So game #1 is in the books, and what a game it was! Firstly, hats off to the Port Angeles team and staff for hosting a great event that started off on a classy note with a choir rendition of anthems timed perfectly with a fly-over from a helicopter dispatched from the US Coast Guard Air Station in Port Angeles.
The crowd may be new to the WCL, but I overheard many an educated conversation on the finer points of baseball and the history of baseball in the region. The Lefties have also done a phenomenal job of establishing their brand around town, as many of those in attendance were sporting Lefties shirts, hats, jerseys, and jackets. An exciting time for the Lefties, with many things to work on and make their own – I suspect that by the time a few series have been played, this will be the place to be in Port Angeles on a hot summer night. One of the more eclectic seating sections you will ever see at a ballpark went along the third base line, where a raised concrete slab was set with a couple old couches, lazy-boy recliners, and a few plastic chairs like the ones in the field box at RAP. Fans got to recline like they were home in the living room Al Bundy-style. In all, a very nice feel to a small-town baseball diamond, and a good time was had by everyone in attendance, which was estimated at about 2,000.
Well, except maybe by the Lefties themselves. Victoria dominated the game from the start, scoring four runs in the opening inning before AJ Block took the mound to strike 3 of the first 4 batters out. The game continued on the same pace, leading to an 11-2 HarbourCat victory. Some early season jitters hit both teams with several errors and sloppy plays leading to runs. Issues with the league’s Online scoring app has made the box score unavailable to confirm with (and the party-deck $2 Ranier beers make my memory less than it could be), but thanks to Brian McRae’s excellent note taking some gems can be pulled out. SS Kyle McComb was great in the lead-off spot and was on base three times. Noah Prewett had a strong game at short, and 1B Bernie Huang you can tell is going to be a fan favourite – he had a couple hits and a couple stretches on throws to the bag to get runners out. Kevin Collard came in late in the game and banged out a double in his only at-bat.
Riley Guntrip started behind the plate and for the first time as a HarbourCat, called the entire game himself. If you remember from last season, coach Graig Merritt called pretty much every pitch thrown all year – not so yesterday, as Guntrip took very few calls from the bench. Still, to ease him back into his HarbourCat life, several times we yelled “Be a WALL Riley” on critical 3-2 pitches. Whatever he was calling was working pretty good – Block ended with 8 strikeouts in 3 innings, while Adam McKillican, Ryan Ricci, and Chavez Fernander shut the door with scoreless relief.
Off to Yakima
The HarbourCats now travel a bit further south-east to Yakima for a full 3-game series. By the end of it, we should see the remainder of the team with some stats to report – McRae did a good job of using the bench last night, I’d expect the same to continue as he gives everyone a shot at some early playing time.
Victoria has their starters announced for the whole series, and start game 1 with Colin Ashworth on the mound. Ash threw only 13.1 innings this spring with no starts, so this will kick his summer into gear early. He had a 6.08 ERA at Hawaii. Game 2 on Saturday sees Washington State’s Isaac Mullins get the start. Mullins started 6 games for the Huskies this spring and finishing with a 6.15 ERA. Sunday’s game 3 sees 10-day guy Ethan Fox get a shot. Fox started in right field in Port Angeles, so he’ll get to impress closer to home in his second appearance.
Victoria went 2-1 against the Pippins last year. Yakima is traditionally a strong team and should provide a good early test for the new HarbourCats squad. Can’t wait for Monday to see the boys back here in Victoria for opening night!