Pippins Put Damper on HarbourCats Finale and Playoff Hopes

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

August 5, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – It must have been the shirts. Wearing a unique baby-blue third jersey, the Yakima Valley Los Manzanas (aka Apples, aka Pippins) put a big damper on the Victoria HarbourCats last home game of the season and their slim West Coast League (WCL) playoff hopes with an 8-5 win Wednesday night in front of 1,968 fans at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

Victoria second baseman Griffin Andreychuk looks to turn two while Yakima basrunner Corey Morris looks back to see the result (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats loss, combined with Bellingham winning in Cowlitz, clinched the West Division title for the Bells for the second-straight season, eliminating any hope of the division title for Victoria.

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The HarbourCats honoured three-year HarbourCat Alex DeGoti prior to Wednesday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats remain mathematically alive for the wild card playoff spot, but will need a ton of help, as they must win all three games in Bellingham this weekend (Friday-Saturday-Sunday), and have Corvallis lose in Kelowna on Thursday, and then back at home against Medford on Saturday and Sunday (a scheduled season-ending double-header). That would give the HarbourCats the last playoff spot on percentage points since the WCL has now decided that the recently rained-out game with Walla Walla, washed out on a Sunday afternoon in Victoria, will not be replayed.

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Yakima ace Jens Jensen improved to 6-1 with a strong start against Victoria retiring 14 of the first 16 batters he faced (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Victoria’s downfall Wednesday was the inability to generate any early offence off Yakima starting pitcher Jens Jensen. No surprise there, as Jensen has been very strong in his last six outings, going at least six innings in all of those and not allowing more than four earned runs in any of them.

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Victoria’s Zach Bonneau did all he could to keep his team in it with a single, double and home-run in his best offensive game of the summer (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

While his line Wednesday would end up worse than that (five earned runs in six and one-third innings), he would be strong early, retiring the first eight HarbourCats he saw before giving up a double to Zach Bonneau in the third and then a solo home run to Austin Guibor in the fourth that would tie the game 1-1, as Yakima had scored earlier in the second.

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Yakima’s David Becker runs between second and third. Becker would have a pair of hits and a run scored Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Pippins would then give Jensen some huge run support, getting to HarbourCats starter Henry Omana for four runs in the top of the fifth inning, highlighted by RBI singles from Corey Morris and Freddy Smith and a two-RBI double from Jake Manson.

Victoria would respond in the bottom of the frame, as the suddenly hot Bonneau, hitting just .098 coming into the game, stroked his second hit of the night, a two-run home run that cut the Yakima lead to 5-3.

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Yakima first baseman Jake Manson was a ‘Cat killer Wednesday with three hits, including this double, and four RBIs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

After a scoreless sixth and a Yakima run in the seventh, Victoria would claw their way back to within one, 6-5, with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh. PJ Floyd would get things going with his fifth home run of the season to lead things off and then Alex DeGoti would double, move to third on a Bonneau single and then come in to score on an RBI single from Kevin Collard.

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Slick fielding Freddie Smith turns a key double play on a sliding AJ Alcantara (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That would be the end of the HarbourCats scoring however and after Yakima put up insurance runs in the eighth and ninth, it would be left to the Yakima bullpen, who when leading after seven innings have carried the team to a 21-1 record, to close it out.

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Victoria shortstop Scott Jarvis makes a great effort but can’t get to this Pippin base hit up the middle (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That job Wednesday would be executed by Connor Lau, who came on in the seventh to get out of a jam that left two HarbourCats on base, and hard throwing Ryan Lillie, who pitched in the eighth and ninth, giving up singles to Collard and 2015 HarbourCats Player of the Year Griffin Andreychuk, before getting a pop up and fielders choice to end the game.

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Victoria catcher Zach Bonneau reaches to tag out a sliding Freddie Smith on this play at the plate Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Yakima’s HarbourCats killer on this night was first baseman Jake Manson who finished the game with three hits, a walk and four RBIs. Freddie Smith also had a three-hit night with an RBI, while AJ Sawyer had a pair of hits, including a double and two RBIs.

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Yakima’s Alex Guenette slides home with the Pippins seventh run in the 8th inning Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

For Victoria, Bonneau with three hits, had the best game of his collegiate career, finishing a triple short of the cycle, with a pair of RBIs and a run scored. Kevin Collard was 2-5, Scott Jarvis was 1-4 with a double and Alex DeGoti, in his last home game as a HarbourCat, was 1-3 with a run, double and in his last plate appearance, he was hit by a pitch.

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Victoria shortstop Scott Jarvis puts the tag on a sliding Dayton Provost on this play in the 8th inning Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Jensen gets the win on the hill for Yakima to improve his record to 6-1. Omana (4.2 innings pitched, five runs, six hits, two walks and three strikeouts) takes the loss for Victoria to fall to 2-3. Tei Vanderford, Calvin Christiansen and Shawn Kennedy saw relief work for the HarbourCats.

The HarbourCats now have a day off Thursday before heading to Bellingham to begin what will hopefully be an important series against the Bells. The first game in that series goes at 7:05 PM Friday at Joe Martin Field in Bellingham. Game 2 on Saturday is also a 7:05 pm start, while Sunday’s final game is a 3:05 pm start. If the wild card miracle happens, the HarbourCats will be back in Victoria on Tuesday to host Game 1 of the playoffs, most likely against the Bend Elks.

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Victoria’s Kevin Collard, who had a pair of hits, dives safely back into first on this pickoff attempt Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Game Notes: The Yakima win avoided their first losing sweep of the season. They have only been swept in a series once the last two years. The HarbourCats honoured three-year HarbourCat Alex DeGoti prior to Wednesday’s game, installing a plaque with his name and number on it in a new “Ring of Honour” along the back wall of the main grandstand. No matter the outcome in Bellingham, the HarbourCats are now the winningest team in franchise history. Their 27 wins to date are already more than the previous record of 25 wins set in 2014.

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