Late Rallies Fall Short, HarbourCats Streak Ended by Bells

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

July 16, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – They say that all good things must come to an end, and such was the case with the Victoria HarbourCats franchise record winning streak, which was halted at nine games, courtesy of an exciting 8-7 loss to the Bellingham Bells in West Coast League action Thursday night at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

Victoria catcher Nick Meyer grimaces in pain after a collision at home with Bellingham basrunner Walker Olis who would jar the ball loose and score on the play in the sixth inning Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats did not go down without a fight however, as trailing 6-2 in the eighth, they would rally with three runs to make it 6-5 and then trailing again 8-5 in the ninth, they would score two more and then load the bases before falling short with the tying run just 90 feet away.

The Bells looked nothing like a team that came into the game in tenth place in the league in team batting as they pumped out 14 hits on the day, including three home runs to help them on to the win.  Those 14 hits included six in the first three innings off an unusually shaky HarbourCats starter Alex Rogers, the biggest of which was a second inning, two-run home run by the Bells Chase Scott.

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Bellingham’s Chase Scott would have a pair of home runs Thursday, including this 2-run blast in the second inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Bells would strike again for two more off Rogers in the third, spelling the end of the night for the Nanaimo native – his shortest outing of the season – who then gave way to Josh Walker.

Victoria would respond with a run in the bottom of the third when Nick Meyer, who doubled, would score on a Chris Fougner double-play ground out.  

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The Bells used some good early defence to take a 6-2 lead over Victoria, including this double play turned by Bellingham shortstop Beau Branton on a sliding Scott Jarvis (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The teams would then exchange runs in the sixth when Bellingham’s Walker Olis would triple off Walker and then score in the top of the inning, while a Michael Gretler single in the bottom of the inning would score Griffin Andreychuk who had been hit by a pitch.

After Bellingham would get an insurance run in the top of the eighth to make it 6-2, Victoria would make things interesting by adding three more in the bottom of the inning to get the 2,211 fans in attendance excited about a possible comeback.

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Griffin Andreychuk would stay hot for the HarbourCats, reaching base three times on a single and two hit by pitches, scoring all three times to lead the Victoria offence (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Andreychuk would get the rally started, singling off Bells reliever Hunter Haworth and later scoring on a fly ball off the bat of Ben Polshuk that Bells left-fielder Lou Della Fera lost in the lights.  Austin Guibor, who walked, would also come around to score on a wild pitch strike out of Gretler by Bells pitcher Brian Way.  Polshuk would then score on a ground out by PJ Floyd and the HarbourCats had pulled within one.

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Michael Gretler would have a single, walk and pair of RBIs to help the HarbourCats offence on Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The hope built in that bottom of the eighth would quickly fade as Tei Vanderford came in to relieve O’Toole to start the ninth.  Vabderford’s team leading 0.00 ERA meant nothing to the Bells, who would greet him with back-to-back home runs from Olis, his third hit of the day, and a second blast from Scott, to push the Bells lead to 8-5.

Mikey Wright, the ‘Cats fifth pitcher of the evening would then come in and although he gave up two singles and hit a batter to load the bases, he would get out of the inning without any further damage.

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Bellingham’s Walker Olis was a ‘Cat killer on Thursday with three hits, including a triple and a ninth inning home run (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats would continue to scratch and claw in the bottom of the inning, as Chris Fougner, with a leadoff single, and Andreychuk, hit for the second time on the evening, reached and then came in to score on an RBI double down the right field line by Austin Guibor. 

The Bells then went to reliever Brice Longanecker and after walks to Ben Polshuk and Michael Gretler loaded the bases and brought the fans to their feet, Longanecker was able to get a huge strikeout of pinch hitter AJ Alcantara and then induce Nick Meyer into a game ending fielder’s choice, forcing Gretler out at second, to end the exciting game.

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Victoria third baseman Michael Gretler puts a tag on Bellingham baserunner Chase Scott late in Thursday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win put the 22-12 Bells back into a five game lead over the now 17-17 HarbourCats and made a winner out of Bellingham starter Justin Calomeni who went 5.1 innings, allowing two HarbourCats runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven.  Alex Rogers takes the loss to drop his record to 3-2.

Offensively for the Bells, in addition to the big blasts and three RBIs from Scott and the three hit evening from Olis, three other players had two-hit games including Jesse Kuet, Chris Beall, and KJ Brady. 

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Bellingham starter Justin Calomeni would get the win, going 5.1 innings and allowing two Victoria runs on just five hits, while striking out seven (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

For the HarbourCats, but for a pair of fine defensive plays from the Bells, Nick Meyer could have had a four hit evening and possibly four RBIs, but settled instead for a pair of hits and a run scored.  Guibor, had a pair of hits including his two-RBI double, while Scott Jarvis kept his hot streak going with a three hit night. Andreychuk continued to contribute, reaching base three times on a single and two hit-by-pitches, and scoring each time. Gretler added a hit and a pair of RBIs.

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Victoria catcher Nick Meyer had a pair of hits Thursday but would be robbed of another and a pair of RBIs on this stroke in the sixth inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The two teams go at it again on Friday for a 6:35pm game. Friday is not just Forces Friday with Galaxy Motors, with $5 tickets for all military members and families, but it’s Superheroes Night with Superbath Mobile Car Wash, as one lucky fan’s car is getting a major cleaning, inside and out. Also, Curious Comics is giving away 250 comic books to kids, and it’s Island Savings Simply Free Fridays giveaway night, featuring prize packages and Island Savings thundersticks.

Saturday’s game, a 1pm start, features a giveaway of refillable water bottles from Wilson’s Transportation and YYJ Shuttle, and team posters from Metropol.

On Sunday, the HarbourCats are in Nanaimo to play a neutral site exhibition game against a beefed up Nanaimo Pirates team at Serauxmen Stadium.

Game Notes:  Local fans will appreciate that Island products Griffin Andreychuk (Nanaimo) and Chris Fougner (Victoria) came into Thursday’s game as two of the team’s top four hitters with averages of .389 and .300 respectively.  And regarding another local product, tonight’s start may have been Alex Rogers last of the season, as he is on inning limits dictated by his college coaches. His short outing may change that, but look for him as spot relief moving forward.  Scott Jarvis’s three hits give him 11 in his last 9 games, but he has not had an RBI since a 4 RBI night against Kitsap on July 6.  Austin Guibor now has an 8 game hitting streak going, with 11 hits and 9 RBIs in that time span.  Thursday’s game was 4:09 long, the fourth time a game at RAP this season has come very close, or gone over the 4:00 mark.  

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