Can you call it a “Series Preview” if it’s only 1 game? Just slightly shorter than a WCL playoff series, so yeah we’re going with it.
Game 1 is here! A bit of an oddity in league play, this single game sets off the entire WCL 2017 season, which begins in earnest tomorrow for the rest of the league. Victoria and Port Angeles get this special event to welcome the new Lefties team to the league, and begin what everyone hopes is a long rivalry between two teams who’s home plates are exactly 35.86km apart.
So what can you expect from a brand new team, with all new players, playing ball in front of a brand new WCL crowd? Your guess is as good as mine. The Lefties are opening with 22 signed players tonight, just over half of their expected 40-man roster. No 10-day contract players on their side, they are content with what they have and will wait for more regulars to arrive to fill out their roster. Those players who have arrived early have been working hard – not only busy working out, but also chipping in painting benches, the clubhouse, and generally getting the field game-ready for opening night. Tonight’s game will be played in a “mostly complete” Civic Field, but the city has committed to performing upgrades over the next few weeks that will improve it even more. By the time Victoria returns here for the last series of the year in early August, it could be a whole new experience!
The lefties start their WCL by sending Eastern Arizona College Sophomore (and 2016 Kitsap BlueJacket) Nick Caudillo to the mound. Caudillo led EAC in innings pitched this year with 71, sporting a 2.92 ERA while going 3-0. In 2016 WCL play, he threw 2.1 innings in relief against Victoria giving up a single hit.
On the HarbourCats side, they are ferrying 24 players to PA, including about 18 regulars, the remainder made up of 10-day signees. Lots of upside already on board for opening day which is nice, and the team will be very competitive right out of the gate. WSU Cougar AJ Block gets the start tonight; Block started 7 games for the Cougars this year, appearing in relief in 9 more. The Salt Lake native made a name for himself as a high school standout in Bellevue in 2015 and 2016, and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2016 (39th round). He finished 2017 with the Cougars sporting a 6.89 ERA, striking out 28 while walking only 10 in 32.2 innings of work.
Of the Cats making the trip, there are a couple names to watch for early, including Vancouver Native RHP Indigo Diaz, who returns to the HarbourCats this year with increased velocity and control. Look for him to get some significant time coming out of the pen. Another starter who is impressing in early looks is Campbell River 10-day pitcher Ethan Fox. He’s already listed as a starter for Saturday’s game in Yakima and is fighting for a regular spot by showing some real talent.
On the field, Bernie Huang is turning everyone’s heads with his exhibition play Tuesday, going 3-5 with a home run, double, and single. Returning Cat Kevin Collard is also looking good, as predicted this guy could lead the league in several categories this year.
Given the current roster, there’s no reason to suspect the HarbourCats won’t fly out of the gate this year, starting with a solid victory tonight to open the season. The blog will be in attendance, so check out the twitter and Instagram pics of this historic evening in Port Angeles!