Go beyond the fence with everything HarbourCats baseball in this column from Summer Intern Josh Kozelj.
Weekly Recap: June 18-25
Season Record: 9-9
Week Record: 3-3
Happy Monday HarbourCats fans! It’s that time again for the third installement of Beyond the Fence! I must be doing something right as Jim Swanson and Christian Stewart have still allowed for me to hang around the ballpark, so here’s everything you need to know about the latest week in HarbourCats baseball.
Players of the Week:
NOTE: All stats for player and pitcher’s of the week are collected from games played during June 18-25 against the Bend Elks and Bellingham Bells.
Position Player of the Week: OF Jeddediah Fagg (Georgia Southern) – Fagg led the HarbourCats bats this past week with 6 hits, including two doubles, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI. With his recent power surge, the Georgia Southern upped his batting average to .317 on the season.
Pitcher of the Week: RHP Tyler Thomas (Baylor) – In his second start June 18 in Bend, Thomas collected his second victory of the season collecting 8 strikeouts while only allowing 3 hits and two walks in 5 full innings pitcher. So far, the southpaw hasn’t given up a run in his two starts, collecting an impressive 13 total strikeouts to 5 walks on the season.
Success against the Elks:
After dropping two of three to the Port Angeles Lefties in the Battle for the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the HarbourCats hit the road and received a little help from the schedule makers.
Before hosting the WCL North division leading Bellingham Bells at home on the weekend, the ‘Cats were slated to play the Bend Elks who sat in dead last in the WCL standings.
Behind Thomas on the mound and Harrison at the plate, the HarbourCats cruised to their first shutout victory of the season in game one. Spohn finished with two hits and 3 RBI in Victoria’s 6-0 victory, and a combination of Lawson Humphries, Jacob Potter, and Ping-Chun Ho were able to hold the Elks to two hits after Thomas exited in the sixth frame.
In the middle game of the series, the HarbourCats used a four run fifth inning to secure a 4-3 win and their second consecutive victory over the Elks. Caleb Ricketts and Dustin Miller both collected RBI singles in the inning, while starting pitcher Justin Solt produced 5 quality innings on the mound and Tyler Yoshihara earned his second save of the season.
Going for the series sweep in the finale, the HarbourCats fell behind early, but were able to rally in the ninth behind a solo home run from Fagg to send the game to extras. In the top of the 10th frame, Spohn hit a leadoff double but was stranded at second, and the Elks walked it off 7-6 with a RBI double in the bottom half to salvage the series.
A Visit from the Division Leading Bells:
The Bellingham Bells came to Vancouver Island winners of eight consecutive games, fresh off a sweep of the Cowlitz Black Bears. Entering the series Victoria sat in second place in the WCL North, trailing the Bells by 3.5 games and were eager to gain ground on their rivals from the Evergreen State.
On a windy day in the series opener, the HarbourCats used the blustery conditions to their advantage and snap the Bells eight game streak. Jack Smith, Jason Willow, and Jeddediah Fagg all went deep for Victoria, as the ‘Cats eeked out a 6-5 victory.
In the second game of the series the HarbourCats bullpen collapsed, and allowed for the Bells to earn their 14th win of the season with a 10-2 blowout win. The Bells were propelled from a six-run sixth inning, where they scored six runs off three different HarbourCat relievers out of the ‘pen. Spohn led the way with three hits on the night, but after bullpen disasters, a rubber-match would be set in the Sunday matinee.
It was Bark in the Park day for the rubber-match, and the fans with their four-legged friends in the stands were treated to a back and forth game between two teams projected to make runs deep in the postseason. Bellingham would take an early 3-0 lead, but the HarbourCats clawed back to tie the game at 3 after Willow cleared the bases with a RBI single. However, the home fans (and dogs) would be left home disappointed, after Notre Dame and Bells catcher Matt James smacked his WCL leading 16th RBI with a solo shot in the eighth for the 4-3 victory.
Home Town Hero:
Jason Willow must enjoy playing baseball in Victoria. Making his season debut for his hometown team on Friday night, the Victoria native earned at least one hit in his first three starts. The 2017 Baltimore Orioles draft pick boasts a .333 batting average with four hits, a home run, and 2 RBI in three games so far.
After injuries last week, both Nate Pecota and Michael Stovman have returned home, with the possibility of Pecota returning later in the year
Pitcher Aharon Modlin also got injured this past week, and has returned home as well.
On an off-day Thursday the Victoria HarbourCats announced a new addition and stability to their front office. The HarbourCats added Tyler Green as the new Director of Player Personnel to help with recruiting and athlete-experience aspects, while General Manager Brad Norris-Jones also agreed to a five-year extension. Head Coach Brian McRae, a former MLB star that played with the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, agreed to a three-year extension.
Pennant Race Update:
As the month of June starts to dwindle down, it means the first-half pennant race is starting to heat up.
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.
Currently, the HarbourCats sit in a tie for second place with the Kelowna Falcons in the North division, 4.5 games behind the Bells. Victoria will visit Bellingham for a three-game series July 2-4, which will be crucial to deciding who will take home the First Half Pennant.
After the disappointing loss Sunday, the HarbourCats hopped on the bus to travel to Walla Walla, Washington for a three-game series against the Sweets.
As of June 25, the Sweets (11-7) are .5 game out of first place in the WCL South division, and the mid-week series promises to be a good test of second place ball clubs as both look to inch forward to the top of their respective divisions.
With an off-day Thursday, the HarbourCats will welcome their B.C. division rival Kelowna Falcons (9-9) for a Canada Day Weekend series on the Island. Victoria took two of three earlier in June when the two teams met in the Orchard City, but Kelowna has strung together a win streak to tie the HarbourCats for second place in the North.
That’s all for now! Enjoy your week Victoria, and come out to support your HarbourCats over Canada Day against Kelowna! For tickets visit our office located at 1814 Vancouver Street, call us at 778-265-0327, or purchase tickets online.