New Blood, Pitching Lead HarbourCats to Sixth Straight Win

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

June 14, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Well it didn’t take long for returning players AJ Alcantara and Griffin Andreychuk to make an impression, as both had three hit nights in their first game of the 2016 season, helping the Victoria HarbourCats to a 2-0 win over the Gresham GreyWolves in West Coast League (WCL) action Tuesday night at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

The HarbourCats Griffin Andreychuk picked up right where he left off in 2015, notching three base hits in his first game with the HarbourCats in 2016 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win boosts the 6-3 HarbourCats win streak to six and puts them in first place in the North Division thanks to the Kelowna Falcons 12-0 loss to the Corvallis Knights Tuesday. The HarbourCats swept a double-header last Sunday from the Falcons to tie Kelowna for first heading into today’s action.

Alcantara’s third hit of the day, a double in the bottom of the eighth, provided the insurance run of the game, scoring Matt Smith who had led the inning off with a single. Smith was also responsible for the HarbourCats only other run of the game, getting credit for an RBI in the fifth inning, when his bases-loaded ground ball was booted by Gresham shortstop Marc Mumper, allowing Jarron Silva (walk) to score from third.

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The HarbourCats AJ Alcantara (right) slides into second base with an RBI-double during the eighth inning Tuesday, his third hit of the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That first run would be all the offence the HarbourCats would need Tuesday, as starting pitcher Will McAffer and relievers Colin Ashworth and Holden Lyons would hold Gresham to just four hits on the day, two each by McAffer and Lyons.

McAffer, a former North Shore Twins (BCPBL) product, was making his second start of the season after taking an 8-3 loss in Walla Walla to begin the season and he looked super sharp early, topping 90 mph on the radar gun and breaking off a curve ball that had Gresham batters buckling at the knees.

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Victoria’a Will McAffer had a strong outing to get the win, going 5 and 2/3 innings and giving up just two hits, while striking out nine (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

McAffer would strike out nine GreyWolves batters in total before faltering in the sixth and issuing a pair of two-out walks. HarbourCats Head Coach Graig Merritt would go to the bullpen for reliever Colin Ashworth and that was the right call, as Ashworth would end the inning by inducing a three-pitch ground out to third to end the threat.

After that, reliever Holden Lyons took over and was masterful, giving up just two hits and striking out seven in his three innings of work to get the save.

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Holden Lyons was strong in relief, throwing three innings and striking out seven to earn his second save of the season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Alcantara and Andreychuk were just two of five HarbourCats who made their season debut Tuesday, the others being shortstop Cameron Cannon, left-fielder Ryan Anderson and third baseman Brad Pluschkell. Both Anderson and Pluschkell contributed hits on the evening.

Walla Walla starter Gabe Benevides perhaps deserved a better fate Tuesday, getting tagged for the loss despite not giving up any earned runs and striking out five over his six innings of work. The HarbourCats did manage seven hits over that time frame, but Benevides got some key defensive help, including two inning-ending double plays, to keep the score close.

Offensively for Gresham, Drew Curtis led the way with two of his team’s four hits.

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It was a tough loss for Gresham starter Gabe Benevides, who went six innings without allowing an earned run, giving up seven hits and striking out five (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The teams play game two of their three game set on Wednesday at 6:35 pm with returnee Austin Dondanville slated to get the start for the HarbourCats, while the GreyWolves respond with Andrew Heideman.

Game Notes: The HarbourCats have signed two more returning players including Austin Guibor, an outfielder from Campbell, CA who just completed his junior year at Fresno State (NCAA Div. 1; Mountain West) where he was one of the leading run producers for the Bulldogs, hitting .293 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs in 58 games. With the HarbourCats in 2015, Guibor hit .301 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. Ben Polshuk is an outfielder from Clayton, CA who was a member of the 2015 HarbourCats and recently completed his sophomore year at Cal Poly (NCAA Div. 1; Big West). Polshuk has appeared in 51 games in his first two years with the Mustangs, and last summer for the HarbourCats hit .295 in 31 games with three home runs and 17 RBIs. PLAYERS RELEASED: In corresponding moves to the new player arrivals, the HarbourCats have released the following players: Justin Brown, Evan Smith, Ethan Skuija, Codi Guillory, Justin Bundy, Lucas Soper, Kobe Morris, Brayden Resch, and Cody Ahlgimm.