Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
The Victoria HarbourCats gave Harvey the HarbourCat a very nice second birthday present by walking away, literally, with a 6-5 extra-inning win over the Bellingham Bells in West Coast League action Saturday night at Sports Traders Diamond in Victoria. Gabe Clark’s bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 11th scored Nathan Lukes with the winning run to cap off an excellent ball game and send Harvey and the 1,336 fans in attendance home happy.
Victoria’s Gabe Clark (20) gets a hug from Alex DeGoti (24) after Clark’s walk in the bottom of the 11th brought home the winning run against the Bells (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win boosts the HarbourCats record to 22-25 and keeps them mathematically in the hunt for the final playoff spot. It also made a winner out of reliever Ryan Preston, who pitched what could have been his best game of the season, coming in to relieve starter Andrew Nelson in the top of the 6th inning, and throwing six scoreless innings against the powerful Bells offence, striking out five in the process and giving up four scattered hits.
Ryan Preston was magical in relief, pitching 6 scoreless innings against the Bells to get the win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Ryan pitched his way out of a tough bases loaded jam in the 8th, another with 2 runners in scoring position in the 9th and then was helped out by some clutch defence, with the ‘Cats turning double plays for him in the top of the 10th and top of the 11th to end Bellingham threats.
The game did not appear that it would need extra innings early on, as the HarbourCats jumped into a 1st inning 4-0 lead, getting to Bellingham starter Michael Rucker for four hits, the biggest of which was a bases loaded, 3-RBI double from Jake Lesinski.
Jake Lesinski’s first inning double with the bases loaded gave the HarbourCats an early 3-0 lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Bells would chip back however with two in the 3rd thanks to a towering home run from Jack Klein over the scoreboard and an RBI single from Dustin Brashears. The ‘Cats added their fifth run in the bottom of the third on an RBI single from Lukes, but the Bells would get two more back in the top of the 4th when Dallas Carroll and Chris Baker would score, Carroll courtesy of a Nelson balk, and Baker on an RBI single from Hank Elliott.
Victoria secondbaseman Griffin Andreychuk would miss the tag on Bellingham’s Lou Della Ferra on this steal attempt Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the top of the 5th, Nelson would hit Brashears with a pitch and end up paying for it as Brashears would later score on a Carroll bae hit, tying the game at 5-5. Nelson would get out of the inning without any further damage but his night would be over.
While Ryan was pitching well for the ‘Cats, Bellingham’s Daniel Ludiwg was doing the same for the Bells, holding Victoria to just two hits in the 5th through 8th innings and facing the minimum 12 batters thanks to a 6th inning double play and to his defence catching Victoria’s Aaron Barnett trying to stretch a single into a double in the 8th.
Victoria’ Aaron Barnett (12) would have a pair of hits Saturday, including a single that he tried to stretch into a double in the 8th, that was snuffed out by Bellingham second baseman Dustin Breshears (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Ludwig gave way to Andrew Summerville in the 9th and despite singles in each of the 9th and 10th innings, he would keep the HarbourCats off the board until the 11th when things fell apart. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Lukes would single, his third hit of the night, Griffin Andreychuk woud draw a walk and Hunter Mercado-Hood would single, also his third hit of the evening, to load the bases and set the stage for Clark.
Hunter Mercado-Hood would have another 3 hit evening for the HarbourCats (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Bells would go to reliever David Bigelow to face Clark, but his first four pitches all sailed wide of the mark, giving Clark the walk-off walk and game winning RBI, as Lukes came home to score. HarbourCats win 6-5.
Nathan Lukes would continue with the hot hand, hitting three times and scoring the winning run Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: Mercado-Hood has now gone 5 straight games without an RBI bit he still sits just two back of Corvallis’s Kevin Klein for the league lead. Lukes is now second in the league in batting with a .363 average, behind only Klamath Falls Steven Packard who is hitting .419. Mercado-Hood is in 4th at .353.