The blog is on holidays for a week or so, so not much time for in-depth coverage, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give a couple quick updates right?!
First off lets talk about the Bellingham series… It doesn’t seem to matter where the teams are in the standings, nor the players themselves, but the Bellingham Bells always seem to play Victoria tougher than most teams. There really is no explanation for it other than the fact that the team is perennially well managed and well put together. They just seem to be a force, and always have been. Last week’s three games at RAP continued that feeling and I must say it’s the first time this season the HarbourCats seemed on the ropes for long periods of time. Bellingham took two of three games to hand the HarbourCats their first home-series loss of the season, only their second of the year – and they almost staged a miracle comeback to steal the third game as well.
The Bells had better pitching than Victoria did. Maybe not individually, but certainly as a collective. Individually of course, Will McAffer was absolutely masterful through seven no-hit innings, and the night before, Blake Hannah had another fine start looking dominant through the first four. In the final game, Cameron Schneider carried the team through seven innings of 4-hit ball. Starters get an A+ for their work in the series for sure. The relievers were a different story – a 7.77 ERA, and 15 runs scored in 8 innings of relief work wasted all but Schneider’s effort. By comparison, Bellingham relievers gave up only 2 runs in 13 innings of work.
Offensively the Bells were simply more consistent. Victoria survived the series with respectable efforts from a few, while others continue to struggle mightily in the dog-days of the season. The team hit a light .252 on the series, led by AJ Alcantara who went 4 for 8 on the series – all of them in the third game. Matt Lautz took advantage of some increased playing time and also hit .500 for the series (3 for 6). Austin Guibor broke out of his slump, picking up hits in the two of the games he played in, as did C Riley Guntrip who hit 3 for 7 in the series. Lautz and PJ Floyd were the only HarbourCats to cross the plate more than once in the series.
One thing worth mentioning, was how clean the games were. Bellingham committed only 2 fielding errors in the three games, while Victoria had only 3. We’ve seen some fairly costly errors this season from opposing teams, and at least once a game you can expect to see a ball thrown away or getting by a fielder, but such was not the case in this series. Victoria leads the league in clean play, committing only 33 errors so far this season. Bellingham had 53 coming in, nearly double, but did a great job of not giving anything up in the three games.
Other notable things included AJ Alcantara’s leaping grab in left to bring back yet another home-run ball giving him 5 runs saved on the year – talk about a pitcher’s best friend. Oh and let’s not forget about Bells reliever Jared Horn who came in on Wednesday night and started out by throwing three fastballs that clocked in at 95, 97, and 96 MPH on the gun. Impressive but not insurmountable, PJ Floyd tagged him with a solid single, he walked Guntrip, and then gave up an unearned run on a wild pitch and an error.
In all, the Bells turned out to once again be a worthy opponent, and one Victoria will need to adjust for this week when they play down south. This would be a team to watch out for in the playoffs should they get in.
Clash of the titans in Corvallis
The current stop for Victoria is down in Corvallis Oregon to play the Knights. If ever there was a true rivalry for Victoria, it’s probably with this team. Perennially Division and/or league champs, the Knights are another team that always provides a challenge. Off the field, Corvallis is usually nipping at Victoria’s heels in attendance as well but are averaging just over 1,300 fans a game this year (almost 700 fewer than Victoria).
The Knights are the only team to have more all-star selections than Victoria this year with 7 despite some questionable numbers… SS Andy Atwood has been at the top of the batting charts all year, although he’s lately slumped a bit, and now sits at .315. He still leads the Knights in RBI with 21 and hits with 39. Center fielder Kyle Nobach is the real deal, and is hitting .337 on 28 hits. Catcher Adley Rutschman got the all-star nod despite hitting .256 with 2 RBI in only 10 games played. By comparison, Joe Prior who was left off the North side goes into tonight’s game hitting .302 with 24 RBI, 4 HR, and 19 runs scored… Maybe the south isn’t known for its tools of ignorance… The other 4 selections were all left-handed pitchers. Rare to have a stable of all-star lefties, but Corvallis is rich with them. Of the four, starter Hazahel Quijada is the star of the show, he’s 2-0 in 5 starts with an ERA of 0.71, striking out a batter an inning in the 25 he’s pitched. Reliever Trenton Dupree has also been impressive this year, sitting on an ERA of 0.36 over 10 appearances.
Game 1 went to Victoria as once again, Josh Mitchell proved his deserving all-star status by going 6 strong innings giving up 2 runs on 9 hits. The game was in the bag it seemed until the bullpen let a starter down again, as Holden Lyons gave up three runs in the ninth to bring Corvallis back to even. Greg Casper took over in extras and pitched 3 strong giving up only a single hit, and Colin Ashworth came in to record the save – made possible by a clutch 2-out triple by Austin Guibor that drove in 2 runs in the 12th. Guibor seems fully out of his slump now, as he recorded 3 hits in the game on 6 AB. Alcantara continued to light it up as well, going 4-5. Dakota Dean and Matt Lautz both went 2 for 3.
Game 2 features Austin Dondanville (5-0, 1.48 ERA) going for his 6th win of the season against All-star Ryley Widell (2-1, 2.82 ERA). Game 3 has Blake Hannah (1-2, 3.91 ERA) trying to build on his good start against Bellingham up against another all-star Cameron Bishop (1-2, 0.40 ERA).
A couple of all-stars in the way of Victoria victories, looks like Corvallis is trying to prove something this week. With Victoria taking the first game, it should be a fight to the finish!
Periodic updates for the next week or so, but the blog will be back in full to end the season with ya!
Safe travels wherever they may take you this week!