Beyond the Fence: Vol. 8

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

Weekly Recap: July 23 – July 30

Season Record: 9-9 (Second Half) / 23-22 (Overall)

Week Record: 3-1 (1-1 in Exhibition)

Welcome Back:

Happy Monday HarbourCats fans! With less than two weeks left in the season, it’s officially go time for the HarbourCats to start a late season postseason push. Starting with arguably the most important series of the season tomorrow night, Victoria will travel to Yakima Valley to open a three-game set against the North Division leading Pippins. The HarbourCats sit four games behind Yakima, and will need a series sweep to have any realistic chance to clinch a third straight postseason appearance.

Players of the Week:

NOTE: All stats for player and pitcher’s of the week are collected from games played during July 23 – July 30 against the Port Angeles Lefties, Walla Walla Sweets, and Victoria Mavericks. 

Position Player of the Week: OF Rowdey Jordan (Mississippi State) – In his first Player of the Week nod, the Mississippi State Bulldog finished the week with five hits and five RBI’s to increase his season batting average by more than 30 points to .314 on the year. On July 26, Jordan exploded for three hits and four RBI to lead the HarbourCats in a 6-4 win over Walla Walla.

Co-Pitcher’s of the Week: LHP Landon Anderson (Cal State Fullerton) and RHP Gunnar Friend (Avila University) – Two of the more consistent pitchers in the rotation, Anderson and Friend showed why they will be relied on for a postseason push with their starts against the Sweets.

Anderson, after going six innings in a win against Corvallis in his previous appearance, improved on that outing with six innings of three hit ball on July 26 against Walla Walla. The righty out of Cal State Fullerton retired 15 of the fist 16 batters he faced, and dropped his ERA to 3.30 on the season.

Not to be outdone by his partner in the rotation, Friend went a season high five innings of four hit ball in a win July 24 against the Sweets. It was the second straight start in which Friend pitched a scoreless outing, and lowered his ERA to a sparkling 1.48 on the year.

Swept Away in Port Angeles:

After dropping the first two games on the series, the HarbourCats were looking to escape PA last Monday with one win in their pocket and salvage the finale.

However, the Lefties notched their fifth victory in six games over Victoria with a 9-7 victory at Civic Field. Port Angeles scored three times in the first, and five in the sixth for the wire to wire victory. The HarbourCat tried to rally in the ninth, scoring twice to make it a two run game, but Lefties’ closer Tyler Tan would be called on to get the final out and collected the final out to shut down any comeback attempt. Three different ‘Cats collected two hits and an RBI in the matinee, but despite their efforts, it wouldn’t be enough to claw a win in the ‘Battle for the Strait if Juan de Fuca’ series.

Sweet Sweep:

With their playoff hopes seemingly dashed after the sweep in Port Angeles, the HarbourCats weren’t going to go down without a fight in a midweek series against the Walla Walla Sweets.

Victoria’s bats exploded for 10 runs, and Gunnar Friend’s strong five innings on the hill helped snap a season-high three game losing steak. The HarbourCats sent nine batters to the plate in a five-run third inning, as Hunter Vansau added to his franchise lead in home runs with a solo shot to lead off the inning — his 12th career bomb as a ‘Cat. Jedd Fagg and Caleb Ricketts each chipped in with two RBI’s of their own, and Ping-Chun Ho and Tyler Yoshihara combined to hold Walla Walla to four hits and one run in the final four innings to preserve the series opening win.

In the middle game, Harrison Spohn’s late-inning homer helped Victoria to squeeze out a 4-3 victory over the Sweets. After allowing only two earned runs in his previous two outings, starting pitcher Mason Shaw had trouble replicating those stellar outings on the night. For the first time this season, Shaw didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, giving up six hits and three hits in 3 2/3 innings on the mound. With the game deadlocked at three entering the seventh, Spohn smacked his second long ball of the season to break the tie and Aidan Goicovich pitched two hitless innings to earn the win and seal the victory.

Going for the sweep in the finale, and strong performances from both the Position Player and Pitcher of Week, the HarbourCats notched their second series sweep since taking three straight from Bellingham back on July 2-4. Jordan, making his season debut at the leadoff position in the order, was a force at the place racking up three hits and four RBI’s on the night. Meanwhile, Anderson would hold the Sweets to only three hits in six innings, as Victoria would earn a 6-4 win.

Crosstown Cup: 

In a brief break from WCL play, the HarbourCats welcomed their crosstown rival Victoria Mavericks to Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park for a two-game weekend set.

The Mavericks, a men’s league team that consists of former collegiate players, used the series as a warmup before they represent Team BC in Canadians Nationals in August. HarbourCats Managing Partner Jim Swanson will also be the Manager for Team BC, and the initial 10 players were named to that roster earlier in the week.

In the opening game, the ‘Cats clawed from behind to earn a 5-4 victory in eight innings over the Mavericks. The game, which served as the de facto opening act for the postgame Chilliwack concert, was called at 3:00p.m to ensure the stadium could be configured for the concert. Mavericks starting pitcher Connor Russell took a perfect game into the fifth, but the HarbourCats ended that bid with four runs in the fifth. Hunter Vansau’s RBI in the sixth gave the ‘Cats the lead, while Aidan Goodall, brother of current pitcher Garrett, pitched two no-hit innings in relief to earn the win.

The Mavericks scored early and often in the second game, showing why they will represent Team BC with the Coquitlam Angels at Canadian Nationals in August. Victoria’s crosstown rivals scored nine times in the first three innings, and outfielder Chris Fougner racked up four hits and six RBI on the afternoon, in a 17-7 rout of the HarbourCats. With the loss, the HarbourCats fell to 5-3 in non-league games this season, and will wrap up their exhibition schedule tonights against Cuba.

Cuba Series: 

The HarbourCats will make league history tonight, being the first WCL team to play a team from Cuba in the 13 year history of the West Coast League. Victoria will welcome Union de Reyes, a team from the province of Matanza, Cuba to Wilson’s Group Stadium tonight, and Cuban Team Manager April Shay will be featured with a touching message about how the team from Cuba travelled to in the game notes.

“Union de Reyes might be a smaller community, but it has giving people who look after their youth,” writes Shay. “The youth are very athletic and they offer different sports and training.  The baseball players on this team playing against Harbour Cats tonight are part of the team that won the Matanza’s provincials in 2018, a very proud moment for the Union de Reyes team.” 

Also be sure to check out the article from Cleve Dheenshaw in the Times Colonist who brilliantly previews the Cuba matchup.

Roster Update:

There are no other roster updates to report at this time.

Pennant Race Update:

As the calendar flips from July to August, it means WCL teams will turn their attention to the Second Half Pennant race to secure postseason berths.

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 nine games left in the year, Yakima Valley (12-4) have separated themselves from the pack, as Victoria sits in four games back at 9-9.

On Deck: 

After the Cuba exhibition tonight, the HarbourCats will travel down to Yakima for a crucial three-game set against the Pippins. Victoria will then wrap-up their road schedule with three games in Wenatchee against the AppleSox, before returning home next Monday for the final homestead of the year.

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

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