Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
July 17, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – A controversial balk call on Victoria pitcher Austin Dondanville by third base umpire Steve Butang in the top of the eighth inning allowed Bellingham’s Aaron Stroosma to score from third and gave the visiting Bells a come from behind 6-5 win over the HarbourCats in West Coast League action Friday night at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.
A visibly stunned Austin Dondanville reacts to a controversial eighth inning balk call on him that allowed Bellingham’s winning run to score (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The run capped a Bells comeback that saw them overcome a 4-0 HarbourCats lead to score three in the fifth inning and another two in the sixth to jump into a 5-4 lead, before the HarbourCats would tie things up with a run in the bottom of the seventh.
The HarbourCats jumped out to that early lead thanks to a two-RBI single in the second from Griffin Andreychuk and a two-run home run off the scoreboard in left in the fourth by Ben Polshuk.
Ben Polshuk’s 4th inning 2-run home run would stake the HarbourCats to a 4-0 lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Bells would answer in the fifth, getting to Victoria starter Dominic Topoozian for their three runs on the strength of a lead-off triple from Alex Galgano, an RBI single from Joey Harris and a two-out, two-RBI double from Chris Beall.
Some nice defence by shortstop Scott Jarvis on this double play kept the Bells off the board for the first four innings (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Bells two sixth inning runs came when Patrick McGrath and Galgano would single, with McGrath then coming in to score on ground ball to short that hit something and took a mean hop just past the head of Victoria shortstop Scott Jarvis, who was charged, perhaps unfairly, with an error on the play. Galgano would then score on a wild pitch from Matt Blais, who had come in to relieve Topoozian following the Jarvis error.
Despite the presence of the ball in the glove of Michael Gretler blocking the base, Bellingham’s Alex Galgano would somehow get his hand around the tag to be ruled safe on this fifth inning triple (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The HarbourCats certainly had their chances to put more runs on the board, leaving 13 runners stranded on base in the game, most notably in the bottom of the second, third and eighth innings, when they left the bases loaded each time.
They also had another potential ninth inning rally snuffed out on a controversial out call at first on Jarvis who attempted a bunt single and looked to have clearly beaten the throw. That call by umpire Chet Masse resulted in a visibly upset Graig Merritt, the HarbourCats Head Coach, being ejected for arguing the call.
Victoria shortstop Scott Jarvis lays the tag on Bellingham’s Aaron Stroosma during this eighth inning steal attempt (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Derek Breshears was 3-5 for Bellingham, Galgano had a pair of hits and two runs scored and Chris Beall had two RBIs, as Bellingham outhit the HarbourCats 10-6.
With their key hits, Andreychuk and Polshuk had two-RBI evenings, while Chris Fougner also added a pair of hits for Victoria. Jarvis and Michael Gretler had the other HarbourCats hits. Polshuk also had the defensive play of the night, leaping high over the fence in left to take a potential fifth inning home run away from Bellingham’s Chase Scott.
Chris Fougner continued to have a hot bat, notching a pair of hits Friday his 10th and 11th over his last 7 games (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Cody Anderson was the winning pitcher for the Bells, while Justin Courtney earned the save. Nate Higa also saw action in relief of starter Grant Schneider. Austin Dondanville took the loss for Victoria in relief of Dominic Topoozian. Matt Blais, Nick Wojtysiak and Shawn Kennedy also saw action on the mound for the ‘Cats.
With the loss, the HarbourCats fall to 17-18 on the season and drop six games back of the Division leading Bells who are now 23-12. They are also now two games back of the wild card playoff spot, currently held by the 19-16 Yakima Valley Pippins.
The two teams will now close out the series with an afternoon affair on Saturday at Sports Traders Diamond. Game time is 1:05PM.
After being tossed himself for arguing a call, Victoria Head Coach Graig Merritt does the same to first base umpire Chet Masse (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: Attendance Friday was 2,371…Game time was 3:38, the sixth time a game at RAP this season has gone over 3.5 hours in length. With Thursday night’s loss, the ‘Cats can now wash their red uniforms. They had been wearing them full time during their nine game win streak. Alex DeGoti has been absent from the HarbourCats lineup this series as he has returned home for a family wedding. He will return after the All-Star break. Pitcher Josh Mitchell (Pitt) will be leaving the team on Saturday. He has been shut down by his university coach and will be returning to Pennsylvania. Alex Rogers (North Dakota) will also not likley pitch again this season for the same reason. Jackson Thoreson has been out of the lineup for precautionary reasons the last few games after taking both a hard foul ball and a bat to the head on the latest road trip. He should be ready to go for the series in Bellingham.