Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart
August 14, 2017, Corvallis, OR – After an epic first game in the West Coast League Championship, won last Saturday 5-4 by the HarbourCats with a walk-off RBI-single from Po-Hao Huang, the Victoria HarbourCats and Corvallis Knights resumed their battle in Game 2 Monday night at Goss Stadium in Corvallis and they played an equally entertaining game, one that remained scoreless until the bottom of the eighth inning when the Knights would bust the game open scoring six runs to defeat Victoria 6-0.
The win evens the best of three series at a game each and sets up a deciding game Wednesday night in Corvallis for the WCL title.
The first part of Monday’s game was much like Saturday’s, a defensive and pitching battle between Corvallis starter Dakota Donovan and HarbourCats starter Garrison Ritter, who both kept the game scoreless through the first three innings.
Corvallis did have a chance in the bottom of the second, loading the bases with two outs, but Ritter escaped the inning without damage when Chad Stevens popped out to first to end the inning.
They would threaten again in the bottom of the fourth, when the Knight’s Dillan Shrum began the inning by scorching a line drive off the right foot of Ritter for an infield single. While the shot dropped Ritter, he stayed in the game, but gave up another single to Zak Taylor and then a sacrifice bunt moved Shrum and Ritter into scoring position. Victoria then loaded the bases, intentionally walking Cole Johnson, at which point Victoria Manager Brian McRae pulled Ritter from the game in favour of reliever Taylor Prokopis.
Prokopis did his job in fine fashion, getting Troy Clauch to ground into a 3-2-3 double play to end the threat and get the ‘Cats out of the inning unscathed.
Donovan, for his part, was brilliant, retiring 19 of the first the first 21 HarbourCats batters he faced, the only damage being an error in the fifth inning that allowed DJ Porter to reach and a walk to Shane McGuire in the sixth. He took the no hitter into the seventh, where Andrew Shaps spoiled it with a one-out infield single. Donovan would then hit a batter before being removed for Kolby Somers who ended the HarbourCats threat.
The turning point of the game came in the top of the eighth inning, when with one out, Victoria’s Ethan Lopez launched what looked to be an easy extra- base hit deep to the gap. However a hard charging Emilio Alcantar, who came into the game as a pinch hitter the previous inning, made a spectacular leaping catch to rob Lopez. Somers would then strike out Justin Orton to end the frame.
In the eighth, the Knight’s got their big inning rolling when Taylor Travess beat out an infield single (ruled an error) and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Matt Kelly. Victoria’s Prokopis, who had retired 10 of the 11 batters he faced prior to that inning, intentionally walked Jordan Qsar and then gave up three straight hits, capped off by an RBI-triple from Eliot Willy, that put the Knights up 3-0.
Victoria then brought in lefty Mike Musselwhite, who had thrown nothing but scoreless innings in his six appearances prior to Monday and he promptly gave up three straight hits, including an RBI-double from Alcantar to put the Knights up 6-0.
That huge inning would be all they would need, as Somers would give up a leadoff single to McGuire to begin the ninth, just the HarbourCats second hit of the game, but then retire the next three to close out the Corvallis victory.
Taylor would lead the Knight’s 11-hit attack with three hits and an RBI, while three other players including Shrum, Johnson and Stevens would chip in with two each.
Somers would get the win in relief of Donovan who finished with no runs on one hit while walking one and striking out five in 6.1 innings of work. Prokopis gets the loss, getting tagged with two earned runs on five hits, while walking two and striking out two.
The teams will now play a final winner-take-all deciding game on Wednesday night at Goss Field in Corvallis. First pitch is slated for 6:40 PM. The HarbourCats will more than likely send right hander Blake Hannah (UC Davis) to the mound, while Corvallis will respond with Trenton Toplikar (UC Riverside).