Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
July 11, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN)- The Victoria HarbourCats used home runs from three different players and a superb middle-relief appearance from Angel Delgado to squeak out a 9-8 victory over the Medford Rogues in West Coast League baseball action Friday evening at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.
Gabe Clark’s 3-run home run gave the HarbourCats an early 3-0 Friday against Medford (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
On the first Friday night game of the season for the HarbourCats, a nice crowd of 1,546 settled into their seats to see if the home squad could snap their four game losing skid. All signs pointed in that direction early, as the HarbourCats would pounce on Medford starter Jeff Hardy for three consecutive 1-out hits in the bottom of the first, the biggest being a three-run home run to left field from Gabe Clark that scored Alex DeGoti and Nathan Lukes.
Medford’s Yuto Kata has shown to be a dangerous offensive threat, reaching base three times Friday, including this first inning single (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That early momentum quickly faded when Victoria starter Andrew Nelson essentially returned the favour to the Rogues in the top of the second, allowing four Medford runs on three hits, the biggest of which was a 2-RBI double to Spencer Smith. Nelson, who also struggled briefly in the first inning, allowing a walk and single before getting some double play help, would also walk two consecutive batters in the inning and once complete, that would be it for the struggling University of Kentucky star, as he was pulled, ending his shortest outing of the season.
This was a common scene early Friday as the HarbourCats belted three home runs in the first two innings. Here Sean Watkins (41) is greeted after his 3-run blast in the second (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The HarbourCats did not let that bad inning get to them however and they immediately cranked up the bats again on Hardy in the bottom of the second, banging out five hits, including a solo home run from Lukes and a 3-run bomb just inside the left field foul pole from designated hitter Sean Watkins that put the ‘Cats back into the lead 8-4. That would spell the end of Hardy’s night as well, as the Rogues then went to John Forsythe who would finish the inning with no further damage.
Medford’s Yuto Kata would be safe on this stolen base attempt as he beats the throw to Victoria second baseman Griffin Andreychuk (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That is when the HarbourCats guardian Angel appeared in the form of middle reliever Angel Delgado. Making just his fourth appearance of the season, Delgado was superb, shutting the Rogues offence down for four straight innings and allowing just a single hit, that coming in the top of the third. Delgado walked one and struck out one and retired the side in both the third and again in the sixth to finish his night strong.
Angel Delgado would get the win in relief for the HarborCats, throwing 4 innigs of scoreless, 1-hit ball at the Rogues (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The HarbourCats would reward Delgado with an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth to make it 9-4 when Wyler Smith and DeGoti would single, with Smith then scoring on an RBI-single from Lukes, his third hit of the game.
Medford second baseman Blaine Tanner turns the double play on Victoria’s Aaron Barnett (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That run would prove to be a critical one, as the HarbourCats went to Ryan Keller on the mound to begin the seventh. Keller, like Nelson, is another HarbourCats pitcher who is looking to find his rhythm with the club this season, and while all things looked good when he retired the side in the seventh and struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth, the wheels suddenly came off and the Rogues touched him up for four straight hits including RBIs hits from Christian Cox, Levi Pereira and Victor Garcia.
Victoria’s Alex DeGoti tags and heads to third after a fly ball out to right field on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Keller would be replaced by Watkins, but another RBI single, this time by Blaine Tanner, made the score 9-8 and had many in the crowd wondering if the HarbourCats could hang on to the lead.
The crowd got even antsier in the top of the ninth when Watkins walked the leadoff batter Yuto Kata, but settled a bit when Watkins induced a text-book 6-4-3 ground ball double play by the next batter.
Victoria’s Griffin Andreychuk would turn a crucial ninth inning double play on Friday to help preserve the 9-8 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The fun was not over however as a single by Nathan Etheridge and a walk to Tanner Lubach, on what many in the dugouts and the crowd felt should have been a called third strike, added to the two-out drama, but Watkins then got Cox to line out to DeGoti at short, ending the game and giving the HarbourCats the win.
The HarbourCats pounded out 18 hits on the night and were led by Lukes who went 4 for 4 with a walk, a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs. DeGoti and Clark had three hit evenings, while Clark and Watkins, thanks to their home runs, kicked in with three RBIs each.
Victoria catcher Aaron Barnett (left) and closer Sean Watkins (right) share a lighter moment following the ‘Cats 9-8 win over Medford on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win bumps the HarbourCats record to 13-16 while the Rogues fall to a mirror image 16-13.
Both teams are back at it for the rubber match of the series on Saturday afternoon for a 1:00 PM start at Royal Athletic Park. Logan Lombana is scheduled for the ‘Cats, while Medford will start Nathan Kutcha. It’s Bike To The Park Day with those biking to the park paying just $5 admission, sponsored by Buzz Victoria. It’s also the Dizzy Bat Race Tournament of Champions — tickets available at the gate, at the office in the morning, and online at www.harbourcats.com/tickets
Find more Victoria HarbourCats game action imagery from Christian J. Stewart at www.christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats
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