Friday marks the start of a three-game series up in Kelowna at Elk Stadium with the Falcons. The 5-1 Falcons lead the North division, while the HarbourCats used this week’s home stand to pull back to .500 at 3-3.
And what a week it’s been so far! Tuesday’s home opener gave us everything you could hope for from a major sporting event – a solid entertainment spectacle from beginning to end, with so much to see and do, great food, a huge crowd, and a home team that really rose to the occasion.
The baseball was top-notch all week long, and gave us a taste of what we should expect to see from the HarbourCats this year winning all three games; the first two convincingly, and the last with a late-inning comeback featuring some clutch hitting and timely defense. I’ll be the first to admit that Wenatchee seems to be one of the weaker looking teams at this point in the season (they are still awaiting several key player additions to their lineup), but it was solid play by the ‘Cats that made these games as lopsided as they ended up. The now 0-6 AppleSox hit just .164 over the three games and committed 8 errors – six of them on Wednesday alone, leading to their demise.
The HarbourCats on the other hand did nothing but impress. Starting pitching was nothing short of extraordinary. Opening-night started Dalton Erb couldn’t be touched it seemed, and he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. He left the game after going eight complete innings, giving up only a single hit and a walk while striking out 13. The secret is definitely out – his 6’9” imposing frame will be a force in the WCL this season. Returning ‘Cat Nick Wojtysiak finished off the game giving up a run on a couple hits.
Game two starter Colin Ashworth performed nearly as well, going seven strong giving up 2 earned runs on 5 hits. Reliever Creed Smith suffered through a nervous debut before Skyler Henderson and Greg Casper finished off the night.
Game three started slow for Victoria, and turned into a dog fight for starter James Kannenberg who was got his second start of the season and overcame a couple of early errors to go 5 strong innings without allowing an earned run. Home town reliever Ethan Skuija got the win in relief as the HarbourCats came from behind with some clutch at-bats by Matt Warkentin who worked a 9-pitch walk, and Dakota Dean who laced a 2-run double to left-center.
Other notable and impressive performances included:
Catcher Riley Guntrip, who caught the first 2 games and DH’ed the third. He was a wall behind the plate and contributed 4 hits and an RBI. Riley should make the jump from his 10-day status, and he’d be a welcome addition who has earned a full-time spot for the summer.
Shortstop Wyatt Young, despite being years younger than most of his teammates, shows skills beyond his years on the field. The grade 10 student all the way from Honolulu has made good on 21 or 22 balls hit to him this season, including a ball Wednesday that he seemed to get to on the other side of second base. It’s a treat to watch the way he approaches the game and guns down runners.
Left-fielder and lead-off man Cody Snider seems to be in the middle of every rally, contributing 4 hits and 5 runs scored in the first two games, including hitting the club’s first homerun of 2016 in a 3-5 opening-day performance.
PJ Floyd had a great series, going 5-12 while playing some confident third base. For the returning HarbourCat, it’s either feast of famine, as he’s offset his 6 hits with a team-leading 10 Ks.
Center-fielder Jarron Silva sat out Tuesday’s opener, but responded by going 4-9 in the next two. His speed in center helped him track down a couple hard-hit balls as well, stealing a couple of Wenatchee hits.
In all, a great showing. Plenty of up-side with this team, it seems that the pitching staff is a little ahead of where they were last year – and there’s still a couple of key players still to come. Offensively is difficult to tell at this point if they will hold up to tougher pitching than what Wenatchee posed, but again, early impressions are good.
As for the Kelowna series, I think this is going to be the true barometer of where Victoria sits as far as early talent. Kelowna has been on fire to this point, going 5-1 including a 3-0 sweep of Walla Walla on the road – the team Victoria couldn’t muster a win against. At least opponents have been close as their 5 wins have been by a total of 7 runs. Close games decided late, and every single game they had been trailing at some point. Seems like the key with them is if you can manage the late innings with some decent relief pitching you give yourself a chance.
Interestingly, the Falcons have only one returning player on their roster to this point, SS Lane Lacrone. Lacrone is dominating the Falcons offense, batting .391 with 9 hits and 6 RBI. Left Fielder Daniel Priwin is 6-11 on the year, and lead-off Center Fielder Joe Shepherd has scored or driven in a third of Kelowna’s runs. Kelowna starters have an ERA just under 4 per game, while the relief core comes in slightly higher at 4.66. Victoria bests both of those numbers and as a team, runs an ERA of 3.53 through the first 6 games.
Victoria starters have been announced as Josh Mitchell (0-0) Friday, Casey Costello (0-1) Saturday, and Will McAffer (0-1) Sunday.
Prediction time: Victoria will be in tough against the Falcons, and will manage only a single win in the three games. But then again, I haven’t been right yet!