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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart

June 30, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – One can forgive Victoria HarbourCats designated hitter and relief pitcher Sean Watkins for beginning Monday night’s fireworks a bit early. All the 18-year old Loyola Marymount freshman-to-be did, was come in to relieve starter Logan Lombana, pitch three scoreless innings and launch an 8th inning solo home run well into the netting in left field to break a 3-3 tie and give the HarbourCats a 4-3 win over the Kitsap Blue Jackets in an entertaining West Coast League match-up at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

Catcher Aaron Barnett (left) congratulates pitcher Sean Watkins following the HarbourCats 4-3 win Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The real fireworks that followed the game almost seemed anti-climactic for the near 3,000 fans who stayed to watch the pyrotechnics, as the HarbourCats secured their second win in a row – and only their third at home – following a tough-luck 9-game losing streak that ended with a 13 inning win on Sunday in Cowlitz.

The HarbourCats single game win streak looked to be in jeopardy on Monday after Kitsap had battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the top of the 7th to push a runner across, knocking Lombana out of the game with a pair of runners on base, the score 3-2 and nobody out. Enter Watkins, who had already been in the lineup as the DH, who first gave up a sacrifice fly, tying the game 3-3 (the run charged to Lombana) but then picked a runner off first and got a grounder to first to end the threat.

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Victoria’s Sean Watkins pitched 3 scoreless innings of relief, striking out 6 of the 10 batters he faced to get the win Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats had jumped into that 3-1 lead earlier with a run in the bottom of the 3rd, when Noah Cummings scored on an error, and two more in the bottom of the 6th, courtesy of a RBI single from Gabe Clark and a wild pitch that allowed Nathan Lukes to score. The Blue Jackets got their first run in the top of the 4th thanks to an RBI single from Daniel Patzlaff that scored Jeffry Bohling, who earlier singled.

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In somewhat of a strange move, despite not having his glove, or the ball, Kitsap catcher Corbin Duffy tries to push the HarbourCats Aaron Barnett off the plate during this play in the 6th inning Monday. Barnett managed to get his fingers on the plate (middle frame), scoring the ‘Cats second run of the game (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

All the Kitsap runs came off HarbourCats starter Lombana who was having a quality start until the three consecutive singles to start the 7th. He would finish the night with the 3 runs allowed on 9 hits, with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.

After Watkins got out of that 7th inning jam, he struck out the side in the top of the 8th to set up his offensive heroics. Batting third, after Lukes and Clark were retired, Watkins looked for a first pitch fastball from reliever Sam Sheehan, got it, and sent it screaming over the left field fence to put the ‘Cats up 4-3.

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In a 1-2-3 second inning Monday, each HarbourCat infielder – shortstop Alex DeGoti (left), third baseman Noah Cummings (middle) and second baseman Griffin Andreychuk (right) fielded consecutive ground ball outs (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“It felt great,” said Watkins after the game, “especially after my first at bats where I struggled at the plate and really could not find a rhythm. I was sitting dead red on that one and was looking for the fastball and I got one up and just pulled the trigger and got it. I’m glad it went out.”

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Victoria’s Alex DeGoti attempts to turn a double-play Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

After calming himself in the dugout, Watkins then came out to pitch the 9th and despite allowing a one-out walk, he would strike out the final two batters – his 5th and 6th strikeouts of the game – to give the HarbourCats the win.

Head Coach Bob Miller was also happy with the win and of the clutch performance by Watkins. “It feels good to put a couple of back-to-back games together where we’ve performed well late in ball games. The crowd tonight really deserved a win like that. And Sean, well he is an aggressive kid and sometimes you need to calm him down a bit, but that energy sure worked well for him tonight. We’ll look forward to coming out and doing the same again tomorrow.”

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Alex DeGoti sports the new Canada Day Limited Edition Cap that the HarbourCats were issued prior to Monday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In addition to Watkins home run, other offensive notables for the HarbourCats included Aaron Barnett with a pair of hits and a run scored. Barnett now has 10 hits in 7 games since joining the club.

Following the game, the fans and players alike were treated to a great 18-minute fireworks show to begin Canada Day celebrations a bit early. Speaking of Canada Day, the HarbourCats will celebrate the day by entertaining the Blue Jackets for a 1:05 PM start Tuesday, the first afternoon game of the season. Mikey Wright is expected to get the start for the ‘Cats, while Zev Egli is the probable starter for Kitsap.

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Fans and players were treated to a nice fireworks show following the game on Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Game Notes: The HarbourCats sported fantastic looking red Canada Day Caps Monday night and will wear them again on Tuesday. Attendance was announced at just over 2,800, the ‘Cats second largest home crowd of the season. Noah Cummings got the start at third base today and contributed a single and a run scored.

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