And that makes it six in a row…
A three-game sweep in Klamath Falls against the lowly Gems, and the Victoria HarbourCats are one win away from tying their longest winning streak in club history (7 games, set June 29-July 6, 2014). Once again, the story was the dominating pitching staff, and some timely hitting from a squad that is gaining confidence as it moves forward.
How good has the pitching become? In the last 9 games – including the three losses in Corvallis – the team ERA has run at a league-best 2.55, lowering the season ERA to 4.05.
The Klamath series saw fantastic starting pitching, and near perfect relief pitching for the second series in a row.
It didn’t begin that way… In game 1 Saturday, Dominic Topoozian had his toughest start of the season, giving up 4 earned runs (and 1 unearned) in 4 innings, striking out 2. He was almost felled by an 3-run home run in the 2nd inning, but the offence picked him up with a huge 6-run 4th inning, and Sean Kennedy II pitched three perfect innings to seal the victory.
In game 2 Henry Omana proved once again that he is the real deal, throwing five innings of 5-hit, 1-run ball, striking out 8 Gems in the process. Sean O’Toole was equally good out of the bullpen, closing out the game with 2 innings of 2-hit, 1-run relief.
Both of the games played Saturday were 7-inning games which is the norm for WCL double-headers, forced by Friday’s rainout – only the second rained out game in Klamath falls in their 5-year history. The other? Last year’s All-Star game. Maybe it has something to do with Alex DeGoti?
Sunday was back to a regularly scheduled 9-inning game, and Victoria used a committee on the mound. Austin Dondanville went the first 5 innings giving up only a single run on 8 hits and 6 strikeouts. Recent addition Tei Vanderford gave up a single hit in 2 innings of work, Josh Walker a single hit in 1, and Mikey Wright saw his first trip to the mound in 11 days go well with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Offensively, coach Merritt continued to move things around a bit, getting a total of 14 players into the three games. A couple of solid performances were key, including Chris Fougner’s 4-4 with 4 RBI performance in game 2, and Griffin Andreychuk’s 4-9 weekend that included a 3-run HR on Sunday. Austin Guibor and Kevin Collard had 3 hits with a couple RBI each, and Reno Rankin got some much-deserved playing time, going 3-7 with an RBI. Alex DeGoti (0-5) and Chase Lambert (0-3) were the only Victoria hitters to not register a hit in the series, and overall the team hit .353.
With the sweep, the HarbourCats have clawed their way back into the playoff wildcard race, sitting just 3 losses behind Yakima.
Medford Rogues Series Preview
In a well-planned bit of WCL scheduling this time, Victoria now makes the 90 minute trip from Klamath Falls to Medford Oregon to play the Rogues in a three-game set. The ‘Cats look to extend their 6-game winning streak against a struggling Medford team that has lost 7 of their last 10. Sounds worse than it is – 6 of those games were against Bend where they went 1-5. With the tough part of their schedule over with, the Rogues will be looking to break out against the lighter-hitting HarbourCats.
Medford is led by All-Star outfielders Dan Meyer (.336, 37H, 8HR, 23 RBI) and Derron Davis (21H, 8RBI, 15BB). Hotter than those two right now is the third outfielder Stefan Panayiotou, who hitting .435 over the past week of games. Despite the solid outfield, as a team, the Rogues are hitting a light .247 to this point in the season.
On the mound, Medford is planning to use Billy Olsen (2-0, 0.60 ERA) on Monday. Olsen has been used sparingly out of the pen so far this season, but in his start against Corvallis last week, he tossed 7 innings of no-hit ball. He should prove to be quite a challenge to Victoria hitters. Tuesday sees Gabe Genter (1-2, 5.94 ERA), and Wednesday A.J. Dean (1-2, 7.28 ERA).
Victoria is responding with Jonathan Buckley (0-0, 1.50 ERA) in his second start of the year on Monday, Matt Blais (1-2, 2.57 ERA) on Tuesday, and Josh Mitchell (1-2, 4.50 ERA) gets his very first start of the season on Wednesday.
Mitchell, who hasn’t thrown more than 2.0 innings this season is a fill-in starter to set the rotation for the Bellingham series that starts Thursday at RAP. The home series against the Bells will be important to the season’s success, and having the big guns lined up for those three games is an expected move. Surprisingly, Victoria now seems rich with quality starters in (newly-named WCL All-Star) Domonic Topoozian, Henry Omana, Austin Dondanville, Blaise, and Buckley. And don’t forget Alex Rogers – he has been mysteriously absent from the past couple of weeks despite a fine start his last time out. Could he be one of those big guns lined up for Bellingham?
The Medford series marks a bit of a turning point this season for Victoria. Past this, the remaining series get considerably tougher, with 5 of 6 against teams .500 or better. Winning this series is an important step toward a possible playoff spot. Losing it on the other hand, will make an already uphill climb a whole lot tougher.
The poll then, looks like this: