Tonight we will be part of a little bit of West Coast League history as the Gresham GreyWolves play their very first road game ever at Royal Athletic Park. The GreyWolves are the WCL’s newest franchise – we posted about them last October as they announced the move from Klamath Falls, where they began life as the Gems. With the shift in location, the team traded its potatoes in for the more ferocious lupus, and the GreyWolves were born.
Through their first six games at home, the GreyWolves are 3-3, opening 1-2 against Cowlitz, then taking 2-3 from Yakima Valley. What’s surprising about the first two series though, is the lack of early fan base. The move from Klamath Falls, where the team averaged 562 fans per game last season was done in part to appeal to a larger population base, but that hasn’t resulted in gate receipts for the team as of yet – they are averaging only 286 fans per game, their high being opening night’s 337 (a 9-4 victory).
As an aside, the attendance blip is not unique to Gresham… Attendance is generally down around the league to this point – even our mighty HarbourCats experienced smaller that usual crowds over the first three games, including Thursday’s paltry 927 fans – Victoria’s first sub-1000 crowd in two years. Come on Victoria – you wanted a winner, the team is 5-0 in it’s last two series – get your butts to the park and support your team!
The last two HarbourCat wins came at the expense of the Kelowna Falcons. After being rained out on Friday and Saturday nights, the skies finally parted long enough to get in two seven-inning double header games on Sunday, with Victoria taking both games. A come-from-behind victory in the first game, which included a clutch 2-out game tying single in the top of the 7th inning by Hayden Jaco to score Matt Smith. The extra-inning eighth turned into something legends are made of, as Victoria scored four times to take the lead and win the game. The legendary part, was the bench-clearing brawl that ensued after HarbourCat 1B Matt Warkentin slid hard into second base to break up a double play, upending Falcon’s SS Lane Lacrone. Lacrone took exception to the play, the dugouts emptied, and it suddenly looked more like a Royals-Rockets game (ouch, there’s a bad memory from the spring) than a Cats-Falcons game. Warkentin was ejected for his part in the fracas, along with a pair of Falcons.
My guess is we will look back on the brawl as a bit of a solidifying point for the team. A coming together if you will, similar to what happened on last year’s mid-season road trip that turned the team around. After the game, plenty of player Instagram and twitter feeds were alight with comments about it and how “there is nothing like a brawl to bring a team together”. Might be a bit early for a season-altering moment, but every little bit counts.
Kelowna fell to 5-3 with the losses, while Victoria raised their record to the same. Both teams sit atop the North division going into this week’s games.
Now Gresham comes to town, trying out their road uniforms for the first time (well, technically the have worn them at home, but this time it’s actually as an away jersey). We may get to see their third jersey this week as well, which is an interesting nightmare-inducing camo number made entirely from wolf eyes…
Gresham is led early by OF Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. who was yesterday named West Coast League Player of the Week. Mitchell Jr. bolted from the gate, going 11-20 over his first six games while driving in 5 runs and scoring 7 more. He’s had a hand in almost half of Gresham’s 28 runs so far this season. The team is scoring plenty as well, averaging 4.6 runs per game to this point. Another notable first-week performances was turned in by fellow OF Drew Curtis who while hitting only 4-20, has another 5 RBI. Pitching has been an interesting experiment for Gresham so far, as they have used a different starter in each of their six games. They are getting good performances though, as they are averaging over 6 innings a start. Saturday’s starter David Wallum didn’t give up a hit in 6 his innings of work, while Andrew Heideman (1.12 ERA in 8 innings) and RHP Brett Gannaway (1.50 ERA in 6 innings) look like they could anchor their early staff. Heideman is the only one of the three scheduled to start in this series (Wednesday), and we will see Gabe Benavides (1-0) Tuesday, and Aaron Shoup (0-1) on Thursday.
Victoria lists Will McAffer (0-1), Colin Ashworth (1-0), and James Kannenberg (0-1) as starters for the series. Victoria continues to be led offensively by OF Jaron Silva (.381), 3B PJ Floyd (9 hits), and OF Cody Snider (6 RBI, 1 HR).
But hold the phone, the cavalry has arrived! Suddenly the roster his filled out with this week’s additions of late players, and it’s a spectacular sight to behold:
- 2B Griffin Andreychuk is here, and his early arrival should ensure he gets enough at-bats to challenge for the WCL batting title.
- OF AJ Alcantara will add some power to an already hard-hitting outfield lineup.
- RHP’s Austin Dondanville (2.80 ERA last year) and Josh Walker (3.96 ERA) will shore up an impressive pitching core.
New faces abound as well, with the addition of this year’s HarbourCat newbies:
- Infielders Cameron Cannon (Univ. of Arizona/2016 Diamondback draft pick), Domenic Colacchio (Long Beach State), and Brad Pluschkell (UC Davis)
- Outfielders Ryan Anderson (UC Davis), and Matt Lautz (UC Santa Barbara)
- Pitchers Blake Hannah (UC Davis), Ryan Steindorf (UC Davis), and Kyle Mora (UCLA)
The Cats have also announced two more returning players signed for the season – OFs Austin Guibor and Ben Polshuk, making it 9 returning players on the 2016 roster. Expect those two within the next week or so.
Of course with all the new players arriving, some of the 10-day players have been released, including IFs Justin Brown,Justin Bundy LHP Evan Smith, RHP Ethan Skuija, C Codi Guillory, IF , and IF Lucas Soper.
It was nice to have these guys in town, we thank them for their service and time here, and wish them best of luck in the future.
With all those changes, here’s the updated depth chart, pending some obvious positional changes we are likely to see over the coming weeks:
Lots of changes to watch for this week, with six games in six days at home we should really be able to see the team take shape. I suspect Tuesday’s starting lineup will see several changes, and by the time we get to the Sunday Father’s Day game, it may not look much like what we have seen so far. Tough to suggest you should tinker with a first-place team at all, but these are the players signed to do a job here this summer. It should be fun to watch the evolution…