Saturday, June 6, 2015

Falcons claw back to tie series

Even novice baseball fans know that leadoff walks are costly, but how about two walks to start an inning? Even deadlier. But that’s just what happened to HarbourCats starter Mikey Wright on Saturday night and he paid the price for his slow start. Wright walked Brandon Grimsley and Vinny Esposito to start the game, both came around to score, and the Falcons had a lead they would never relinquish. Final score: Kelowna 5, Victoria 2.

Josh Walker
Wright, who was making just his second start since the end of Victoria’s 2014 season, still has a bit of work to do to shake off the rust from his absence from collegiate baseball. He was fortunate to only give up two runs in three innings of work, because he walked five and gave up three hits and things could have been much worse for him on this night. Fans should be patient with Wright, because he can only get better as the season progresses.

After getting through the Home Opener without walking any batters, Victoria pitchers combined to walk seven hitters while only striking out six. Walking more than you strike out is quite simply a recipe for trouble.

The best pitcher on the night for the hometown squad was Grand Canyon University’s Josh Walker. The undersized but feisty right-hander held the Falcons to only one run on two hits and a walk in three innings of relief. One of my favourite plays of the night was the popup that Walker induced to the middle of the infield in the top of the fifth. Although pitchers are typically told to vacate the premises immediately to allow one of the infielders to take a popup, Walker waved his arms wildly to call off the entire infield and emphatically make the play. I really like this young man's moxie.

The guy who stole Victoria’s thunder was Kelowna starter (and winning pitcher) Tyler Gillies, a sophomore at the University of British Columbia. Gillies mixed up his pitches well and kept HarbourCats hitters off balance for much of the evening. He was a key component in UBC’s recent NAIA West Grouping Championship, so we shouldn’t really be surprised by his solid outing this evening.

PJ Floyd was the only HarbourCat to register more than one hit on the night, as he went two-for-four at the plate, but he also committed one of Victoria’s three errors. Evan Willow and Matt Bryan made the others.

The ‘Cats and Falcons play the rubber game of the three-game set tomorrow afternoon when Shawn Kennedy takes to the hill for the 'Cats against Elias Bedolla. The winner of the game will take home the inaugural Accent Inns Trophy, as the Falcons and HarbourCats will not meet again in 2015.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Opening night - what a show, what a performance, what a crowd

It was a night for the history books at RAP tonight. The HarbourCats started their third year in the WCL with a decisive win over their BC brethren Kelowna Falcons. Over 4600 fans witnessed a gem of an opener that featured hot starting pitching, some clutch hitting, and a lopsided score for the home side.

New jersey, new logo, no numbers
First off, lets talk about the debut of the new home uniforms. Big-league style pants start the professional look, topped off with a new set of jerseys that sport a new V-Cat logo on the front instead of the smaller number that had been present in the previous version. It's a clean look, but the removal of the number makes for more difficult player identification - especially this early in the season. While I like the logo, I think I'm going to miss the numbers...

On the crowd side, Ticket Rocket - the new on-line ticket site of the 'Cats - seemed slower that the old system, with pre-game lineups to get into the park extending well down the block outside the park. Tickets are scanned by iPhones which seemed to take longer than the old scanners while they focus and find the barcode - but I want to go through the gate a couple times before offering judgement.

Food and beverage sales were brisk, and lineups were pretty crazy for most of the game, meaning a inning or more wait for any sort of concession. To be expected with 4600+ fans all wanting to eat and drink - I suspect with regular attendance numbers, things will flow smoothly.

Overall the crowd was...calm? A very quiet home crowd who had a lot to cheer for, and did the obligatory amount. This blogger didn't hear anyone out of the ordinary - no loud obnoxious fans, and nothing really in the way of heckling. Too early in the season to be getting on the other team perhaps?
4627 Fans means lots of folks on the soccer grandstands. A full park is a happy park!

On the field, the team looked pretty good. Not the final expected roster by a long shot, but a group of guys who played a good game and made the plays as expected. Starting pitcher Alex Rogers showed fans he's upped his game since last year - he has grown into a true power pitcher with great control and a stellar fastball. He pitched the first 6.1 innings giving up only a single run on 5 hits. At the plate, the 'Cats were led once again by Victoria boy Chris Fougner. Foggy had another stellar night at the plate going 3-5 with a run scored, earning him Player of the Game honours.

Mr. Rogers shows this is absolutely his neighbourhood
Scoring was as balanced as possible, with every single starter scoring a run, scattering 11 hits and 7 walks across the 8 innings at the plate. Dane Fujinaka was impressive at 3B, going 1-4 with a couple RBI, as was catcher Jackson Thoreson who went 2-3, also with 2 RBI.

Cats pitchers showed control all night long, surrendering only 8 hits and giving up not a single walk. Seems like a rare feat, but it's actually the 9th time in team history 'Cats pitchers have not offered up a free pass.

Kelowna isn't the biggest powerhouse in the league, but a solid start in front of an enthusiastic crowd set the HarbourCats on the right track early. With Mikey Wright starting Saturday, it could be more of the same from the mound, which should mean a similar result on the scoreboard. For a team that is still missing quite a few of it's expected final lineup, that's about as good as anyone could ask for.

Great to have baseball in town again, get out to the park and take in a game!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

2015 Season Preview

Summer's back, baby!
In a few short hours at Royal Athletic Park, a West Coast League umpire will scream out one of my favourite phrases in the English language -- “Play Ball!” -- and that in itself will be cause for celebration.

It may seem like ages ago, but back in December certain members of the mainstream media broke the story of ex-owner John McLean losing control of the Victoria HarbourCats in a BC Supreme Court civil suit. Somehow, this personal financial issue was twisted into a story about baseball allegedly failing once again in the Garden City (huh?!?). As we fully expected, there wasn’t exactly a shortage of interested buyers for the club and a local ownership group gained control of the team early in 2015. Victoria sports fans can rest assured that elite-level baseball is here to stay for many years to come.

With Opening Day upon us, we can now turn our attention to what happens on the baseball diamond, and this summer looks to be an entertaining one for HarbourCats fans. If you like offense then you’re in for a treat this season, because the ‘Cats will certainly have no trouble scoring runs.

Nanaimo’s Griffin Andreychuk will be back to set the table once again near the top of the order, although the roster is loaded with a slew of on-base types who can also play that role. First baseman Gabe Clark has committed to return to the team, and the fan favourite from Riverside, California is poised to take over the “Mr. HarbourCat” moniker in his second season with the club. Clark was an offensive force in the heart of the HarbourCats lineup last season and he should take another run at the league home run title this summer.

Josh Mitchell is another breakout
candidate on Adame's staff
After struggling to find a regular third baseman in their first two seasons, the HarbourCats now have plenty of talent at the hot corner. Michael Gretler and Chase Lambert both have what it takes to be an everyday third sacker at this level, and the University of New Mexico’s Carl Stajduhar looks like a bona fide West Coast League All Star, although his status for the season is still unclear. The versatile Lambert may end up seeing action at a variety of positions, as he can play anywhere other than catcher (or does he catch too?).

The team also has plenty of skill behind the plate. Although the HarbourCats have four quality backstops signed to full-season contracts, we expect Jackson Thoreson to emerge as the number one catcher due to his strong defensive skills and potent bat. The outfield is solid with Kevin Collard, Austin Guibor, Reno Rankin and Chris Fougner at the ready. Collard could potentially be an early-round selection in Monday’s MLB draft, so there is a chance that his stay in Victoria could be a short one. But no matter what happens on Monday, Collard has a bright future in the baseball world. Fougner, a Victoria native, was dazzling in the HarbourCats' three-game exhibition season and he should have an outstanding season.

As with all baseball teams, the HarbourCats will only go as far as their pitching will carry them. Alex “A-Rog” Rogers and Mikey Wright return to anchor the starting rotation, while the team has added potential closer Henry Omaña to the bullpen. Pitt Panthers lefty Josh Mitchell could emerge to be an elite late-innings reliever as well, but the HarbourCats need a couple of unheralded hurlers to have a breakout season if they are going to compete for a playoff spot. At this point it appears that pitching is the team’s Achilles’ heel, but pitching coach Alec Adame is the type of guy who can get the most out of his players, so I wouldn’t be shocked to seem them over-achieve on the mound.

While the 2015 roster is full of highly-skilled players, it is still light on experience as compared to the elite West Coast League teams. Although the HarbourCats made a valiant attempt to recruit an older squad, 17 previously-signed (full-season) players have withdrawn for a variety of reasons, and that group skewed heavily towards the older age range. Back in March, 47% of players signed to full-season contracts were upperclassmen (sophomores and juniors in the context of the WCL), but that figure has dropped to only 39% after the rash of recent cancellations and it could drop further. By comparison, the two teams in last year’s WCL Championship, Corvallis and Bellingham, featured 65% and 59% upperclassmen on their rosters, respectively.
A few days into the 2014 season I put the over/under for ‘Cats wins at 27 and I took some flak for being too pessimistic, even though they went on to finish with a disappointing 25-29 record. This year’s team reminds me a lot of the 2014 HarbourCats at the outset of the season -- lots of offense, a little light on pitching and a roster that is realistically too young to compete for a WCL championship.

So what's the over/under for HarbourCats wins in 2015? While making sports predictions is risky at the best of times, I’m not prepared to stick out my neck just yet. I'll need to see how many of our 33 full-season players actually report (only 11 were in town as of last night), who gets signed to replace the last-minute cancellations and what happens in the MLB draft that takes place next Monday to Wednesday.

But enough about predictions. It's almost time to head out to the ballpark, grab a hot dog and a cold beverage and enjoy the fine summer weather that Victoria offers. Ahhh, baseball. The only reality show out there that's worth watching. Season premiere is Friday night at 6:35...

  • Nanaimo's Alex Rogers has earned the Opening Day start against the Kelowna Falcons. He'll face Jayse Bannister of Holy Names University (NCAA Division II).
  • Mikey Wright goes for the HarbourCats on Saturday night against Tyler Gillies from the University of British Columbia. 
  • Shawn Kennedy takes to the hill for the 'Cats in the Sunday matinee against Ohlone College's Elias Bedolla.

Click 'Play' for the blog's official Opening Day theme song by The Baseball Project.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

'Cats close out preseason with ugly win

Dane Fujinaka made his HarbourCats
debut at -- surprise -- third base!
Your prospects usually aren’t very good when you get outhit 14-8 and only score run(s) in one inning of a ballgame, but the HarbourCats defied the odds on Wednesday night by salvaging a 6-5 victory over the pesky North Sound Emeralds of the Northwest Collegiate Baseball League (NWCBL). The win gives Victoria a 2-1 record in their brief “spring training” leading up to Friday night’s regular-season home opener.

The HarbourCats did all of their scoring in a six-run fifth inning that included four hits, a walk and three errors by the Emeralds. The key blow in the inning -- and game -- was a clutch two-out, two-strike base hit by Chris “Foggy” Fougner that scored fellow Vancouver Islanders Brady Rogers and Matt Bryan. Those two runs put the HarbourCats up 5-1, but Fougner would come around to score on a bad-hop single by Jackson Thoreson.

Fougner had another impressive night for the ‘Cats: 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. He finishes the exhibition season with a .583 average (7-for-12), three RBI, five runs scored and a pair of stolen bases. Look for big things from Mr. Fougner all summer long.

The HarbourCats pitching was less than spectacular on this frigid evening. Shawn Loglisci, a 30-year-old pitcher on loan from the Victoria Mavericks, did a good job holding the Emeralds to one run over the first four innings. However, Sean O’Toole, Josh Walker and 10-day player Mike Gershman stumbled through the last five innings to make a game of it. Gershman got the final out on a fly ball to Zane Takhar with the bases loaded to preserve the victory.

  • The all-Canadian outfield flashed some solid defense in tonight’s game. Matt Bryan cut off a ball in the gap and threw to second to nail a runner trying to stretch a single into a double in the fifth inning, while Chris Fougner made a nice running catch and strong throw home to prevent a runner on third from scoring on a fly ball in the eighth inning.
  • Shawn Kennedy, PJ Floyd and Dane Fujinaka are the latest players to arrive in Victoria, so there are now 11 of 33 full-season players in town. Expect another six or so to arrive in the next couple of days.
  • HarbourCats home games will be broadcast (delayed, not live) on Shaw Cable channel 4. You can also expect games to be shown multiple times.
  • The radar gun has been tested and a small display board is expected to be installed on top of the pole on the far end of the third-base dugout for Friday’s home opener.
  • Christmas has come early for our bloggers. Earlier in the preseason we were informed that Bubba’s favourite urinal in the bathroom under the grandstand has been fixed, but today the clock on the scoreboard was also repaired. Yes, Darth, there are competent horologists in Victoria. It’s a Christmas miracle!
  • The team has also announced that a fireworks show has been added after Friday night's game, since approximately 3,400 tickets have already been sold for the game (there will also be fireworks after Saturday’s game). Due to the removal of the GA bleachers behind section seven, capacity in the main section of the park has been reduced by roughly 200 seats. That means that there will be a lot of people sitting in the soccer stands on Friday night. If you have GA tickets then I suggest you arrive when the gates open at 5:00.
  • Check back on the blog early Thursday evening for our 2015 Season Preview.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

'Cats drop one to the Emeralds

'Cats Starter Connor Suing "changin' it up"
After extinguishing the Blaze on Sunday (gotta' love the journalistic cliché!), the Victoria HarbourCats were back at it tonight against the North Sound Emeralds of the Northwest Collegiate Baseball League (NWCBL) which is based out of Seattle. Being that I was out of town for the first exhibition game (as Deputy Dawg would say...Dagnabit!), this was my first live baseball of the year so needless to say, I was fired up!

In what was a bit of a sloppy affair, the HarbourCats actually outhit the Emeralds ten to five but ended up on the unhappy end of a 7-4 scoreline. The 'Cats spotted their cross-sound opponents a 7-1 lead before making some late noise and even getting the tying run on base in the eighth before fizzling out in the ninth.

About 280 hardcore fans were in attendance on what was definitely a "two-fleece" evening in downtown Victoria. In the
Cotton, pickin' pesky errors!
end, it was the four HarbourCat errors that really played into the outcome with only three of the seven North Sound runs being earned; cotton pickin' pesky errors!

New arrival Connor Suing from Western Oregon got the start, giving up only one hit but issuing four free passes in his three plus innings of work. Six runs crossed the plate on his watch but again, only two of those were earned.

Of the remaining Victoria pitchers, sidewinder Riley Edmonds probably pitched the best, keeping hitters mostly off-balance with his unique delivery. Edmonds gave up two hits and one run in his three innings on the bump, while striking out four and walking two.

North Sound starter Thomas Deboer went a solid seven innings, scattering seven hits and allowing three runs. He struck out six and walked no one before turning the game over to his bullpen which definitely wavered a bit, but pulled it out in the end.

In general the HarbourCats hit the ball pretty well but it always seemed to be right at somebody or just not quite deep enough. Both Chris Fougner and Sean Murphy had two-hit games for the 'Cats. "Foggy" also made an amazing slide at home, lifting his left arm out of the way just as the tag was being applied in a "now you see it, now you don't" move to score a run in the eighth inning.

It was also good to see a couple more regular faces trickling in such as Connor Suing and Shawn Kennedy from Georgetown (NAIA). In addition to these players, the full coaching staff was behind the bench, including Graig "Hollywood" Merritt in his first appearance as the Victoria head coach.

Baseball aside, there were a few other things that caught my eye tonight:
  • the "K" guys are back doing their stuff along the right field line - good to see you again!
  • it saddened me to see that the clock in centre fields STILL has not been fixed - perhaps there is a shortage of good horologists in the Greater Victoria area
  • the Spinnaker's Kolsch has also returned and looks as cold and delicious as I remember. Aside from Gabe Clark, this has to be my favourite returnee
  • I asked for a radar gun for Christmas for the 'Cats, but I didn't see one out there. I'm hoping they are saving it for opening day
  • and Bubba will be happy to see that all urinals are in full functioning least for a while
Now for a bit more on the NWCBL itself (the league that the Emeralds play in). It is a unique league where eligible players must be enrolled at a collegiate baseball program, be high school seniors with a national letter of intent signed or have played professionally and be looking to sign a pro contract. The latter category of player (more aimed at the pros) is encouraged to sign up with the Emeralds who not only play teams in this league, but also play exhibition games against other clubs (like the 'Cats...and the Bend Elks in prior years) and go into higher level tournaments throughout the season. The Emeralds are the only team in their division most likely because of their unique schedule. I guess that's one way of ensuring a pennant every year!

To get in this league, you simply pay your entry fee and then - assuming you meet eligibility requirements and there are still available slots - you are placed on a team based on your ability and experience level. Similar to my Sunday night beer-league hockey, you can ask to play with your buddy as well! Special note, Canadian players are welcome too!

Anyway, despite the outcome of the game today, it was still a great first night (for me) at the yard. Even though the weather was a little chilly and overcast, it was exciting to be in the friendly confines again. The green grass (with far less weeds than mine at home), the crack of the bats and the smell of ballpark food were like welcoming back an old friend. Yes Victoria, baseball has returned!

CWS 2015 has minimal impact on 'Cats roster

With Regionals weekend of the 2015 College World Series in the books, the HarbourCat roster has mostly become unburdened by the remainder of the tournament... Last week I reported six HarbourCats going forward into the tourney - a couple with a pretty good shot at moving forward, but thanks to a couple of upsets and some underdog wins, all but one have ended their college year and will not move on.

Henry Omana, still in the hunt...
Henry Omana's Cal State Fullerton squad emerged out of their regional with a perfect 3-0 record, including two wins over Nick Wojitysiak and Chase Lambert's Pepperdine squad, who finished second at 2-2. Oregon State had a tough tourney as well, going 1-2 and bowing out early, despite a win Friday that featured a clutch RBI by Michael Gretler. After that dramatic win, Gretler and Gabe Clark were sent packing with two straight losses.

In the most surprising upset of the tourney so far, UCLA was ousted in a two-game final by Maryland, ending the college season for Scott Jarvis.

While not a great feeling to be eliminated this early, it's great news for Victoria fans, as we will have the majority of our signed roster here much sooner than we did last year. We will miss Omana's closer talents for sure, but it will be nice to start the year with mostly full-time players.

Good luck to Henry Omana as he moves forward to next weekend's Super Regional in Louisville KY!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

HarbourCats first win of the season was a beauty, eh?

Matt Bryan had an auspicious debut with the 'Cats
This afternoon the HarbourCats opened their three-game preseason with a convincing 8-3 victory over the Langley Sr. Blaze, the defending Canadian senior men’s champions. The Blaze, a blend of former college and professional players, are normally tough competition for the regular HarbourCats roster, but today’s starting lineup featured six ‘Cats who were signed to 10-day contracts and seven Canadians in total.

The game was incredibly well played for an exhibition contest, as the two teams only committed a single error apiece and the game was completed in under three hours. In fact, I’d say that the game was more entertaining than an average regular-season game, so today’s $5 admission price was the best deal in town.

Centre fielder Matt Bryan of McPherson (Kansas) College gets my vote for player of the game. Bryan was signed to a 10-day contract last spring, but he rode the pine for one exhibition game and the first seven regular-season games before being released without ever entering a ballgame. Well, “Matty” made the most of his opportunity today, as the former Victoria Mariner went two-for-four with four runs batted in and a walk in his long-awaited HarbourCats debut. He also made an outstanding running catch in the top of the first inning to set the tone for the afternoon.

Shortstop Brady Rogers also looked impressive for the ‘Cats. The Nanaimo native doubled to lead off the bottom of the first and scored a pair of runs on the day. Although he only had one hit, every ball he put in play was struck sharply and he could have been credited with a single on a play that was ruled an error on the Blaze second baseman (it was one of those borderline plays that could have been called either way). Rogers also looked very good defensively, especially on a ball that was hit hard to his left in the bottom of the fifth. If he keeps it up, Brady should be around well past the end of his 10-day contract.

Chris Fougner
Chris Fougner, one of only two Canadians in uniform today who has been signed to a full-season contract, also looked good in his first game as a HarbourCat. Fougner went two-for-four with an RBI, three runs scored and a pair of stolen bases. He’s a dynamic player who will be a lot of fun to watch this summer.

Jackson Thoreson may have been held to only a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch in five plate appearances, but it’s clear that this young man can play the game. His reputation with the bat is well established, as is his excellent work behind the plate, but it’s always reassuring to confirm these things with your own eyes. I was especially impressed with the way he moved behind the plate and blocked balls in the dirt. He has a very good arm as well, and he may well be the best catcher we’ve seen in a HarbourCats uniform since Minnesota Twins farmhand Alex Real donned the tools of ignorance for the ‘Cats.

Victoria’s pitching was also very good on this day. Mikey Wright got his first start in close to a year, so he has a bit of rust to scrape off in the early going this season. His initial outing was as good as one could expect: one earned run on a hit and two walks in two innings of work. His big mistake was hanging a curve ball to Joe Germaine in the top of the second, but the solo shot did minimal damage on scoreboard.

Alex Rogers earned the victory by pitching three solid innings of shutout baseball. He struck out three batters on the afternoon and it seemed to me that A-Rog has a bit more pop on his fastball than he did last summer, but it’s tough the tell for sure without a radar gun.

Josh Walker of Grand Canyon University had one good inning and one not-so-good inning, but he has loads of potential. Bonus points for wearing your socks the right way, young Mr. Walker. Sean O’Toole of St. Mary’s College and Pitt Panthers lefty Josh Mitchell each pitched a scoreless inning to close out the victory.

"Anyone know when the shipment of
HarbourCats caps is due to arrive?"
When all was said and done, it was the 10-day players who carried the day for the HarbourCats. Not only did the fill-ins contribute with solid offense and defense, but they hustled at all times. Take for example Zane Takhar busting his butt down the line in the bottom of the sixth to avoid hitting into an inning-ending double play. He may have earned an RBI for himself on the play, but more importantly he helped extend the HarbourCats lead to three runs.

Only 8 of the 33 HarbourCats signed to full-season contracts managed to report in time for today’s preseason game, with most of the the remaining 25 players trickling into town over the next week or so. Now I realize that many of those 25 late arrivals have valid reasons for not getting into town by May 31st, but here’s a bit of unsolicited advice to the rest of the team: Don’t delay getting here any longer than you really have to and when you get here you better be ready to go, because those scrappy Canadian ballplayers are gunning to take your job.

  • Kudos to full-season players Jackson Thoreson, Alex Rogers, Josh Mitchell, Chris Fougner, Mikey Wright, Josh Walker, Sean O'Toole and Connor Suing for arriving in time for the start of the preseason, along with all of the 10-day players who allowed us to field a team on such an early start date.
  • Brady and Alex Rogers were on the field together for three innings this afternoon, marking the first time twin brothers have suited up together in HarbourCats history. Two other brothers have played together for the team: Austin and Ty Russell and David and John Schuknecht, both in 2013.
  • Those 25 full-season players aren’t the only ones who haven’t arrived in time for the start of preseason games. The entire coaching staff wasn’t in uniform today and head coach Graig Merritt is still in Ontario finishing his commitment to the reality TV show Big Brother Canada. Harbourcats General Manager / Co-owner / VP Baseball / Media Relations Director / PA Announcer / On-field Host / Ticket Taker / Program Seller Jim Swanson added another line to his baseball resume by taking over the coaching reins today. He now has a 1.000 winning percentage in his collegiate coaching career.
  • Former CTV Vancouver Island sports anchor Mira Laurence did an excellent job filling in for the regular PA Announcer in today’s game. Hopefully she’ll get more opportunities to handle those duties in the future.
  • I had the pleasure of trying the burger from the Floyd’s Diner food truck down the third-base line today. Many fans were disappointed to find out that Bin 4 Burger Lounge is unable to return to Royal Athletic Park this season, but all is not lost. While I’m not going to compare Floyd’s burger to Bin 4’s -- let’s be serious, B4BL is in a class by themselves -- I’m happy to report that burger fans are in for a treat once again at HarbourCats games. I ordered the regular burger and it was a nice mix of old-school and new-school style. The patty was high-quality beef, the bun was tasty and the fixings were simple and tasty. I give it 4 ½ out of 5 stars on the demanding Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog’s gastronomic scale.
  • I had a quick look at the plate of ribs available at Fat Daddy’s Catering, which is located on the first-base side of the park. It looked and smelled pretty darn good and the $10 price tag seemed reasonable given the portion size. It’s on my list of food items to try next.
  • I didn’t hear the official attendance announced and it’s not listed in the box score, but the crowd for today’s game was surprisingly good considering the overcast weather and the fact that it was “just” an exhibition game. The 50-50 pot was $497.00, so there were definitely more than just a few hundred fans in attendance.
  • The exhibition season wraps up with games on Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Tickets are only five bucks for these games, so come on down!
  • The regular season begins on Friday night when the HarbourCats take on the Kelowna Falcons at Royal Athletic Park. Game time is 6:35 p.m.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

HarbourCats sign two more Canadians, bringing total to 14

The HarbourCats signed two more Victoria natives to 10-day contracts yesterday to bring the total number of Vancouver Islanders on their roster to fourteen, a new high-water mark for the franchise. Eleven of the fourteen Canadians have been signed to short-term contracts, so it is unclear how many will still be around once all of the full-season players report.

Riley Edmonds
Right-handed pitcher Riley Edmonds has the talent to stick with the team for a lot longer than ten days. Edmonds filled in admirably for the HarbourCats last summer when a wave of early defections left the team extremely short of pitchers during the final week of the season. The former Victoria Eagle may have had no prior college experience at that point, but he still posted a 3.85 ERA and a stellar 0.96 WHIP in 9 ⅓ innings on the hill for the ‘Cats. Edmonds is coming off of an outstanding freshman season at Otero Junior College (La Junta, Colorado) in which he registered a 2.49 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 21 ⅔ innings, all in relief. Not only did he strike out more than a batter per inning this spring, but he also had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of almost 6:1. That rare combination of great control and the ability to consistently fan hitters was no fluke, because Edmonds had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of almost 9:1 in 2014 with the Eagles. He could be a valuable short man out of the HarbourCats bullpen this summer if given the chance.

Matt Bryan
The ‘Cats also signed junior outfielder Matt Bryan of McPherson (Kansas) College, an NAIA Division II school. Bryan put up a modest .266 / .333 / .394 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 109 at-bats with the Bulldogs, although he did finish in a tie for the team lead in home runs with three. In the spring of 2014, Bryan posted a .239 / .409 / .338 slash line with Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Oregon. Although the former Victoria Mariner wore the HarbourCats uniform last summer, he did not see any game action for the duration of his 10-day contract. Bryan was released on June 13th after riding the pine for the first seven games of the season, but let’s hope that he at least gets into a game in his second opportunity with the ‘Cats.

The HarbourCats roster currently sits at a whopping 44 players -- 45 if you count the injured Adam Alcantara. Broken down by position, the team has 16 pitchers, 5 catchers, 13 infielders and 10 outfielders. With only six of our players (Jarvis Scott, Henry Omaña, Nick Wojtysiak, Chase Lambert, Gabe Clark and Michael Gretler) participating in the NCAA Tournament, that can only mean that a significant number of our full-season players won't be arriving in time for the three-game exhibition season that kicks off on Sunday due to other reasons. My guess is that many of the eleven local players on 10-day contracts will be on the team for less than ten days regardless of how well they play (if indeed they play at all). Ah, the life of a 10-dayer...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

HarbourCats move towards the 2015 College World Series

Monday morning, the NCAA announced the 64 teams that would be participating in the 2015 edition of the College World Series tournament. This is of interest to HarbourCats fans, as the tournament runs parallel to the start of the West Coast League season and players on teams remaining in the tournament are delayed in showing up here in Victoria. This season, six HarobourCats will be extending their college seasons with hopes of winning a CWS title.

UCLA lifting the hardware in 2013
Perhaps the person with the best shot at hoisting the trophy is freshman infielder Scott Jarvis of the UCLA Bruins. Many analysts consider the #1 ranked Bruins as the odds-on favourite to make the finals on their side of the bracket.  Hoping to reclaim the title they won in 2013, they are hosting their regional tournament beginning Friday.

Three More HarbourCats will be fighting to advance against each other in another California-based regional. Call State Fullerton (Henry Omana) will play its first game against Pepperdine (Nick Wojitysiak and Chase Lambert) also on Friday night. Cal State holds the top spot in this regional and is expected to prevail into the Super Regional.

That leaves Oregon State (Gabe Clark and Michael Gretler) as the only other school sending HarbourCat players into the tournament. OSU is ranked second in their regional beginning Friday in Dallas.

On the Alumni side, ex-HarbourCat Kelly Norris-Jones and his Illinois Fighting Illini enter the tournament as the #6 ranked team in the country (some polls have them ranked as high as #3), hosting their own regional in Champaign. The Illini have had a fantastic season and have a decent shot of making the round of 16.

Teams winning this weekend’s regional tournaments will participate in the 16-team Super-Regionals around the time of our opening weekend. Teams making it past that point play in the CWS Final tourney June 13-23. For a full explanation of the process, see our blog post from last year on the Road to Omaha.

We here at the blog wish all of our past and future HarbourCats success and health throughout the tournament bracket.

Monday, May 25, 2015

‘Cats sign pair of locals

The HarbourCats roster continues to firm up as we get closer to Opening Day. While our favourite day of the year is only 11 days away, the team’s exhibition season begins even earlier -- this Sunday afternoon at 1:05 PM, to be exact.

Today we learned that two more local boys will be wearing the HarbourCats jersey, but unfortunately we also found out that Adam (A.J.) Alcantara of UC Irvine will be unable to spend the summer in Victoria due to a leg injury. But let's focus on the positive...

Brandon Feldman
The HarbourCats have signed sophomore 1B/RHP Brandon Feldman of Otero Junior College (La Junta, Colorado) to a 10-day contract. The former Victoria Eagles star enjoyed a breakout season with the Rattlers this spring by hitting .318 with 5 homers and 42 RBI in 151 at-bats. Feldman led the team in doubles (12), home runs, sacrifice flies (7) and slugging percentage (.497) after hitting a paltry .160 in 25 at-bats as a freshman. His offensive numbers shouldn’t really be a surprise, because Feldman was the MVP and batting champion of the BC Premier League in 2013 with the Eagles. Although he pitched five scoreless innings for the HarbourCats last summer, his lack of control has been his Achilles’ heel, and it’s pretty clear that his talents are best utilized with a bat in his hands. If he’s given a chance, this guy could put up some solid offensive numbers this summer.

Zane Takhar
Another former Victoria Eagle has been signed to a 10-day contract, 2B/SS Zane Takhar of Northeastern State University (NCAA Division II) in Oklahoma. Takhar was redshirted this spring, so he did not appear in any games for the RiverHawks. In 2014, Takhar hit .287 with no homers and 10 RBI in 129 at-bats with Eagles, but he did manage to post a .439 on-base percentage by walking more than twice for every time that he struck out (32 walks vs. 15 strikeouts). He’s only a singles hitter at this point of his career, but he’ll easily be able to hold down the fort until the big guns arrive in June. Takhar played second base against HarbourCats in a June 5, 2014 exhibition game at Royal Athletic Park and went zero-for-three with an RBI.

The ‘Cats have also signed freshman LHP Connor Suing of Corban University, an NAIA Division II school in Salem, Oregon. Suing did not make any appearances on the mound this spring and his high school numbers aren’t available either. About all we know about Mr. Suing is that he is a graduate of McNary High School in Keizer, Oregon and that he is scheduled to pitch for Western Oregon University (NCAA Division II) in the fall. He has been signed to a full-season contract.

  • The HarbourCats also announced an intriguing Ducks on the Pond promotion today. Details can be found in their official press release
  • The team also announced that tickets for their three pre-season games will be sold for only $5. Sounds like a deal to me!

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 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…

  • 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.


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.

  • 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.


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. 


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!