Late Runs Once Again Propel Victoria Over Cowlitz

Victoria’s Ethan Lopez celebrates after scoring the go-ahead and eventual winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart

June 30, 2017, Victoria, BC – The Victoria HarbourCats got a big swing early to take a 3-0 lead, but then needed a pair of runs late to close out the first half of their 2017 West Coast League (WCL) season with a 6-5 win over the Cowlitz Black Bears Friday night at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

The win was not near as dramatic as the six-run comeback in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game, a 12-11 HarbourCats win, but it still left the 3,484 fans in attendance, the largest crowd of the season, just as happy and put them in a great mood for the 18-minute fireworks show that followed the game.

Harrison Bragg watches his first inning two-run home run sail over the left field fence, giving the HarbourCats an early 3-0 lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The HarbourCats took an early lead Friday, as Harry Shipley drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a Ethan Lopez ground out.  Harrison Bragg then brought the fans to their feet, as he crushed a two-run home-run, his second of the season, over the left field fence to score Noah Prewett (single) and put Victoria up 3-0.

HarbourCats starter Isaac Mullins would give two of those runs back in the top of the second, as he gave up a two-out single to Ryan Kim and then a double to Jace McKinney to score Austin Ingraham, who reached earlier on a fielder’s choice, and Kim.

Harry Shipley had a pair of hits, an RBI, a stolen base and two runs scored to help Victoria to a 6-5 win over Cowlitz Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

After Victoria would score in the bottom of the third to go up 4-2, Cowlitz would get two more off Mullins, both unearned, as the Victoria defence made a pair of errors that eventually came in to score. Another Black Bears run in the fifth, thanks to an RBI single from Nick Roberts, put the visitors in the lead 5-4.

Cowlitz’s Ryan Kim, with three more hits Friday, now has seven in the two games so far with Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Cue Victoria’s late inning magic again.  After some solid middle-relief work from Liam Steigerwald, the ‘Cats would tie the score in the bottom of the seventh, as DJ Porter would draw a leadoff walk and then score on a Shipley single.  They would then take the lead in the eighth, as Ethan Lopez would draw a one-out walk and then come in to score all the way from first on an Andrew Shaps two-out double to left.

Middle reliever Liam Steigerwald gave up just a single run on one hit in 3.1 innings of relief to keep the HarbourCats close Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Things got dramatic in the top of the ninth, as Victoria closer Travis Kuhn gave up walk and a single to start things off, but then got Cowlitz’s Mark Pearson to bunt into a double play to crush any hopes the Black bears had of sending the game to extras.  Kuhn then struck out Roberts to end the game and earn his fifth save of the season.

Taylor Prokopis pitched a scoreless eighth inning Friday to get credited with the win over Cowlitz (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The HarbourCats comeback made a winner of Taylor Prokopis (1-2), who came in during the eighth inning and gave up a hit, but got a key double-play to keep Cowlitz off the board.  Christian Cosby takes the loss after relieving Cowlitz starter Corbin Powers who went five innings, giving up four runs on three hits, while walking four and striking out one.

Victoria shortstop Harry Shipley turns a key eighth inning double play against Cowlitz on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Offensively, Victoria was led by Bragg, with two hits, including his homer, three RBIs and a run scored. Shipley also had a two hit night, with an RBI and two runs scored.

For Cowlitz, Ryan Kim continues to light up Victoria pitching, as he had three hits to go 7 for 9 so far in the two games here. Devlin Granberg also had a two hit evening with an RBI in the losing effort.

Victoria closer Travis Kuhn made things interesting in the top of the ninth Friday, but got a big double-play en route to his fifth save of the season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The teams will wrap up their three-game set with a 1:00 pm matinee on Saturday, Canada Day. The game will be the first of the second half of the season for Victoria and they will send 3-0 Adam McKillican to the mound, while Cowlitz is set to respond with Nico Tellache.

Cat Scratches:  Hard hitting Davis Wendzel (.316 with 3 doubles and 6 RBIs) of Baylor has had to head back home due to a leg injury.  Wendzel also impressed defensively in his short stay here.

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