HarbourCats Close in on Playoffs With Win Over Yakima

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

August 4, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Forget about the wild card. The Victoria HarbourCats now have the West Coast League (WCL) West Division title back within their sights following a 10-3 win Tuesday night – their sixth in a row – over the Yakima Valley Pippins at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

Alex DeGoti (24) is congratulated by PJ Floyd (right) and Scott Jarvis after hitting a fourth inning two-run home run that put the HarbourCats into the lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

The win keeps the HarbourCats two games back of the Corvallis Knights, who also won again Tuesday, for the wild card position, but moves them to within three games of the Bellingham Bells for the West Division title, as the Bells lost their third in a row, this time to lowly Cowlitz 3-1. Also importantly, the win virtually eliminates Yakima from contention, as the Pippins would now have to ensure they finish ahead of the HarbourCats and not tied with them, since by virtue of the series win, in the event of a tie in the standings, the HarbourCats now hold the tie-breaker.

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Matt Blais went eight innings allowing three runs on seven hits to get the 10-3 win Tuesday(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

The ‘Cats have one more game important game against Yakima on Wednesday and then will travel to Bellingham Friday for what could be one incredibly important season ending series. If the HarbourCats go into that series down two games, they can claim the West with a road sweep, something the team has accomplished three times already this season. In addition, it may become very necessary for the Walla Walla Sweets to travel to Victoria on Monday August 10th to make up the rained out game from July 26th should the outcome of that game play a factor in Victoria’s final position in the standings.

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Victoria’s Griffin Andreychuk would beat out this bunt single as the throw to Yakima first baseman Jake Manson is a touch late (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

Regardless, the Harbourcats can control their own destiny by continuing to win like they did again Tuesday, with fantastic pitching, timely hitting and solid defence.

On the pitching side, starter Matt Blais had one of his strongest and definitely longest outings of the season, going a full eight innings and allowing the three Yakima runs on seven hits and just two walks, while striking out five.

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Yakima second baseman Freddie Smith reaches to tag a sliding AJ Alcantara who was called out on the stolen base attempt (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

Yakima would score single runs in each of the third, fourth and sixth innings and be denied more by Blais and a defence behind him that turned a pair of key double plays, one in the sixth and one in the eighth, to get out of trouble. Catcher Zach Bonneau also nailed a Yakima runner trying to steal in the fifth and the ‘Cats defence caught Yakima’s Corey Morris trying to stretch a single into a double in the third.

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Although quiet offensively with just a bunt single, Victoria second baseman Griffin Andreychuk made a number of key plays in the field including this eighth inning double play (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

Offensively the ‘Cats struck at just the right moment, responding to Yakima’s first run of the game in the third with one of their own on a solo home run from Kevin Collard and then responding to another Yakima run in the fourth with two in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a two-run home run from Alex DeGoti that put the ‘Cats up 3-2.

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Kevin Collard had a big night at the plate with a single, double and home run to pace the Victoria offence (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

Victoria would then stretch their lead with four runs in the fifth, highlighted by a two-RBI single from Scott Jarvis, and another three runs in the eighth to put the game away.

Offensively, Collard continued to crush the baseball, going 3-5 with the solo home run, two runs scored and an RBI. Victoria’s 13 hits were spread evenly throughout the lineup as AJ Alcantara was 2-2 with two runs and two walks, Austin Guibor was 2-5 with two runs and an RBI, and DeGoti, with his home run, was 1-3 with a run and three RBIs.

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Victoria’s Austin Guibor used his “jazz hands” to bang out a pair of hits and an RBI on Tuesday. He would also score twice (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

For Yakima, Mitch Skaggs led the way with a three hit night and a pair of runs scored, while Dayton Provost had a pair of hits and a run scored. Freddie Smith and Corey Morris had RBIs.

Yakima starting pitcher Andrew Bernstein takes the loss, going 4.2 innings and allowing seven earned runs on six hits, while walking three and striking out eight. Kelly Fitzpatrick and Alhanon Miller saw work in relief. Josh Walker pitched a perfect ninth for the HarbourCats, striking out one.

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Yakima’s Freddie Smith lays down a perfect bunt early in Tuesday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

Barring the need for the make-up game on August 10th, Tuesday was the second-last regular season home game for the HarbourCats, who can sweep the final series on Wednesday with Henry Omana (Cal State-Fullerton) scheduled to pitch. It’s Fan Appreciation Night with Flight Centres’ special Spring Training offer, and with player presentations before the game, as well as Ocean 98.5 FM on location. The Pippins will counter with Jens Jensen.

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Victoria second baseman Griffin Andreychuk puts the tag on a sliding Dayton Provost who was out on this steal attempt (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

Game Notes: Attendance Tuesday was 2,069. The HarbourCats now have a chance to draw 50,000 in the regular season, currently with 47,679 coming through the turnstiles in 2015. A crowd of 2,321 on Wednesday would accomplish that organizational goal. The team is averaging 1,907, tops in the West Coast League. With Collard and DeGoti’s home runs the HarbourCats now lead the West Coast League in dingers with 31. Their team batting average is now .266, third behind Bend and Kelowna.

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Yakima second baseman Freddie Smith (left) and HarbourCats runner Austin Guibor (right) look for the call after Guibor stole second late in Tuesday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN).

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