It certainly turned out to be the weekend that almost was. If there’s such a thing as a slightly alternate universe where those couple of things that went wrong never do, the HarbourCats played a fabulous weekend of baseball, and swept the Bellingham Bells for their fourth consecutive sweep.
- On Thursday night, with the bases loaded and two outs, Nick Meyer hit a ground ball up the middle that snuck past a ranging Jesse Kuet at second, driving in Austin Guibor and a speedy Reno Rankin from second, giving the Cats a walk-off victory.
- On Friday night, Austin Dondanville stands quietly on the mound in the 8th inning, and doesn’t adjust his foot, leaving the bases loaded going to the ninth. Scott Jarvis comes around to score in that inning after legging out a lead off single.
- On Saturday, Henry Omana was at the top of his control game all day, not throwing wild pitches or leaving balls out over the plate, and the Cats took a 2-0 lead into the 8th inning, holding on for their 12th straight win.
Yes somewhere out in the vastness that is the universe, all of these things happened as planned. Sadly though, not in our part of it…
Thursday Victoria did everything but win the game, coming back from a 5-run deficit to make it 5-4, only to see back-to-back home runs to restore the Bells 3-run lead. The bullpen gave up a total of four runs on the night, the first real blemish on the pen in the last 12 days. With bases loaded in the ninth, Meyer did spank that ball up the middle, but in a hail-Mary style stretch for the ball, Kuet picked the liner on a bounce and stepped on second for out number three. Victoria had ample opportunities to score throughout the game, leaving a total of 9 men on base – three of them at third with less than 2 outs.
Friday night Victoria was in control, holding a 4-0 lead going to the 5th inning. After giving up 5 and getting one back top tie it, the smallest of steps on the mound cost Austin Dondanville a balk bringing in the winning run from third (from my seat it looked like he was simply re-planting his foot around a loose dirt ball and didn’t actually lift his foot entirely, but that’s not how the field ump saw it). A very marginal call at best – but it shouldn’t have been the difference. Victoria left 13 men on base Friday, 4 of them at third base. Another questionable call to start the ninth cost coach Graig Merritt his second ejection of the season, battling it out with his old nemesis Chet Masse at first base. Merritt actually tossed Masse as well during the altercation, but sadly that ejection didn’t stand.
Saturday was a cooker in the sun at RAP as temperatures reached into the 30’s, and fans scrambled for shade where they could. Henry Omana was feeling the heat early, giving up a little-league run in the first (a walk, a steal, and two wild pitches) to put the team in a hole early. After later serving up 2 long balls, the cats clawed their way back again to within one run, but for the second time this weekend, the bullpen let all chances get away giving up three runs in the final 2 innings.
The result was a sweep in the wrong direction. All of those brooms Victoria has been thrashing around the park the last three series came back to them in a hurry.
It’s hard enough losing three games in a row – but three games you could have won, that’s a different level of heartbreak.
Offensively, it’s hard to say the weekend wasn’t full of success. Six Harbourcats hit .300 or better, led by an outstanding performance by OF Ben Polshuk, who went 3-7, with 4 walks, 3 RBI, and a massive .636 on-base percentage to go with his .429 batting average. Scott Jarvis went 4-12, and Austin Guibor added 2 RBI on a 2-5 weekend with 2 walks. Nick Meyer showed he appreciates more reps at the plate, going 3-10 with 2 walks, while also getting plonked twice. Michael Gretler, who has been fighing the ball for a while got himself back on track, going 3-11 with 2 walks, and a couple of key RBI.
Perhaps just as impressive as all that, was Kevin Collard’s weekend. While he went only 1-4, he also drew 4 walks. Last month those would have likely been strike-outs. Collard is learning to recognize the curveball, and lay off the balls in the dirt. That alone makes him a more dangerous hitter now than he was when he got here. It will be interesting to see how he gets pitched the rest of the season showing that new kind of discipline.
The offence was firing above average, which recently would have secured victory for the Cats, but they were let down by some mediocre pitching performances. Starters were an un-spectacular 0-2 this weekend, as only the All-Star Dominic Topoozian escaped with a no decision. Topoozian, along with Alex Rogers and Henry Omana gave up 12 of 20 runs in the series, a 7.90ERA in 13.2 innings of work for the starters. Relievers didn’t fare much better, giving up 8 runs in 9.1 innings, a 7.71 ERA.
Rogers had perhaps the most disappointing start of the three, looking rusty in giving up 4 runs on 6 hits to start Thursday’s game, after a long rest period between starts. Still, he had almost escaped the loss until Tei Vanderford gave up his first 2 runs of the season on back-to-back home runs, with 2 strikes on each batter.
Victoria committed 3 errors in the series, but none of them were costly – all 20 runs given up were earned.
With the losses, Victoria falls to 17-19, trailing not only Yakima, but now the Walla Walla Sweets who have snuck into the race for the last playoff spot with a pair of surprising wins over league-leader Bend. Still 3 back in the loss column, the HarbourCats will need to play some significantly impressive ball over their final 18 games to have any hope of making the post season this year.
One area Victoria is showing no signs of slowing down on though, is attendance. A weekend of superb weather, great baseball, and a team on a 9-game winning streak brought the crowds out in a major way, raising the average attendance to 1,823 a game – over 400 more fans a game that second-place Corvalis, and about 250 more per game than last year which equates to a 14% increase. Victoria does love their winners!
This week sees a short break to fit in the All-Star game in Bellingham. Good luck to “The Dominator” as he represents Victoria in the game. The rest of the team joins him down there on Tuesday for another three game set against the Bells – watch for our series preview tomorrow!