Now that, my friends, is how you sweep a team. For the first time this season, Victoria brought out the brooms and sent a team packing without winning a single game in a series. The last time you saw a HarbourCat sweep? One year ago, just after Canada Day, against those same Kitsap Blue Jackets.
As an aside, ever wonder why we call it a “Sweep”? There are two camps of thought on this when it comes to using the word about sports contests:
- Some say that the term comes from the image of using only a broom to sweep your opponent out of the way, meaning that the opponent put so little resistance, you could use a broom instead of having to mop or apply heavy scrubbing on hands and knees.
- Others contend that it comes from the original meaning of the word “Sweepstakes”, historically defined as a contest where one party sweeps all of the possible winnings into their lap. Think western poker match.
Regardless of which story you believe, it’s pretty cool when your team comes out on top without losing a game. It’s even better when going in, you were getting dangerously close to the point where your playoff aspirations were going to have to be put on the shelf until next season…
The true star of this series was once again the completely revamped pitching staff. The only word to use with the group this week, is outstanding. Three starters giving up a total of 1 earned run in 17.2 innings. Six relievers giving up a total of 1 earned run in the remaining 9.1 innings. That’s a .667 ERA in three games.
Monday’s starter Austin Dondanville gave up 5 hits and a walk in his 6.0 innings, Tuesday’s newcomer Jonathan Buckley gave up 5 hits as well with 3 walks, and Wednesday Matt Blais gave up only a single hit with 3 walks. Relievers gave up a total of 5 hits in their innings of work.
A couple of outstanding pitching series have lowered the team ERA to 4.17. That’s 8th best in the WCL, well behind Bellingham’s league-leading 2.69 – but the 4.17 is on pace to be the lowest ERA a HarbourCat staff have ever posted. Last year the team ended at 4.50, in 2013 the year ended at 4.32.
The bats were awake as well this week, firing at key times driving in runs when needed. Team average was .333 for the series on 34 hits. Griffin Andreychuk made a strong argument for getting more time at 2B, going 3-4 with an RBI on Wednesday, while new bag-mate Chase Lambert went 3-7 with a walk in his turns. Scott Jarvis also showed he deserves playing time at SS, going 5-10 with 4 RBI. Struggkles continued for Kevin Collard (2-9) and Michael Gretler (2-11) – Gretler did have 3 RBI, aided by a couple of sac flies.
A significant step forward for the team, they now sit at 11-16, tied for second in the West Division, 7.5 games back of Bellingham, and only 3 games in the loss column behind Yakima for a possible playoff spot. With the goal of getting to .500 still a major milestone, the ‘Cats got themselves pointed in the right direction.
Klamath Falls Gems Series Preview
As great as the sweep against Kitsap felt, momentum will be the key this weekend as the team travels to Klamath Falls Oregon. The “City of Sunshine” as it touts itself, is the farthest WCL city from Victoria just 20 km or so from the California border.
Klamath had a bit of an unlucky year in 2014. The Gems set a WCL record that most baseball teams would prefer to avoid – they finished 20 games back of division leader Corvallis, the farthest back a team had ever finished. They hosted the All-Star game, only to have it rained out – the only rainout at Kiger Stadium in 4 years. They had the highest ERA, had pitchers allow the most HRs allowed, most walks, and most wild pitches in a season…
This year, the Gems are sitting in a similar position. They currently hold a league worst 5-22 record and are riding a 7 game losing streak, their last win coming on Canada Day. They have been outscored 46-17 during the losing streak. They have also been swept in 4 of 9 series played so far this season.
Victoria is planning to show no mercy either as they aim to get closer to .500 at the expense of the Gems, sending Dominic Topoozian (2-3, 1.92) to the mound on Friday and Henry Omana (0-1, 3.64) to the mound Saturday. Alex Roger’s spot in the rotation has been skipped, and he could slot in to Sunday’s currently unannounced spot, but so could Austin Dondanville or even Jonathan Buckley. The first two games of the series and the use of the bullpen could influence the Sunday start.
The Gems will respond with Garrett Alvarez (0-2, 4.35), Michael McCall (1-2, 5.87), and Mickey Walker (1-3, 2.22). Of the three, Walker is the one to watch – he’s pitched very well despite his record, giving up no more than 3 runs in any of his appearances, striking out 23 on the season.
At the dish, the Gems are led by a familiar face – catcher Gunner Pollman, who started 9 games for the ‘Cats early last season has joined the Gems recently and is hitting .435 in his first 7 games with the club (he hit .087 while in Victoria!). OF Jessie Hilyard is hitting .304 in 22 games, and SS/PH Austin Fisher sits at .296, and leads the team with 13 walks in 27 at-bats. From there it gets light. The Gems have 9 players batting .184 or lower, and the team average is .220, scoring a league low 86 runs (3.18 per game).
The HarbourCats have raised their team batting average thanks to those big-hitting games against Kitsap, but sit just slightly above Klamath Falls at a combined .234, scoring 139 total runs (5.15 per game).
If Wednesday’s game is any indication, look for Victoria to alter its lineup a bit to give performing players more playing time. With Scott Jarvis showing good hands and a quick bat at short, Alex Degoti finds himself moving around to keep his bat in the lineup – already this year he has played at short, 3b, 1B, 2B, and even caught a game. He’s a pitched inning and some time spent in the outfield away from a Charlie Strandlund!
The trip to Klamath Falls is the first half of a six game road trip that also sees the ‘Cats in Medford before returning home next Thursday to face the powerhouse Bellingham Bells.
And now the poll – you know what to do…
Watch the blog tomorrow (Saturday) for another installment of the popular “Coaches Corner” with Graig Merritt!