HarbourCats Roll to Opening Day Victory Over Kelowna

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

June 5, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – On an absolutely glorious night for baseball, the Victoria HarbourCats started the 2015 season in fine style by thumping the Kelowna Falcons 9-2 in the opening game of the 2015 West Coast League season Friday night at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

Victoria opening day starter Alex Rogers was solid through six plus innings, allowing just a single run on five hits, while striking out eight, earning the victory in the HarbourCats 9-2 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Played in front of a WCL record setting crowd of 4,627 fans, the evening had all the pomp and circumstance of an MLB opening night, with parachutists landing on the field to deliver the game ball, rock guitarist Josh Boudreau playing both National anthems in fine, Jimi Hendrix style and a 17 minute fireworks show to end the evening.

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From rock guitarist Josh Boudreau (left) cranking out the anthems, to parachutists (centre) delivering the game ball and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps (right) throwing out one of the first pitches, the HarbourCats opening game pre-game ceremonies had it all (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats, sporting new look uniforms for 2015, did not disappoint the large crowd, scoring early with three runs in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of a wild Jayse Bannister (Holy Names University), the Falcons starting pitcher, who walked in a run and watched his defence make a couple of errors that led to another HarbourCats run. All three Victoria runs came without a ball leaving the infield – the only hit coming on a bunt from PJ Floyd, while an Evan Willow ground out cashed in the third run of the inning.

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While Kelowna shortstop Hunter Villanueva (right) would get the force on the HarbourCats Kyle Francis, his throw would go wide of first, allowing a run to score in the HarbourCats half of the first inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats would put another across in the third inning and then explode for four more in the fifth and another in the sixth to jump into a 9-0 lead.

Leading the offensive attack for the ‘Cats was catcher Jackson Thoreson (St. Mary’s) who had a pair of hits, including a double and a triple and a pair of RBIs. Newcomer Kyle Francis (Everett CC) also had a pair of hits and an RBI and Chris Fougner (Salt Lake CC) continued his hot pace, with his fourth multi-hit game, lashing a trio of hits and scoring one of the HarbourCats runs.

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Victoria’s Jackson Thoreson had reason to celebrate with a double, triple and 2 RBIs to lead the HarbourCats to the 9-2 win Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Meanwhile, HarbourCats starting pitcher Alex Rogers (Trinidad State) was on cruise control through the first six innings, allowing just three Kelowna hits and striking out seven. The 2014 WCL All-Star, who finished with a 7-6 record for Trinidad State this season, would finally run out of gas in the seventh, giving up back-to-back singles to begin the inning. After another strikeout, Rogers would be relieved by Nick Wojtysiak (Pepperdine), who would get out of the jam, but not before a wild pitch allowed Kelowna to score their first run of the game.

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Victoria’s Chris Fougner, sporting the new look uniform for 2015, continued his hot streak Friday with a three hit night (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats would then send Sean O’Toole (St. Mary’s) to the mound in the eighth and Kelowna would get to him for a double from Brandon Grimsley and a single from Ben Gamba to put their second run on the board. That would be all the scoring however and the ‘Cats Dominic Topoozian (Fresno State) would close things out in the ninth, allowing a single, but getting a pair of strikeouts to finish things off.

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The Victoria HarbourCats bullpen had a few more visitors than usual as the record crowd of 4,627 spilled far into the large right field grandstand (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

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Teammates with the Victoria Mariners and now teammates on the HarbourCats, Chris Fougner (foreground) and Matt Bryan (background) chase down a Kelowna hit on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Offensively for Kelowna Gamba and Hunter Villanueva would have a pair of hits each. Bannister would be tagged with the loss, giving up four runs (one earned) on three hits and six walks in his four innings of work. Jaramy Jacobs, Kyle Rasmusen, Marcus Ethen and Joel Lamont would all see action in relief.

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Kelowna catcher Josh Egan puts the force out on the HarbourCats Evan Willow on this play at the plate Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Both teams are back at it again at Sports Traders at RAP on Saturday with another 6:35 pm start. The HarbourCats Mikey Wright (Delta College) will get the start, while the Falcons counter with Tyler Gilles (UBC). That game will also feature fireworks at the end of the game so be sure to get your tickets and come cheer the ‘Cats on to their second win of the year.

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Kelowna baserunner Brandon Grimsley grimaces after he was tagged out by Victoria pitcher Nick Wojtysiak while trying to score from third on a wild pitch (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Game Notes: The Falcons have 43 players listed on their roster but only 23 have made the trip to Victoria. Like the HarbourCats, many of their players have yet to arrive to Kelowna from their college teams. A small group of protesters gathered outside the stadium prior to game time, expressing concerns about the noise of the fireworks on the surrounding communities and on the ospreys that have made a nest on the third base light standard.

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