June 16, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – After dropping a tough 7-6 loss to the Bend Elks on Sunday night, the Victoria HarbourCats are heading home Monday night to begin a key three-game series with their division rivals the Bellingham Bells. ISN’s Christian J. Stewart provides this preview.
Wyler Smith (right) and Alex DeGoti (left) hope to be doing more of this when they host Bellingham for a three-game set beginning tonight in Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The 5-4 HarbourCats, despite Sunday’s loss, are coming off two series wins in a row over the Elks and the Cowlitz Black Bears, during which they put together a three-game win streak and an impressive streak of 29 consecutive scoreless defensive innings. The 5-3 Bells, who sit just a half game ahead of Victoria in the very tight West Division standings, split the first two games with Kitsap in their last series, before being rained out Sunday. Both teams are a half and full game respectively behind division leading Cowlitz and there is a good chance that the winner of this series could find themselves in first place in the Division on Thursday morning.
Fans attending the series will see some familiar faces trout out to the mound for the HarbourCats, as the starting pitching rotation announced by Head Coach Bob Miller is the same that took to the mound in the home opening series against Cowlitz.
On Monday, Logan Lombana (Long Beach State) will get the nod and he will look to match, or better yet, improve on his first outing, a 5-inning, no-decision effort against the Black Bears in which he surrendered no earned runs on 4 hits, while striking out 2 and walking 4. Andrew Nelson (Kentucky) will get the start Tuesday and he will definitely strive for a better showing, as the Black Bears knocked him around for 5 hits and 4 earned runs last Wednesday, while Mikey Wright (San Jose State) (2-0 on the season), who was superb in a 7-inning performance last Thursday against Cowlitz, will start on Wednesday.
Right-handers Logan Lombana (left)), Andrew Nelson (centre) and Mikey Wright (right) are scheduled to be the starters for the HarbourCats in the series with Bellingham (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Bells will answer Monday with Grant Goodman (San Francisco) on Monday, Seth Martinez (Arizona State) on Tuesday, and Eder Erives (Arizona State) on Wednesday. Goodman was shaky in his last outing against Walla Walla, giving up 3 earned runs on a pair of hits and 5 walks in just 4 innings of work. Martinez was strong in a 6 inning performance on June 10th against Klamath, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits, while striking out 3 in a 12-3 Bellingham win. Erives has seen limited and mediocre action so far, pitching 3 innings against Klamath on June 11th and giving up 4 runs on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 1.
The HarbourCats will have to be strong defensively against the Bells and continue to play the way they did during the 29 scoreless defensive innings that they put up against Cowlitz and Bend. Why? Well the Bells boast a very potent offence, one that is currently ranked first in the West Coast League with a .323 batting average. The Bells also lead the league in runs scored (71), hits (98), RBIs (61), On-Base Percentage (.422) and Slugging Percentage (.436).
The ‘Cats will need defence like this double play by Alex DeGoti against Cowlitz to keep the powerful Bellingham offence in check (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Six Bellingham batters are sitting in the top 20 of the league for batting, including Aaron Stroosma (Bellevue CC) (.429, 9H, 8R, 5RBI), Walker Olis (Pacific) (.417, 10H, 7R, 5RBI), Danny Miller (Cal State Chico)(.371, 13H, 9R, 7RBI), Jimmy Sinatro (Gonzaga)(.353, 6H, 2R, 2RBI), Dylan Garcia (Cal State Chico)(.348, 8H, 5R, 9RBI) and Dallas Carroll (Utah)(.333, 10H, 7R, 4RBI). Rest assured that any mistakes made by HarbourCats pitchers will be taken advantage of by this group.
The HarbourCats will answer with an offence that has been using speed (a league leading 26 stolen bases) and timely power to score their runs. Wyler Smith (Utah) with 8, John Grimsley (San Diego) with 5, Ted Boeke (Loyola Marymount) with 5 and Alex DeGoti (Long Beach State) with 4, are ranked in the top 10 of the league for stolen bases.
At the plate, Nathan Lukes (Sacramento State) contines to hit well, boasting a .324 average with a team-leading 12 hits and 7 RBIs over 8 games of action. Speedy Danny Collier (New Mexico) is second in batting at .313, while Sean Watkins (Loyola Marymount) has contributed nicely since joining the team and has amassed a .333 average with 4 hits and 3 RBIs in the four games he has played. Hunter Mercado-Hood (San Diego) leads the team, and is tied for first in the league with 11 RBIs and 4 doubles, while Mercado-Hood, DeGoti and Bryce Greager (Nevada-Reno) have the three HarbourCats home runs thus far in 2014.
Nathan Lukes (left), Hunter Mercado-Hood (centre) and Danny Collier (right) will look to continue their recent offensive success against the Bells (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The HarbourCats will be buoyed by the addition of more players to the mix, as the full roster begins to make their way here. Joining the ‘Cats for the series in Bend were infielder Griffin Andreychuk (Seattle), outfielder Devin Carter (Pepperdine), pitcher Don Sullivan (Riverside CC) and returning pitcher Ryan Keller (Cal State LA). Keller was thrown into action on Sunday night in Bend and could reasonably see action out of the bullpen again in the series against the Bells. Carter, who hit .263 for Pepperdine this spring, can also be expected to make his debut with the team over the three game set.
Fans attending Bellingham series will enjoy some cool promotions this week. Monday’s game is Cowbell night! Presented by the Finishing Store and the Times Colonist. Tuesday sees the HarbourCats host their first ever BobbleHead night sponsored by Fisher Irrigation Services and presented by Independent Sports News. Kelly Norris-Jones will be immortalized as the first 1,000 fans get a Norris-Jones BobbleHead. Then Wednesday it will be Island Savings night at the park!
All games take place at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park and start at 7:11pm. Tickets available at www.harbourcats.com, at the HarbourCats offices or at the box office on game day. Gates open at 6:00 pm each day.
Find more Victoria HarbourCats game action imagery from Christian J. Stewart at www.christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats
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