New goal in focus as ‘Cats head to Cowlitz

clinch1Let’s face it, the streak was awesome. Thursday’s division-clinching, record extending, firework-induced frenzy was without a doubt the franchise’s brightest shining moment to date. It’s as if every star and planet aligned, and everyone you knew was there to see it. A packed park, a decisive home team win, and fireworks to cap it off. If you missed it, ah man you should have been there – it was truly magical.

Friday’s Canada Day matinee double-header started out with more of the same. Parachutists delivering the game ball, Victoria starter Austin Dondanville mowing down Kelowna batters one after the other, and the HarbourCats cruised to another dominant 7-0 shutout victory, the 19th in a row. The team just couldn’t lose, no way, no how.

And then they did. A very sleepy second game of the day turned into a lethargic 2-1 loss. Despite coach Merritt’s best late-inning attempts to mix things up, and Cody Snider’s last-gasp effort to tie the game in the top of the seventh (his well-hit ball came up about 6 inches short of a game-tying home run down the right-field line), they left the tying run at second base as the game fizzled to it’s end.

streakAh so what. I hate to admit this, but ending the streak was not the end of the world. In fact, it’s almost a good thing. Any streaking team carries with it the huge burden of maintaining the streak at all costs. It’s the monkey on your back you secretly hope will one day leave you alone. Talking to the players about it while it was happening, they all seemed both elated to be part of it, but hesitant to call it the greatest season they have been part of. The pressure of being on every night, and not being the guy who ends the streak was beginning to take it’s toll. When that final out was recorded Friday afternoon, you could almost hear the sigh of relief in the park.

Ending the streak also allows the team to refocus on a new goal. It’s not just about winning today, it’s about focusing on the longer term. Now the goal is a season-long plan of beating the WCL record by winning 40 games or more this season. Of course by definition that also means “win today”, but it’s done so as part of a long-range plan. See the difference? It’s a Tony Robins thing. Long term goals breed short-term successes…

So just like that, it was back to work for the HarbourCats. Saturday’s decisive 10-4 thumping of Kelowna showed a team was back on its toes, fresh and focused on next level successes. Josh Mitchell delivered 8 innings of 5-hit, 1 ER ball, and Cody Snider continued to roll with another 4 RBI evening. And then, a perfectly timed schedule break gave players a couple days off to enjoy the city and their host families, a gave the coaching staff time to run some focused practices and tweak some smaller issues seen in the last couple of weeks.

2016 Series Preview - Cowlitz InstagramNow, the team finds itself cruising toward the all-star break with 12 games in as many nights, including 9 road games in three different cities. First up is a trip to Cowlitz to play the Black Bears. Cowlitz ended the first half at 12-15 – a .500 record against clubs outside Victoria. The Bears are still being led by a couple of outstanding pitchers – starter Kevin Baker and reliever Austin Dick. Baker’s only loss of the season came in his June 19th game in Victoria, when his defense let him down allowing three unearned runs to score in the bottom of a wild first inning. He scattered 6 hits over 5 innings and gave up no more runs that day. Dick, a situational reliever has appeared in 9 games for the Bears thus far, and has yet to give up a run – earned or otherwise – in 11.1 innings of work. The rest of the Bear hurlers are middle of the pack really, sitting closer to the bottom of the pitching stats than the top. Here’s how the teams match up on the mound:

HarbourCats

Black Bears
ERA 2.65 4.34
Complete Games 1 2
Hits 136* 215
Runs Given Up 76 125
Earned Runs Given Up 61 111
Walks Issued 85 134
Strike Outs 206 151
Home Runs 5 7
Doubles 21* 34
Triples 2 6
Offensive Batting Average .186* 0.25
Wild Pitches 24 32
Hit Batters 16* 26

* Indicates league leader

The Black Bears lead WCL pitching in one obscure stat though – they are the only team in the league to not yet be charged with a balk…

On offence, the Bears are led by… well, nobody really. Of their regular starters, stat leaders include catcher Justin Wakem who is hitting .295, 2B Andy Armstrong has 26 hits, and OF Weston Hatten has driven in 13. Armstrong and Hatten (as well as three others) have hit single home runs each for a team total of 5. Here’s how the teams compare offensively:

HarbourCats Black Bears
Batting Average

.282*

.248

Runs Scored

154*

106

Hits

217

219

Home Runs

16*

5

RBI

122*

95

Walks

117*

74

Steals/Attempts

45/65

30/43

Slugging Percentage

.397*

.307

Errors Made

22*

34

* Indicates league leader

bennyP2

Ben Polshuk digs (and hits) the long ball

Victoria still has 9 batters hitting over .300 on the year, led now by 3B Brad Pluschkell at .372, followed closely by OF Jarron Silva at .368. Silva sits just slightly behind Corvalis’ Andy Atwood who leads the WCL with a .373 average. Griffin Andreychuk sits third with .347. Cody Snider is actually hitting .358, but sits a couple of at-bats below the dreaded 2.7 AB per team game that is needed to be considered among the league leaders – he should get there by the all-star break. Silva leads the team with 21 hits, and Snider tops the RBI stats with 17. This year’s true surprise continues to be IF Ben Polshuk. Hitting 313 on 10 hits in 32 at-bats, he’s alo picked up 14 walks while striking out only 8 times. His 15 RBI is helped immensely by his WCL leading 5 home runs – including a Canada-Day grand slam.

Wednesday’s game 1 will see newcomer Cameron Schneider (0-0, 1.80 ERA) get his first start of the year against Chandler Greenfield (0-1, 3.70 ERA). Schneider went 4 strong innings in the June 30 clinch game giving up only a single hit and run – ok it was a bomb that left the park in a hurry, but he settled down after that…

Thursday sees staff ace Austin Dondanville (3-0, 0.83 ERA) go against aforementioned Bear leader Kevin Baker (2-1, 0.77 ERA), and Friday it’s lefty Josh Mitchell (3-0, 2.25 ERA) against David Appleby (1-2, 8.06 ERA).

Three solid starters who should keep Victoria moving towards it’s new goal for sure. And if you’re missing your ‘Cats this week and want to listen in, you can tune into KEDO AM1400 and pick up the live feed. And don’t forget – next home game is Saturday night, another fireworks night. Better get your tickets pronto if you haven’t already!

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About Brian

Avid baseball blogger since June 2012. Blogger, photographer, and graphics designer for both the defunct Victoria Seals Baseball Blog, and the first edition of the Victoria HarbourCats blog.
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One Response to New goal in focus as ‘Cats head to Cowlitz

  1. Eric says:

    Holy Crap. 14 walks and 5 bombs…I like this Ben Polshuk kid.

    Like

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