Beyond the Fence: Vol. 7

Go beyond the fence with everything HarbourCats baseball in this column from Summer Intern Josh Kozelj. 

Weekly Recap: July 16 – July 23

Season Record: 6-8 (Second Half) / 20-21 (Overall)

Week Record: 2-3

Welcome Back:

Happy Monday HarbourCats fans! What a week it has been in HarbourCat baseball. From Claire Eccles’ finale game, Hunter Vansau’s record day, and two dominating wins over the reigning WCL Champions, there is no shortage of topics to recap in the latest installment of BTF.

Players of the Week:

NOTE: All stats for player and pitcher’s of the week are collected from games played during July 16 – July 23 against the Corvallis Knights and Port Angeles Lefties. 

Position Player of the Week: IF Ryan Ober (Oregon State) – The NCAA World Series Champion found his groove this past week at the dish. After collecting only a single RBI in his first seven games with the HarbourCats, Ober increased his batting average by more than 100 points to .308 this week highlighted by two games against Corvallis. The Oregon State Beaver hit three home runs in two games against the Knights on July 19 and 20, and he finished the week with seven hits, five runs scored, and three home runs.

Pitcher’s of the Week: RHP Mason Shaw (Yakima Valley College) – For the second straight week, Mason Shaw gets the nod for Pitcher of the Week with another stellar outing July 19 against Corvallis. For the third straight start, the righty from Ferndale, WA went five strong innings in a winning performance against the Knights. Shaw finished the game just a single out from qualifying for his first quality start, going 5 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts to only two earned runs in the 11-5 HarbourCat win. In his past three starts Shaw has racked up 15 strikeouts and only yielded the two earned runs.

Revenge over the Knights:

Entering Wednesday’s series opener vs. Corvallis, the HarbourCats had dropped five consecutive games to the Knights dating back to the 2017 WCL Finals. However, refreshed from a two-day All-Star break, Victoria came into the series ready for revenge over their arch rivals and start a late-season playoff push.

In game one the five-time WCL champs flexed their muscles, and showed why they are the class of the league in a nail biting 3-2 victory over the HarbourCats. Reliever Gunnar Friend provided a solid spot start on the night, pitching four no-hit innings on the bump, and a solo shot from Nick Plaia gave Friend the run support he needed. But, the Knights would tie the game in the sixth, and score twice with two outs in the ninth for their sixth straight victory over Victoria.

The ‘Cats responded in the series middle game behind the duo of Ryan Ober and Cade Brown batting back to back in the bottom of the order. Pitcher of the Week Mason Shaw posted 5 2/3 solid innings on the hill, while Ober and Brown combined for six RBI on the night. Ober led the way with two long balls and four hits in five at-bats, while Brown collected three hits and two RBI’s of his own in a 11-5 HarbourCat win to snap their losing skid to the Knights.

Going for the series victory in the finale, Ober and his Oregon State teammate Joe Casey lifted the HarbourCats to a 15-6 blowout win over Corvallis. Ober smacked his third homer in two days, as the HarbourCats used a six run fourth inning to clinch the series. Casey finished a hit and RBI in the leadoff position in the order, while Landon Anderson pitched six innings of four run ball, as Claire Eccles came onto the mound for the final time as a HarbourCat to a standing ovation from the Victoria faithful. Before leaving for Team Canada for the Women’s World Cup in August, Eccles got the last out and a subsequent gatorade shower from her teammates.

Struggle vs. the Lefties:

After the emotions of Eccles’ final game, and two statement victories over Corvallis, the HarbourCats hit the road for a series across the Strait of Juan de Fuca against the struggling Port Angeles Lefties. Entering the series, Port Angeles owned a 3-9 record in a disappointing Second Half, but found success against Victoria in the first two games.

Victoria jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings in the series opener, but the Lefties would chip away at the lead before using a five-run sixth inning to earn a 9-6 victory. Jeddediah Fagg’s three hits and two RBI weren’t enough as Port Angeles scored six times in the final four innings to snap Victoria’s two game win streak.

Almost exactly like game one, the Lefties came from behind to clinch a series victory at Civic Field in game two. The HarbourCats held a 5-0 lead after four, but Port Angeles scored six times in the seventh in a 8-6 win. Mike Malinchak and Hunter Vansau each collected two RBI, while Jedd Fagg notched in a RBI of his own in the loss.

Hunter Vansau makes HarbourCat History: 

With a solo home run in the fourth inning of a 8-6 loss to Port Angeles, Vansau passed Kevin Collard for the franchise all-time lead in home runs with 11. Combined with the eight long balls he hit last year, Vansau’s third homer this year passed Collard’s previous franchise record of 10.

Collard, now playing at the University of San Diego, set the franchise mark in his two seasons playing for Victoria in 2015 and 2017.

Claire Eccles Jersey Retirement:

After two years with the HarbourCats, Claire Eccles #8 jersey will be officially retired at a future date, and Managing Partner Jim Swanson credited her role in an interview with the Vancouver Daily Hive. Swanson says Eccles played a crucial role in bonding teammates together, and in Victoria’s storybook run to the WCL Finals last season.

“She’s just somebody who really fit into the team. She came in and worked hard and she’s been the right person for it. It’s one thing to be the right player for it, it’s another thing to handle all this and fit into the team,” Swanson said. “She was on our roster last year and we finished one game short of winning the West Coast League Championship. So, obviously, it didn’t distract away from what we were trying to accomplish as a team. In fact, it probably helped bond the guys together.”

Roster Update:

Besides Claire Eccles’ departure to Team Canada, there are no other roster updates to report.

Packed Park: 

The HarbourCats almost set an attendance record for the second time this season, welcoming 5,165 to Wilson’s Group Stadium July 20 against Corvallis. After setting the WCL attendance record of 5,240 against Wenatchee on June 2, the HarbourCats fell less than 100 people short of their own record in the third fireworks game of the season.

Chilliwack and Team Cuba: 

Following a game against the local Victoria Mavericks on July 28, Chilliwack will hold a concert on the field of Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park.

Two days later, the HarbourCats will host Team Cuba in an exhibition game on July 30.

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.

With 13 games left in the year, Yakima Valley (11-3) have separated themselves from the pack, as Victoria sits in fourth place at 6-8 five games behind the Pippins.

On Deck: 

After a Monday matinee vs. Port Angeles, the HarbourCats will head back to the Island for six home games in seven days. Victoria will host Walla Walla for three league games July 24-26, and then play the Victoria Mavericks for two exhibition games and finally Team Cuba next Monday,

That’s all for now! Enjoy your week Victoria, and come out to support your HarbourCats! For tickets visit our office located at 1814 Vancouver Street, call us at 778-265-0327, or purchase tickets online.

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