Corvallis Recap – Kitsap Series Preview

As Yogi Berra used to say, it’s Deja vu all over again. It seems like I’m writing the same thing over and over – the recap of a series where Victoria should have come out on, that instead went the other way, taking the HarbourCats further away from the division leaders, with less time to make up ground.

This past weekend’s Corvallis series was once again an exercise in collective team futility. The offense it seems, took the weekend off…

IMG_0759

Collard looks, and finds his HR swing

As a collective, the team batted a dismal .155, and it gets worse from there. With only seven runs scored in three games, there were only 4 HarbourCats with an RBI. Thankfully Kevin Collard started to right his course – after going hit-less in 5, he connected for 2 hits over the weekend, both of them impressive home run bombs accounting for 4 of Victoria’s 7 runs and RBI. Six players failed to get even a single hit (Meyer, DeGoti, Polshuk, Floyd, Bonneau, Andreychuk) in 32 at-bats, six players registered only one (Gretler, Guibor, Thoreson, Pries, Fougner, Francis).

Scott Jarvis managed to go 2-6 with an RBI and a sac fly, new 2B Chris Lambert went 2-10, and Kevin Amezquita went 2-4 in his only action on Saturday. The only HarbourCat to have any true success in Corvallis was AJ Alcantara, who went 4-12 with a couple of walks.

As is beginning to be the case however, the pitching crew stepped up big-time. In the June 27 edition of Coaches Corner, coach Graig Merritt boiled it all down to pitching not being where it needed to be. In the course of the past couple weeks, that ship has turned around significantly. The pitching staff gave the ‘Cats every opportunity to win games this weekend. Both starters and relievers were as dominant as we have ever seen from a Victoria staff.

Starters Alex Rogers, Dominic Topoozian, and Henry Omana combined for 19.1 innings and 9 earned runs, a 4.24 ERA, well below team average to this point. Rogers was the only one of the three to not take the loss, yet all three had the lead at one point in the games they pitched. As a side note, this is the first time in HarbourCat history where they have led every game of a series, and were swept.

The relief core – which has been spotty at best to this point – was beyond outstanding. Only 2 runs were given up in 12.2 innings of work, a sparkling 1.48 ERA. A well-managed bullpen at that, with multiple relievers asked to work 1-2 innings max (with the exception of starters Matt Blais and Austin Dondanville who were brought in late to the 17 inning game once everyone else was used up).

It’s a huge step forward to see a bullpen coming together that can get an out when needed, and keep a team in the game. If the team was in the game to start with, that is…

Corvalis improved to 10-14, while the HarboutCats fell further into the basement of the West Division at 8-16, now 8.5 games behind Bellingham.

Series Preview – Kitsap BlueJackets

First, a schedule rant…

Who makes up the WCL schedule anyway? You have only two Canadian teams in Kelowna and Victoria, with Canada Day on the calendar each year, do you think you could give each of those teams regular season home game on those days to celebrate the holiday with fans? As it turned out, Victoria was on a break (as was Corvallis), and Kelowna was in Kitsap. Interestingly, both Kelowna and Victoria did not host games on the July 4th weekend either, both were in US cities and all 12 teams were in action…

And on a second dig at league schedulers, here we are once again, hosting the Kitsap BlueJackets. For the seventh, eighth, and ninth time the season, these teams will be squaring off – this time at RAP in their final meeting of the year. I’m all for sports rivalries, but it is somewhat diminished when the players change each season, and I personally have nothing against giant blue wasps to make it much of anything else…

But I digress…

bluejackets_logoKitsap is another team still performing under .500 on the season, meaning that 7 of 9 series for Victoria so far this year have been against losing teams. Hearing that at the start of the season would have been cause for optimism – but at this point with an 8-16 record , it’s cause for nothing but concern. Victoria is using up its prime opportunities to win games and win series against weaker teams. Eventually that luck will turn around, and the HarbourCats will start playing the top tier teams in the league – and it won’t be pretty.

Lets face it, the HarbourCats are the team everyone wants to play right now. As the last series showed, pitching seems to have turned a corner – both starting and relief, but the bats are simply not moving. Coach Merritt is struggling to find the lineup that will perform on any given night. Not for lack of trying, players are in and out of the lineup, up and down the order, but the right combination seems elusive at this point.

J-Bucks on his way!

J-Bucks on his way!

On a positive note, this week should see the final pieces of the roster puzzle fall into place. Chase Lambert will make his regular season RAP debut, and the pitching crew will see RHP Jonathan Buckley join the team. Buckley – who everyone seems pretty excited to see pitch, is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game, fresh off a stint with the SGV Arsenal. Rumored to have a fastball in the 90’s, lets not forget he just graduated high school a couple months ago. He may be the youngest non-10 day player in HarbourCats history? I’ll have to look into that one… While I think he will help, his will not be the presence that saves the season.

Kitsap comes to town losers of their last 4, with only 4 wins in their last 11 (2 against Victoria). They will throw Cameron Weinberg (0-3, 2.77 ERA), Jake Brewer (1-2, 5.40 ERA), and Colten Barnes (2-0, 0.69 ERA) on the mound, while Victoria will respond with Austin Dondanville (0-0, 3.37 ERA), Buckley (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and Matt Blais (0-2, 4.32 ERA). Both Blais and Dondanville worked 3.0 innings in the 17 inning Corvallis game on Friday night. On the positive side, we miss BlueJacket ace Adam Cline and his 0.64 ERA again!

Offensively, Alex Junior has been elevated to regular starter status and is hitting over .350 the last 10 games, and 3B Jake Scudder has a 5-game hit streak where he’s hitting .409. Brett Bautista continues to be Kitsap’s best hitter, coming in hitting .355 and riding a 7 game hit streak. Bautista has hit safely in 21 of 24 games this season, including 5 of 6 against Victoria pitching (10-24, .416).

On the Victoria side, Lambert has added a spark into the lineup we will see first hand, and let’s hope Kevin Collard is over his struggles and keeps hitting balls out of the yard. He now leads the team with 4 HRs. Michael Gretler has come back down to earth recently; he’s currently in a 2-18 slump against WCL pitching. Jackson Thoreson still leads the team with a .313 average but is also in a funk – apart from his 4-5 outburst against Wenatchee a week ago, he is hitting 2-16 in the other 6 games he’s played recently.

Yes, the offense is looking for a turnaround at home, and we’re all hoping the pitching train keeps rolling as it has, and everyone still has some gas in the tank. The poll? I’m not voting this week in an attempt to preserve what little sense of right vs. wrong I have left. I will leave it in your capable hands…

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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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