Here we go again, into the second half of a back-and-back series against a division rival – this time, the Bellingham Bells. And unlike the classic Christopher Walken SNL skit, if there’s one thing Victoria needs, it is NOT more Bells…
There’s not much more to say that we haven’t talked about already with this team. The Bells are a very consistent team, sitting atop the West division with a 24-12 record. As we saw last week, offensively they are on par with the HarbourCats – no superstars, a couple moderate power hitters, no speed demons on the basepaths… They are hitting a modest .245 on the season as a group – lower than Victoria’s combined .248. They have only a single hitter in the WCL top 20 (catcher Bronson Larsen is 15th). In comparison, Victoria’s first entry is Kevin Collard at #25 on that list. In fairness, both Griffin Andreychuk and Scott Jarvis would be further up that list, but neither have the minimum number of at-bats to qualify yet.
Offence is not the way of the Bell this year, but their pitching is another story… The Bells lead the entire WCL in a few key pitching categories – they have given up the fewest hits, runs, and earned runs. They have the lowest team ERA and slugging percentage against, and opposing teams post the lowest batting average against them to this point in the season. If you believe the old adage that defense wins championships, then Bellingham is your team.
What I liked about Bellingham when they were in town last week, was the look of the team. The Bells look like a team, not just a collection of players. The comradery the players exhibited over the three games here seemed unparalleled by other teams that had visited RAP so far – even more so than the home squad. Their bench seemed to flow with energy and enthusiasm as a unit of one, making them a tough opponent to play. From my seat at least, they seemed to be in control of their game the whole time – and it ended up showing on the scoreboard.
I also liked seeing familiar faces. The Bells have five returning players this year, including outfielders Walker Olis and Lou Della Fera, IF Dustin Breshears, and pitchers Zach Johnson and Andrew Summerville. Like our own Alex DeGoti, Walker Olis is enjoying his third season with the team, perhaops earning him the title of “Mr. Bell”?
For this series, pitching rotations have not been set, likely pending the impact of all-star work last night, which saw three Bells pitchers toss one inning each. Probably not enough work to throw off a rotation at this point in the season, and nobody threw more than a handful of pitches anyway… In the last series we were lucky to escape the Bells tough righty Andrew Kemmerer, but we won’t be so lucky this time. Kemmerer started the All-Star game last night so he may get today off before going Wednesday, but he will bring his 1.45 ERA to the mound at some point. We may also see lefty Andrew Summerville (1-1, 3.17), and righty Zach Johnson (1-1, 1.62) who has pitched outstanding since being given a starter role.
Victoria likely has everyone by All-Star Topoozian available for the series, and look for Jonathan Buckley (0-0, 1.08), Austin Dondanville (2-1, 2.34), and maybe Matt Blais (2-2, 2.65). I’m not sure what’s up with Alex Rogers, but he didn’t fare well against the Bells last week so likely won’t get another chance in this series. Still, if the ‘Cats are 2-0 after the first two games, anything could be possible for game three, with wins being a needed commodity at this point in the season.
At the plate, look for Griffin Andreychuk to bounce back after a tough set against the Bells last week that saw him go 2-11. Griff still leads the Cat’s offense hitting .340. Scott Jarvis and AJ Alcantara are next at .316 and .313. Chris Fougner continues his steady play, still hitting .304 on the season while leading the team in outfield putouts with 42. His cannon for an arm in LF has stopped more than one opposing runner at third base as well, a stat they don’t track in the WCL stat book – but it’s impressive just the same.
Poll time, what do you think will happen this week in Bellingham?
Game times are 7:05 each night in Bellingham, and you can listen to Bells play-by-play guy Erik Oas call each game here: https://www.network1sports.com/station/bellinghambells.