What a difference a few days make. Sunday, the entire fan base at RAP was crowded under the grandstand avoiding the torrential downpour that threatened to wash the entire park away, players and fans included. Thursday afternoon some of those same fans crowded into the stands once again – this time to get away from the blazing 30 degree heat that was turning the usually semi-comfortable plastic seats into skin-searing lava buckets.
And that wasn’t the only thing that was hot on the day, and during the three game set that was completed Thursday. The HarbourCats took 2 of 3 from the Cowlitz Black Bears, led by some amazing feats of batting prowess and some solid starting pitching.
Tuesday night Victoria got the series off to a fabulous start, scoring runs in all but two innings on their way to a dominant 15-4 victory. The night belong to several Victoria hitters, most notably 2B Griffin Andreychuk who went 3-3 with 2HR and 6 RBI, a stolen base, a sacrifice, and 4 runs scored. That’s a career game for most players. Chase Lambert went 3-5 scoring twice, Kevin Collard continued his rise up the average line going 2-4 with an RBI, and both Jackson Thoreson and PJ Floyd left the park – Thoreson’s HR a 3-run shot, PJ’s a solo.
Dominic Topoozian continued to show his All-Star arm, going seven strong innings of 4-hit, 3 run ball (2 earned). Mikey Wright surrendered a run in relief, and newbie Brett Irvine gave up only a walk in a scoreless ninth in his HarbourCats debut.
Wednesday started like Tuesday ended, with a first-inning HR by Andreychuk, and a 2-run triple by Alex Degoti in the second giving Victoria a 3-0 lead. After giving up a leadoff triple that later scored in the 3rd inning, starter Austin Dondanville ran into trouble in the fourth giving up 3 more runs to trail by 1. Victoria bats struggled the rest of the way, managing just 4 more hits off Cowlitz starter Chris Castellanos before he gave way to sure-thing closer Lars Rider, who struck out the side for his 11th save of the year.
Thursday in the sun, Victoria bats returned to form again as they banged out 12 hits in an 8-3 victory – the loudest hit a bases loaded blast by AJ Alcantara in the 4th inning. He finished 3-5. Collard, Degoti, and Scott Jarvis had 2 hits each on the day. Collard re-took the RBI lead on the team driving in 2 runs.
Starter Matt Blais, after waiting since Sunday’s rain-out to get back on the mound, went 6.1 strong innings giving up 2 earned runs and 7 hits. Relievers Sean O’Toole (1H, 2K), Tei Vanderford (0H, 1K), and Mickey Wright (1H, 1K) finished off the Bears.
Nearly 5,200 fans turned out for the three games giving Victoria over 41,000 on the year. Being at all three games, I think there must have been a hole in the fence Wednesday – just over 1,300 fans were counted at the gate, but the park looked as full if not more so than the other two days…
Going 2-1, Victoria ends the series with a 22-22 record. This marks the latest any Victoria team has ever held a .500 record since the 1950s (sounds Cubs-like, but don’t forget most of those years we didn’t have baseball in this fair city). Still, it’s a huge feat considering where the team was a month ago.
The playoff push is still alive and well thank you, now on with the show…
Wenatchee AppleSox preview
The AppleSox are the last of the sub-.500 teams the Cats play this year, coming into the contest at the bottom of the East Division at 21-24. The Sox are battling to end the year on a high note however, going 6-4 in their last 10, including their most recent 2-1 series win in Kelowna. Back in June, the Sox took 2 of 3 in a series at RAP.
Wenatchee is led by outstanding OF Keston Hiura. He was 3-13 in the first series between the two teams, but he’s been on fire the past month and is now batting .346 with 33 RBI – both team bests. Shortstop Evan Douglas is living up to his power-hitting college numbers and leads the Sox with 7 HR, good for second in the WCL. His 20 RBI on 32 hits are offset by his free-swinging nature however, he’s struck out 35 times.
On the mound, the Sox continue to be led by Gonzaga sophomore Hunter Wells (6-2, 2.60 ERA). Wells has 50 Ks in 55.1 innings of work, and a stellar 1.33 WHIP. He won’t pitch in the series though due to the rotation, so Victoria will face Micael Taylor (2-4, 4.73ERA), Gage Burland (2-2, 3.72), and Zach Haggert (5-2, 2.82).
Victoria will respond with Henry Omana (2-2, 2.85), Josh Walker (0-2, 3.37), and Dominic Topoozian (4-4, 3.11). Of the three, Walker is the obvious surprise choice. He’s had only a single start this season, taking a 3-2 loss to Cowlitz back on June 16. The 3.2 innings he pitched that night marked his longest outing of the season. In his last five appearances out of the pen, he’s given up a run each time in 10.1 total innings of work. With the season on the line, expect Walker to be on a short leash. In fact given the need for wins at all cost, you could say that about any of the series starters.
Missing from the squad is C Nick Meyer, who has left the team due to schooling issues. So far, he’s the only significant departure seen or expected. By this point last season, several regulars were leaving or had left already to get a head start on the school year (or to have a break prior to). With the team in the race, and a seemingly more connected coaching staff, players are sticking around to the end. A good sign for the team and fans alike.
At this point, Victoria is looking for wins, but is also watching the scoreboard hoping for losses by Corvalis and Yakima. A sweep against the AppleSox will go a long way to helping, but with only 6 games after this series, even a 2-1 split gets them perilously closer to elimination.
Will the team continue to roll and press on toward the playoffs? You tell me…