Go beyond the fence with everything HarbourCats baseball in this column from Summer Intern Josh Kozelj.
Weekly Recap: July 2 – July 9
Season Record: 0-2 (Second Half) / 14-15 (Overall)
Week Record: 3-2 (2-0 in exhibition play)
Happy Monday HarbourCats fans! Wow, can you believe the WCL season is already half over? Time really does fly. I hope you’re enjoying the beautiful summer sunshine here on the Island, and I look forward to catching you up in the latest instalment of BTF.
Players of the Week:
NOTE: All stats for player and pitcher’s of the week are collected from games played during July 2 – July 9 against the Bellingham Bells, Highline Bears, and Corvallis Knights.
Position Player of the Week: IF Dustin Demeter (Hawaii) – The University of Hawaii product upped his average to over .300 this past week, to .307 from .289 entering the week, and was highlighted by a 2 hit, 4 RBI game July 2 in Bellingham. Demeter finished the week with a total of six hits and six RBI’s at the dish.
Pitcher of the Week: RHP Garrett Goodall (Embry-Riddle) – Despite being charged with the loss July 8 in Corvallis, Goodall posted a quality start on the mound going 6 2/3 of two-run ball and racked up three strikeouts against the back to back WCL league champion Knights. The Nanaimo native owns 2-1 record with a 2.96 ERA and 20 strikeouts in five starts this season.
How Sweep It Is:
After dropping two of three to Bellingham at home in the end of June, the HarbourCats headed to Joe Martin Field in Northwestern Washington state with eyes set out for some revenge against the Bells. The ‘Cats did exactly that, earning their first series sweep of the season to end the First Half WCL league play.
Down to their final out in the series opener, it looked as if the HarbourCats may drop their third consecutive game to the Bells, but Demeter had other plans in mind. The Position Player of the Week had a pair of clutch hits, one to tie the game in the ninth and another to take the lead in the 11th, to give Victoria the come from behind victory. Struggling for offence in the first eight innings, the HarbourCats finished the game with 5 hits (four of which that came from the ninth inning and beyond) in the 4-3 extra inning win.
Game two of the series was another extra-inning barn burning that featured a pair unlikely HarbourCats position players toeing the rubber. Catcher Hayden Jaco earned the victory on the mound, pitching 1 1/3 of one hit and one run ball in the ninth, before Caleb Ricketts launched a three-run homer in the 10th to give Jaco his first win. Another position player Adam Imwalle came in for the save in the 10th, as Victoria would earn the chance for a sweep in the finale.
The HarbourCats collected the sweep with a second one-run victory on July 4th in Bellingham. Making the start only a mere 10 miles from his hometown of Ferndale, WA, Mason Shaw finished three outs from earning a quality start, going five innings and allowing only 4 hits with no walks or runs. Oregon State newcomer Joe Casey sparked the ‘Cats offence with some heads up base running for a 5th inning insurance run, as rock on the mound Tyler Yoshihara came on for the save in the ninth.
Clawing Bears in Brief WCL Break:
In a two day break from WCL action, the HarbourCats hosted Seattle area summer collegiate Highline Bears for a midweek set at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park. The Bears compete in the Pacific International League, and feature both current NCAA eligible players along with professional and college graduates.
In game one, despite being outhit 10-5 and struggling against Bears starter Cameron Jenkins, the HarbourCats earned a 5-4 victory with help from a 4-run first inning. Highline drew first blood in the top half of the first, but Victoria responded immediately with four runs off Jenkins before the right hander settled in. Jenkins, out of the University of Jamestown, would retire 14 consecutive HarbourCat batters at one point and finished the night with four strikeouts in 6 2/3. Mike Malinchak collected 2 RBI on the day, while University of Missouri product AJ Lewis chipped in with a RBI of his own.
Victoria would explode for 13 runs in the series finale, and would earn their fifth consecutive victory behind a game deciding 7-run fifth inning. Highline would open the scoring again in the top half of the first, but Victoria would respond with 13 unanswered runs highlighted by matching two-run homers from Blake Wagenseller and Lewis.
Struggle in 2017 WCL Finals Rematch:
To open the Second Half split season schedule, the HarbourCats would make their first trip down to Corvallis since a heartbreaking two games to one best-of-three Finals loss last August. Corvallis came into the series behind First Half South Pennant winners Portland Pickles, and looking for momentum to earn a Second Half title to have the chance to defend their back to back titles.
The HarbourCats would rally late in the series opener, but couldn’t get over the hump in a 9-8 loss to the Knights. In the seventh, Malinchak would hit a sac-fly and Demeter chipped with his second RBI single of the night to briefly tie the game at 6, yet the 5-time WCL league champs would flex their muscles and show why they are the cream of the crop in the bottom half. Corvallis would plate three in the home half of the seventh to ensure they would earn their first victory of the Second Half.
In game two, Victoria would drop another close one-run game 2-1 in their second straight loss to Corvallis. Pitcher of the Week Goodall would provide a quality start on the mound, but Knights’ reliever About Haffar would keep the HarbourCats to one hit in 4 1/3 during the game’s middle frames to secure the series victory for Corvallis.
First Half North Division winning Bellingham Bells had a record of 13-4 in their past 17 games after the series against Victoria, while all four of those losses in that span have been to the HarbourCats – including a victory earlier in June along with this past week’s sweep.
Ryan Ober and Joe Casey fresh off winning a NCAA College World Series with Oregon State joined the HarbourCats this week in hopes of leading Victoria to a Second Half division title.
Pennant Race Update:
As the calendar flips from June to July, it means WCL teams will turn their attention to the Second Half Pennant race to secure postseason berths in the dog days of August.
Since the West Coast League is essentially broken down into two seasons, a first and second half, it means as the calendar approaches July teams will start to jockey for playoff positioning.
The 54 game schedule is broken down into two 27 game halves, with the first half coming to an end on July 4, teams that sit in first place in the North and South division after the first 27 games clinch a playoff spot — called the First Half division pennant winners.
Then the teams will reset their record at 0-0 for the second 27 games, and the two atop the division at the end of the second set of 27 games will own the Second Half division titles and spots in the WCL playoffs.
The Bells clinched the First Half title with a 18-8 record over second place Kelowna Falcons by 4 games, but find themselves trailing so far in the Second Half race. Kelowna leads the early North Division standings with a 2-0 record over the second place Yakima Valley Pippins, while Victoria finds themselves two games back of the Falcons in fifth place entering games on July 9th. However, with 25 games still to be played, much is left to be decided in the month of July.
The HarbourCats will look to salvage their series in Corvallis with a victory in the finale tonight at 6:30, before hopping on the bus home to host the Bend Elks.
Victoria took two of three in Bend back in June, and after a disappointing 7-20 first half record, the Elks have gotten off to a much improved 3-3 record thus far in the back half.
After the three game set July 10-12 at Wilson’s Group Stadium against the Elks, Victoria will once again hit the road for a weekend road series against the Cowlitz Black Bears in Southern Washington State. The HarbourCats did not face the Black Bears in the first half schedule, and will be in for a stiff test, as Cowlitz currently leads the WCL South division with a 3-0 record.
That’s all for now! Enjoy your week Victoria, and come out to support your HarbourCats against Bend from July 10-12! For tickets visit our office located at 1814 Vancouver Street, call us at 778-265-0327, or purchase tickets online.