Fresh from splitting a couple of hot and sticky Canada Day-themed exhibition games played against the Langley Blaze (the team that Baseball America calls Canada’s best) the HarbourCats make long journey to Corvallis Oregon to play the Knights.
In 2013, Corvallis dominated the league posting a 37-17 record while winning the WCL title in four straight games. Last season they remained dominant and lost a total of 19 games all season – making it once again to the WCL title series, losing to Bellingham in a three-game series. All time, Victoria is 1-5 against Corvallis.
The 2015 Corvallis Knights then, are a serious departure from history. Yet another team struggling to get themselves to the .500 mark on the season, they come into this series with a 7-14 record – 1 game behind Victoria in league standings.
While it appears in the win-loss column at least like these teams are on even footing, it’s important to note the quality of opponent faced to this point in the season as a contributing factor. While Victoria has played only two of seven series against teams above .500 (Kelowna and Bend), the Knights have had a brutal start to the year playing 5 or 7 against league-leaders (Bend x 3, Yakima, and Medford). Corvallis is 1-8 against Bend, accounting for half their losses.
Like Victoria’s roster, early season fill-ins have been replaced by a more solidified roster at this point, led by some outstanding hitters. Catcher Andy Cosgrove is hitting .423 in 9 games so far, and is getting better it seems with each outing. Two Oregon State middle infielders are also on the rise for the Knights – Christian Donahue has raised his average 120 points in the last 10 days, while Nick Madrigal has done the same, hitting .300 over the same time frame.
Playing Bend a bunch doesn’t help your pitching stats much (ask Mikey Wright, Nick Wojtysiak, or even Chris Fougner about that), so the numbers on paper are a little off potential. Lefty Cory Nelson should see action in the series, fresh off his start last Saturday, a dominating 7-1 win in Medford. The remainder of the series is unknown. The Knights team ERA sits at 5.10, but it’s been steadily declining over the past 10 games.
UPDATE: Corvallis has announced their starters. Slater Lee (0-0, 291 ERA is scheduled for Friday, Ryan Walker (1-2, 5.29) Saturday, and the aforementioned Cory Nelson (2-0, 1.92 ERA) will go Sunday.
Thanks to the exhibition games, the HarbourCats are able to reset the starting rotation for this series, and will send Alex Rogers (3-1, 1.92 ERA), Dominic ToPoozian (2-2, 1.50 ERA), and Henry Omana in his first start of the season (0-0, 3.00 ERA).
On offense, Victoria continues to be led by the trio of C Jackson Thoreson, OF Kevin Collard, and 3B Michael Gretler. PJ Floyd has established himself as a reliable first baseman, and Alex DeGoti is performing well at SS. The true enigma with this team remains at second base…
Last year starter and returning HarbourCat Griffin Andreychuk (.267, 1 RBI) has been platooning with Pikai Winchester (.214, 0 RBI) and Scott Jarvis (.200, 1 RBI). Even Alex DeGoti has spent time left of the bag this year.
Defense has been adequate, but offense from that position has been woefully absent to this point. This series however marks a change in staff, and help is maybe here.
Winchester has been released, and Chase Lambert has arrived from the Pepperdine Waves. Lambert played in the exhibition game on Canada Day and showed promise, going 2-4 with 2 RBI. A high-school star, as a freshman he played in only 25 games last year and hit .174. He’s here to get more playing time and at-bats to hopefully raise those numbers.
Jarvis seems to have moved to back up Alex DeGoti at Short, leaving Andreychuk and Lambert to platoon at second. Expect Lambert to see some concentrated playing time over the next couple of weeks to see it he’s as good as the team thinks he is. I suspect it will be a short leash on Lambert, as Andreychuk is at least a known commodity – last year he hit a similar .271 in 41 games in mostly a lead-off role, and he seems to have reined in his free-swinging strikeout tendency so far this year so he should hit better than that. Regardless, the Cats 2B position has gotten better in the last 48 hours.
With no end to the current heatwave in sight, west-central Oregon is expecting temperatures in the 36-39 range for this weekend. Maybe platooning wouldn’t be such a bad idea anyway…
And now the poll! Given Victoria’s starting rotation is perfectly aligned, my guess will be for a 2 win, 1 loss series. I wouldn’t say my confidence is high, but one has to believe that eventually the bats and pitching will align for an entire series. While not the Knights of old, it would feel really good to have that happen this weekend.