Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
July 29, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – AJ Alcantara had a three-hit day, including a fourth inning grand slam, to power the Victoria HarbourCats to a 8-3 win over the visiting Cowlitz Black Bears Thursday afternoon in West Coast League baseball action at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.
AJ Alcantara watches as his 4th inning Grand Slam heads toward the left field fence to give the HarbourCats a 6-0 lead at the time (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win gets the 22-22 HarbourCats back in the win column and moves them to within two games of Corvallis, who play later Thursday night, for the final playoff position, with 10 games to play in the season. They also gain a half-game on both idle Walla Walla and Yakima who are just ahead of Victoria in the wild card chase.
Scott Jarvis turns an early double play for the HarbourCats to get out of a Black Bears threat (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Alcantara’s blast in the fourth came after he had helped vault the HarbourCats into a 2-0 lead an inning earlier, as he singled off Cowlitz starter Emilio Foden to move Austin Guibor, who had led off the inning with a single, to third. Guibor then scored on a throwing error and the ‘Cats led 1-0. A Torin Goldstein single past third would then score Alcantara to put Victoria up 2-0.
In the big fourth for Victoria, Scott Jarvis and Griffin Andreychuk would single and Guibor would then walk to set the stage for Alcantara’s big blast, which he safely depositied over the left field fence, bringing the 1,896 fans to their feet in appreciation.
AJ Alcantara (30) is congratulated by the HarbourCats after his fourth inning blast (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The big lead gave Victoria starter Matt Blais, the eventual game winner, a comfortable margin, one which he needed, as he struggled his way through six and one-third innings of work, giving up a run in the sixth and a pair in the seventh on seven hits and five walks before being replaced by Sean O’Toole who finished the seventh with no further damage.
Matt Blais went 6.1 innings to get the win Thursday, giving up three runs on sevne hits and five walks (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Tei Vanderford came in to pitch a perfect eighth and a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a two-RBI single from Kevin Collard – his second hit of the day – that scored Goldstein (walk) and Alex DeGoti (double) cemented the big win for the HarbourCats.
Victoria’s Mikey Wright came in to close in the ninth and gave up a two-out infield single before retiring Casey Henderson with a fly ball to right to end the game.
In addition to Alcantara’s big day with three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored, DeGoti and Scott Jarvis had a pair of hits each, while Guibor had a hit, walk and two runs scored.
Victoria’s Austin Guibor had a hit, walk and pair of runs scored to help the HarbourCats to the 8-3 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
For the Black Bears, Henderson had a pair of hits and an RBI, while Isaac Benard had a hit, RBI and pair of runs scored.
Foden takes the loss for Cowlitz, while Blais gets the win for Victoria to move his record to 3-3 on the season. The Black Bears Seth Rayburn, Peyton Burks and Camden Muller also saw work in relief.
The ‘Cats now hit the road for a crucial three-game set with the Wenatchee Apple Sox beginning Friday night. Heading into Thursday’s action, the Sox sat at 20-24 and still have a chance as well of reaching that final wild card position. Victoria will be looking for a sweep to keep themselves in contention.
Victoria then comes back home Monday for an equally important series against the Yakima Valley Pippins. After today’s win, the Pippins are just a half game ahead of the HarbourCats in the chase for the wild card and this could be the decisive series of the season. It is also BC Day and will be the final fireworks night of the season at Sports Traders Diamond. Get your tickets early as this will be a popular game for sure.
GAME NOTES: Today was the final afternoon game of the HarbourCats season. Should the HarbourCats advance to the playoffs, the home game is tentatively scheduled for August 11th. It would be game one of the three-game series, with games two and three at the other team’s park (assuming we get the wild card spot, this would be, at the moment, the Bend Elks).