HarbourCats, Coach Miller Go Out in Style With Walk Off Win

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

August 10, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria HarbourCats gave departing Head Coach Bob Miller and 1,963 sun drenched fans a nice going away present on Sunday afternoon, as they overcame a 6-0 deficit to emerge with a walk-off 7-6 win over the Kitsap Blue Jackets in their final game of the 2014 West Coast League season at Sports Traders Diamond in Victoria.

Victoria’s Bryce Greager (7) hits the target with the water bucket, drenching Hunter Mercado-Hood (16) following his game winning RBI on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In fitting fashion, Alex DeGoti – “Mr. HarbourCat” – and Hunter Mercado-Hood – the team’s batting and RBI leader – were the game heroes, with DeGoti’s 2-RBI double in the bottom of the ninth scoring John Grimsley and Griffin Andreychuk to tie the game 6-6 and a Mercado-Hood single plating DeGoti with the winning run and setting off a great celebration in the infield.

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Victoria’s Hunter Mercado-Hood watches as his game winning single heads to right field in the 9th inning Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Following the exciting win, the HarbourCats announced that Head Coach Bob Miller will not be returning for the 2015 season, so he can concentrate on running his baseball program at Cuesta College, giving it his full attention. Miller leaves the HarbourCats after two years of service – the first with Co-Head Coach Dennis Rogers – and with a record of 47-61, one aspect of his time here that Miller felt could have gone better.

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Victoria’s Bryce Greager would slide safely into second on this play in the 7th inning Sunday, as Kitsap shortstop Daniel Patzlaff stretches for an errant throw (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“I really feel bad about not having a better record here, but feel good that we have laid a solid foundation for a winning team here in the future,” said Miller in a press conference following the game. “It has been an honour to be part of the formative years of the HarbourCats and I want to thank owner John McLean and General Manager Jim Swanson and everyone in the organization for their support over these past two years,” added Miller.

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In addition to his offensive heroics, Victoria’s Hunter Mercado-Hood mad a couple of nice sliding catches in right field on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In a nice departing touch Sunday, Miller gave the start to Victoria native Riley Edmonds, a graduate of the Victoria Eagles program, and pitching in front of friends and family, he fared reasonably well, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits over his 4 innings of work.

Edmonds gave way to reliever Eric Hegadoren in the 5th and Hegadoren – another Victoria Eagle product – would retire the first two batters he saw, before getting into a bit of trouble and surrendering a pair of 2-out runs.

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Victoria Eagles graduates Riley Edmonds (left) – who got the start – and Erich Hegadoren (right), both saw action Sunday, taking the HarbourCats through the first 5 innings of the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

After Dylan Stowell came on for 1.2 innings of work, giving up another run and 3 walks, Miller completed the Vancouver Island tri-fecta by bringing in Nanaimo’s Alex Rogers for the final 2.1 innings. Ironically, given that he has seen limited pitching action at home, Rogers would end up getting the win in relief, holding the BlueJackets to just a single hit in that span and benefitting from the HarbourCats last inning rally.

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Nanaimo native Alex Rogers came in to relieve late in the game and got his first win at home, holding the BlueJackets scoreless over the final 2.1 innings of the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

As happened on Saturday night, the HarbourCats had their troubles with a Kitsap left-handed starter, this time with the BlueJacket’s Matt Narahara who kept the ‘Cats off the board for the first six innings.

Things finally broke Victoria’s way in the bottom of the 7th, when the HarbourCats got to Narahara for 4 runs, thanks in part to a single from Bryce Greager, a dropped third-strike, a pair of walks and RBIs from Grimsley, Andreychuk, DeGoti and Mercado-Hood.

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Kitsap leftie Matt Narahara would hold the ‘Cats scoreless through six innings, before giving up four runs in the 7th (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Narahara was replaced by Rustin Sveum midway through that inning, and he would hold the Cats scoreless in the 8th, but then give up a lead-off single to Victoria native Kelly Norris-Jones – his third hit of the game – to begin the 9th. After Grimsley hit into a fielder’s choice, Andreychuk walked to set the stage for DeGoti and then Mercado-Hoods heroics.

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Kelly Norris-Jones, who will be a senior at Illinois next season, finished his summer collegiate career in fine fashion, getting three hits in front of his home-town crowd (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

With his game winning hit and RBI, his second of the day, Mercado-Hood finished 2-4, which leaves him at .385 for the year, and in second place in batting behind Klamath Falls Steven Packard at .407. Packard was 0-2 midway through the Gems game with Bend so there is a slight chance Mercado-Hood could sneak into the lead, but Packard would need to get a few more at bats and no hits for that to happen. Mercado-Hood, with 46, also finished one RBI shy of league leading Vince Fernandez of Yakima Valley, who is finishing his last game this evening.

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For his offensive heroics, Victoria’s Hunter Mercado-Hood was rewarded with a shaving cream pie to the face during a media interview following the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Other offensive notables for the HarbourCats included Alan Baldwin and Bryce Greager who were both 2-4, while John Grimsley had two runs and an RBI.

The HarbourCats will now begin the process of rebuilding the team for 2015 and finding a new head coach and most likey new assistants, as it is expected that pitching coach Ben Jackson and first base coach Chris Lidmark will not return. “The search for a new head coach is underway and we hope to announce that soon, as recruitment of players for 2015 has already begun,” said General Manager Jim Swanson. “As to the assistant coaches, the standard is that they are on one year contracts and we will also be re-evaluating those in the next few weeks and making decisions as needed.”

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Victoria HarbourCat players (L to R standing) Bryce Greager, Logan Lombana, Alex DeGoti and Hunter Mercado-Hood and Tim Peabody (crouching) ham it up for the camera prior to the game. The players were taking part in a pre-game ceremony to thank their fans and billet families (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN) 

On the business side of things, owner John McLean was pleased with how things went this year and in particular that Victoria led the league in attendance in both the total attendance categories and average attendance categories. “The fans have just been spectacular this season,” noted McLean, “staying until the end today, and last night and coming out to support the team overall all season. Our relationship with the City has been great and the improvements we made to the park this season – the seats, the food options – were really well received. We will look to continue making improvements for next year and beyond and are already looking forward to HarbourCats baseball in 2015.”

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It was a busy day for autographs Sunday and HarbourCats outfielder Nathan Lukes, who missed the final series with an arm injury, obliges a few of his young fans late in the game Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

 

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