Series Preview – Cowlitz Black Bears

Cowlitz logo1Didn’t we just talk about these guys? Why yes we did… In an unusual scheduling move, the WCL is letting the teams spend an entire week together, with the next three games at RAP in Victoria. What’s even more unique about this situation is that Cowlitz could see two completely different HarbourCat teams…

After finishing the road trip with only 17 players, the bus arrived back at RAP to another 10 waiting to play their first game for the white and blue. This weekend coach Merritt will have close to his full roster to draw from, including a couple new top-shelf performers who are expected to keep the bases full and the scoreboard lighting up:

  • Griffin Andreychuk will make his 2015 debut. Last year’s feisty leadoff man from Nanaimo will be a welcome addition to the top of the order.
  • Two MLB draftees in corner infielder Michael Gretler (Oregon State) and 2B Pikai Dubuque-Winchester (Hawaii) will solidify the infield.
  • OF AJ Alcantara, who hit .360 for Wenatchee last summer brings his consistent game to the park as well, giving the cats another solid member of the outfield core.
  • IF Alex DeGoti will make his triumphant return to Royal Athletic Park, resuming his spot at short stop, moving Floyd over to 3B

The new blood creates an interesting dilemma for coach Graig Merritt. With Gretler,  PD-W, Degoti, and Griff in the park, there’s a glut of hard hitting solid defensive infielders. It’s a good problem to have, but managing everyone’s playing time becomes more difficult. At least now in those late innings when he looks to the bench for a pinch-hitter, there’s someone there with a bat…

Cowlitz on the other hand, might just be the league’s bottom dweller at season end. At 3-6 – two of them being the two wins last week against the depleted HarbourCats, they seem to be relying heavily on their starters to keep them in low scoring games.
Team batting average is about the same as the ‘Cats at .234, with only OF Slate Miller lighting it up at a .375 clip.

On the mound, Joe Balfour mastered Victoria on Monday night but surprisingly is not a listed starter in this series. Likewise, Alex Rogers will be an unlikely starter this series as well, having just started in Wednesday’s win. He may see an off-day inning at some point, but don’t count on it.

  • Abbotsford native Emilio Foden (1-0) will start tonight’s game for the Bears, up against Shawn Kennedy II, who’s 0-2, 5.10 ERA is not a great start to his “Excellent Adventure” here in Victoria *.
  • Saturday the Cats have announced Vancouver native Luke Manuel will get the start while Cowlitz sends Josh Johnson (0-0, 5.40 ERA) to the mound. Johnson had a solid  college year that saw him go 5-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 10 starts.
  • Sunday Cowlitz has announced hard-throwing Seth Rayburn (0-1, 7.36 ERA), while Victoria hasn’t committed yet. Lots of new faces on board, so look for someone you haven’t seen before…

Predicting this early in the year is always tough, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that Cowlitz doesn’t have enough pitching to handle the upgraded Victoria lineup. While I’m not sure Victoria is king of the hill either, I’ll give them the edge in any slug-fest that may develop, and the HarbourCats will have their first sweep of the year. Bold prediction yes, but you gotta put it out there sometime. You feeling lucky? Enter your prediction here: 

And I haven’t talked about Gabe Clark. Sadly for us, I suspect this weekend Gabe will sign with the Blue Jays and be on his way to Dunedin. Fantastic news for Gabe and his family – while we will miss him, we at the blog wish him the absolute best of luck.

Remember game start times Friday and Saturday are at the new earlier 6:35 time, and Sunday is a 1:05 matinee.

* If you didn’t get the reference: SK2 is from San Dimas california… If you still don’t get the reference, it’s because I’m older than you…

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About Brian

Avid baseball blogger since June 2012. Blogger, photographer, and graphics designer for both the defunct Victoria Seals Baseball Blog, and the first edition of the Victoria HarbourCats blog.
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