This past weekend’s series with Wenatchee looked like a solid opportunity to begin the journey back to .500 for a Victoria team that has struggled out of the gate so far. Unfortunately, that road got a little longer instead, as the ‘Cats dropped two of three games.
Offence and pitching were both up and down on the weekend, but never really firing together. Friday and Sunday saw dominant hitting displays with clutch hits to score runs – including both a five-run, and a six-run inning – while Saturday’s game saw missed opportunities in key situations and zeros across the board.
As a whole, this was a much better offensive series as the HarbourCats hit a respectable .238 on the weekend, with several standouts. C Jackson Thoreson slugged in 4 RBI on 5 hits in 8 at bats, raising his team-leading overall average to .333 on the year. Chris Fougner went 2-4 with 2 walks and 2 RBI, and PJ Floyd went 3-9 with a walk and an RBI. Kevin Collard struggled all weekend, going 1-9 with a walk, and last week’s team leader Michael Gretler was 1 for 6 – although he ended with a .500 slugging percentage with 4 walks. Pikai Winchester went 0-6 with a walk, and had a tough inning on Saturday making errors on back-to-back plays (neither led to a run though).
On the pitching side, a combined ERA of 6.0 hides an absolute pitching gem between two disappointing outings.
Friday’s starter Shawn Kennedy II didn’t make it out of the 3rd inning after giving up 4 runs – including a 3-run shot to SS Evan Douglas. Newcomer Henry Omana came on to retire six of the next seven batters, before giving up back-to-back home runs to 1B Mitchell Holland, and another to Douglas. Those 2 hits were all that Omana would surrender in five solid innings of work, and he left with an 8-7 lead. Alex Degoti fumbled a quite probable double-play ball that would have ended the 8th inning, and the error led to a run that tied the game at 8. Josh Mitchell loaded the bases in the ninth, and with the game on the line stepped off the rubber and was charged with a balk, bringing in the eventual winning run. Mitchell was charged with all two more runs in the 9th, and an 11-8 loss.
Earlier in the game, as part of a 6-run third inning, AJ Alcantara brought the crowd to their feet with a “little league home run” – that is, a triple that bounced past a diving center fielder, and induced a throwing error that sent the ball out of play to give AJ home plate. Alex DeGoti drove in the final run of the inning and game with his own triple to the wall, scoring Torin Goldstein.
The highlight of the weekend was Saturday’s pitching performance by The Dominator. Dominic ToPoozian, with his mother and father in attendance at RAP, threw one of the best games in HarbourCat history, giving up only a single run on three hits and no walks over eight innings. The only blemish on his day was another home run to Wenatchee SS Evan Douglas, his third of the weekend.
An outing like that is rare in the WCL, and is almost a guaranteed win, but the ‘Cats failed to score against to Wenatchee’s equally outstanding young starter Henry Wells – despite loading the bases with 1 out in the fifth. and getting to submarine-style closer Bryan Gabsby with a runner on third with 1 out in the seventh.
Sunday afternoon’s affair was another roller coaster for Victoria Fan. After jumping out to an early 8-1 lead after four innings thanks to some clutch hitting and a 3-run shot by Kevin Amezquita, Victoria gave them all back, thanks to a booted ground ball to short that almost certainly would have ended the sixth inning, and a wild pitch that led to three unearned runs with reliever Josh Walker on the mound. Kyle Francis gave up a 3-piece combo (hit, walk, HBP) without recording an out in the ninth, and Josh Mitchell couldn’t stop them all from scoring to tie it before being helped out by the rare 9-2-5-2-6 double-play.
Thankfully, Mitchell settled down after that to pitch two solid innings, and Wenatchee reliever Anthony Contonio lost all control, giving up a walk and two singles to load the bases in the bottom on the 11th before walking in Chris Fougner to win the game.
Another weekend highlight was seeing the usually stone-faced Alec Adame getting ejected after the umpire crew blew an obvious hit batter call Sunday. After coach Graig Merritt got nowhere with plate ump Will Hunter, Adame made a suggestion that was not well received and he was immediately tossed. A heated debate ensued, which finally needed Merritt’s gentle guidance to help Adame find his way to the showers.
An enjoyable if not frustrating weekend at the ballpark, where once again, a few small things here and there could have made all the difference. The HarbourCats fall to 5 games behind the division leading Bellingham Bells, stuck in last place in the West Division.
Next HarbourCat action is an exhibition set Tuesday and Wednesday against the Langley Blaze. Next WCL league action starts Friday with a 3-game set in Corvalis against the Knights, before returning home Monday July 6th against – once again – the Kitsap Blue Jackets.
No preview for the exhibition series, but watch the blog Tuesday for an exclusive interview with 2014 HarbourCat star and Toronto BlueJay draft pick Gabe Clark!