Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
June 15, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Another returning player, another successful 2016 debut, as this time Cal Poly’s Ben Polshuk had three hits, including a pair of home runs and four RBIs to lead the Victoria HarbourCats to a 9-5 win over the Gresham GreyWolves in West Coast League (WCL) action Wednesday night at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.
Victoria’s Ben Polshuk watches his fifth inning home run soar toward the left field fence during the HarbourCats 9-5 win over Gresham Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win is the seventh in a row for the streaking HarbourCats, a stretch that started after they began the season 0-3 and keeps them a game ahead of the Kelowna Falcons, also winners Wednesday, in the early season race for first in the WCL’s North Division.
Polshuk’s power surge began in his very first 2016 at bat, when he took a 2-2 pitch over the left-centre fence to give the HarbourCats a 1-0 lead. The ‘Cats would threaten to score more in that inning when Tommy Jew, making his HarbourCats debut, launched what looked to be a sure two-RBI extra-base hit to the right-centre gap, but an incredible Kevin Pillar like diving catch by GreyWolves centre-fielder Ryan Smith ended the inning with no further damage.
Returnee Austin Dondanville got the start for the ‘Cats Wednesday and had a strong three innings, giving up one hit and striking out six (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
After the HarbourCats scored two more in the bottom of the fourth, on the strength of a PJ Floyd single and an RBI-double from Riley Guntrip, his second hit of the game, Polshuk would strike again in the bottom of the fifth, this time launching a three-run bomb over the Slegg Lumber sign in left that scored Griffin Andreychuk and Jake Stone, both who singled to lead off the inning.
The HarbourCats would go up 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth when newcomer Matt Lautz would single to lead off the inning and then later score on a Stone single, the second hit of the game for another new HarbourCat.
Victoria’s PJ Floyd (left) and Griffin Andreychuk (right) each had a two hit night in the win over Gresham (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Meanwhile HarbourCats pitching was once again keeping the GreyWolves bats silent, with returning pitcher Austin Dondanville making his 2016 debut and going just three innings, giving up a single hit and striking out six. Casey Costello then came on for a pair of scoreless innings, followed by Blake Hannah who pitched a scoreless sixth.
HarbourCats Head Coach Graig Merritt (right) has a word with base umpire Corey Klein (left) regarding disputed check swing during Wednesday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Wolves would finally strike for a run in the top of the seventh off the HarbourCats Nick Wojtysiak, but the HarbourCats would get that, plus one more right back in the bottom of the inning thanks to a pair of walks to PJ Floyd and newcomer Dominic Collachio, a Dakota Dean single and then a Gresham throwing error, that allowed Floyd and Collachio to score, making the score 9-1.
Casey Costello pitched two scoreless innings for the HarbourCats in relief Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Wojtysiak would give up three more runs in the top of the eighth before being replaced by returnee Josh Walker who struggled, walking one and hitting another to load the bases, before Greg Casper came in to put out the fire, walking in another run, but then getting a ground out to send the ‘Cats to the bottom of the inning with a 9-5 lead.
After the ‘Cats failed to score, Casper returned for the ninth, striking out the side to close out the win.
Victoria’s Blake Hannah made his HarbourCats debut Wednesday throwing a scoreless sixth inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In addition to Polshuk’s impressive debut and that of Stone, the HarbourCats’ 14 hit attack also included a pair of hits each from Andreychuk, Dean, Guntrip, Floyd and one from Lautz.
For the GreyWolves, starting pitcher Andrew Heideman takes the loss, giving up six runs on nine hits in four and two-thirds innings of work. Cason Cunningham and David Wallum saw action in relief. Offensively Ryan Smith led the way with a pair of hits.
This is becoming a common site at RAP as the HarbourCats rolled to their seventh straight win and fifth straight at home, to improve to 7-3 on the season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The teams close out their three game set with a special Thursday School Days matinee at 12:35 PM and then the HarbourCats get set to host the Cowlitz Black Bears for a three game set beginning Friday evening at 6:35 PM.