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Zayicek, Huang, Bullpen Lead Victoria to Win Over Corvallis in Series Opener

Victoria’s Connor Whitney leads the pack for high-fives after the HarbourCats 4-2 win over Corvallis on Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart

June 20, 2017, Victoria, BC – Riley Zayicek hit a two-run home-run, Po-Hao Huang had the game winning RBI in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Victoria HarbourCats bullpen spun five innings of one-hit, shut-out ball, to lead Victoria to a 4-2 win over the Corvallis Knights in the opening game of their West Coast League (WCL) series Tuesday night at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

Riley Zayicek heads around the bases after stroking a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The game between the South Division leading Knights and the North Division ‘Cats was a well played affair from the get go, with Victoria starter AJ Block and Corvallis starter Louis Crow working quickly through the first three innings and keeping the score knotted at 0-0.

Corvallis starter Louis Crow deserved a better fate Tuesday, giving up two runs on just four hits, while striking out eight over seven innings of work (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Block would get himself into trouble in the top of the fourth inning, hitting Knight’s leadoff batter Emilio Alcantar and then giving up a single to Matt Kelly.  Alcantar would then score on a ground out, while Kelly would later score on a two-out single from Gabe Matthews to give the Knights a 2-0 lead.

Indigo Diaz pitched two solid innings of relief for Victoria on Tuesday, striking out four of the seven batters he faced (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Victoria would respond in the bottom of the inning, as Kevin Collard would stroke a one-out double and then score on a two-run home run over the right field fence from Zayicek to tie the game at 2-2.

That score would then hold up until the eighth inning thanks to the fine pitching of the Knight’s Crow, who after giving up the home run to Zayicek, would retire the next 10 batters in a row.

HarbourCats reliever Jack Tagget was lights out Tuesday, striking out the side in the top of the eighth inning and earning the win in the 4-2 decision over Corvallis (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The HarbourCats bullpen, including Taylor Prokopis (who came on in relief of Block in the fifth), Greg Casper, Indigo Diaz and Jack Tagget, also did their part, blanking Corvallis over those four innings, striking out seven in the process, four from Diaz and three from Tagget in an impressive 1-2-3- top of the eighth.

Victorias Po-Hao Huang watches his game-winning RBI base hit head toward left field during the eighth inning Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

In the bottom of the eighth, Corvallis would go to the bullpen and bring in 6’8″ right-hander Darren Nelson.  Nelson would look impressive in getting the first two batters of the inning, but then gave up a two-out walk to the ‘Cats DJ Porter.  Porter would steal second and then come home to score on a one-out single from Huang, his second hit of the night, who advanced to second after the ball got away from Corvallis catcher Jace Duty in a collision with Porter on the play at the plate.

Victoria baserunner DJ Porter reaches back to touch home plate for the game winning run, after colliding with Corvallis catcher Jace Duty on this play in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

A Davis Wendzel single then scored Huang with an insurance run, but it would not be needed, as HarbourCats closer Travis Kuhn was brilliant in the top of the ninth, retiring the side on a great catch from Porter at the fence in right to rob lead-off hitter Dillan Shrum of a home-run and then striking out the final two batters, to close out the 4-2 win.

The win improves the HarbourCats record to 9-8 on the season and moves them to within 1.5 games of Bellingham and Kelowna who are tied at the top of the North Division.  Corvallis drops to 10-6 on the year, but remain three games up on the Bend Elks for the South Division lead.

Victoria closer Travis Kuhn gives thanks skyward after closing out the HarbourCats 4-2 win with a 1-2-3 ninth inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The two teams resume their series on Wednesday night, with Ethan Skuija (0-1) listed as the probable starter for Victoria, while the Knights look to counter with Jordan Horak (2-0). First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 pm.

Cat Scratches:  RHP Chavez Fernander has been released by the team.  Joining the team Tuesday, all from UC Santa Barbara, are RHP Radd Thomas, RHP Liam Steigerwald and IF Nick Moroney.  Knights catcher Jace Duty was injured (leg) on the collision with Porter on the play at the plate in the eighth inning and had to leave the game.  HarbourCats reliever Greg Casper also looked to injure himself during his relief stint and also left the game.

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