitz, HMH had three multi-hit games in a row which Lukes has matched in his last three games while riding a four game hitting streak. Hopefully their bats stay hot for the Canada Day weekend (and beyond!) and it becomes contagious to the lower order hitters.

Pitching-wise, the 'Cats starters have actually been doing OK with two Alex's - Rogers and Garcia - both having good outings their last two starts and been unlucky not to have a couple of wins under their belts. Both have identical 1-1 records with very good ERA's of 1.96 and 0.81 and Rogers leading the team with a stellar 0.89 WHIP. Right behind him is another unlucky starter in Mikey Wright with a .96 WHIP in his three starts. The key to this series on the bump will be the relief pitching. Victoria needs a couple of relievers to step up with some solid performances to preserve leads, stop the bleeding, close games or all of the above. Sixteen different 'Cats have seen action so far this year so hopefully this experience will begin to show.

All that said, the fielding needs to stabilize and help out the pitching staff too. Same old story, but if Victoria can keep the errors down I really believe they can turn it around and start winning some games.

Who to Watch - Kitsap

While Victoria languishes near the bottom of most team offensive categories, the Kitsap bats have some pop. Centre fielder Daniel Woodrow sits second in the league with a .389 batting average and looks to be a solid singles hitter who gets on (.459 OBP) and can also swipe a base or two. Joining him in the top 10 (8th) with a .354 average is first baseman Austin Bush who also sports a lofty .458 OBP. Four other regulars have batting averages of .295 of above so 'Cats pitchers will need to be sharp or they'll be looking at a few double digit games here.

On the mound, big Josh Moss leads the Kitsap starters with a very respectable 2.45 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in three starts and 18 1/3 innings of work this year but the 'Cats may avoid him - at least in Victoria. The BlueJackets are trying out some new starters as they try and reduce opponents runs against. Reliever Tanner Howell has a pretty decent 0.93 ERA and seven K's in his nine and two thirds innings of work, but also has nine walks. After that, there are a lot of high ERA's so it may be just the tonic that Victoria needs to get their sticks going again.

Prediction

The numbers show a matchup of good Kitsap hitting against (statistically) weaker Victoria pitching and some inconsistent 'Cat bats similar B-Jacket arms. This is a tough one to call, but I'm going against the numbers and with the hometown team riding the Canada Day patriotism and taking two of three, regardless of what happens later today. I think the HarbourCat bats will heat up deeper in the order with a clutch hit here or there, and as long as the starting pitching holds true, they just need the bullpen to start mopping up. I'm thinking we'll see lots of base runners, high scores and a bit of chaos on the base paths and in the field.

Look for a highly entertaining series with games that may be a bit longer than usual but with the weather looking summer-Victoria-Awesome, whatever happens fans will not be disappointed. So put on the maple leaf face tattoos and come on out. This series is particularly loaded with promotions like fireworks, skydivers, free hot dogs and even a dash of Elvis - how can it NOT be a blast??

Editor's Note:

Former Victoria HarbourCat third baseman Dylan LaVelle will make his return to Royal Athletic Park in the Kitsap series. LaVelle, who hit .201 in 42 games with the 'Cats last summer, is playing both shortstop and third base for the BlueJackets this season. Fans may remember LaVelle's difficulty catching foul pop-ups last year, so it will be interesting to see what happens if LaVelle has to range into foul territory to make a play at RAP this week.