HarbourCats Hit First Philosophy Pays Off in Win Over Cowlitz

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart

June 17, 2016, Victoria, BC – Victoria HarbourCats Head Coach Graig Merritt’s “hit first” philosophy is starting to pay off, as the HarbourCats pounded out 13 hits en route to a 11-1 win over the Cowlitz Black Bears in West Coast League action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria on Friday evening.

Victoria’s Jarron Silva (3 for 5) was one of four HarbourCats to have multi-hit games in the 11-1 win over Cowlitz (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats had four different players with mutlti-hit games including Jarron Silva (3 for 5, 2 runs scored, 2 RBIs), Griffin Andreychuk (3 for 4 with a home run, double, 2 runs scored and an RBI), Brad Pluschkell (2 for 4, with 2 runs scored) and Cameron Cannon (2 for 4 with 2 runs scored and 3 RBIs).

Merritt, on many occassions, has been heard encouraging his players to be ready to hit and to pounce on the first good pitch they see in their at bats. He is not content to have players sit back and take pitches that they could be driving for base hits instead.

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Victoria starter Josh Mitchell was dominant Friday, going seven full innings and giving up a run on four hits while striking out seven (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“We like being aggressive at the plate and we want our guys to be ready to hit,” said Merritt following Friday’s win. “We definitely have the horses that can swing the bats. We recruited heavily for some hitters, they are here for a reason and they are now making my job easy by banging the ball all over the park.”

That aggressive philosophy paid off early, as lead-off hitter Jarron Silva hit the third pitch he saw for a single and eventually moved around to score on a Cowlitz error to give the HarbourCats a first-inning 1-0 lead.

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While he has been an other-worldly 11 for 17 at the plate this season, the HarbourCats Griffin Andreychuk (left) has also been playing some solid defence at second, here attempting to turn a double play in the second inning Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Cowlitz errors once again helped the HarbourCats cause in the second inning, when the ‘Cats scored three more, thanks to singles from Pluschkell, Cannon, Silva, his second of the game and Andreychuk. Cannon’s infield single would score Matt Lautz when Cowlitz third baseman Nyles Nygaard would throw wild to first, while Cannon and Plushkell would score on Silva’s hit.

Meanwhile Josh Mitchell, making his third appearance of the season for Victoria, was comfortable on the mound, keeping the Black Bears scoreless until they chipped one across in the fourth when Tim Jones doubled to lead off the inning and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

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The HarbourCats Brad Pluschkell had two hits Friday and has quietly gone 5 for 11 (.455) in his three games to date with Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The HarbourCats would get that run back in the fifth, when Andreychuk would take the second pitch he saw from Cowlitz starter Damon Jones over the left field fence for his first home run of the season. Andreychuck, who is bidding to be the WCL player-of-the-week, has been an other-worldly 11 for 17 (.647 average) in his four games with the HarbourCats, enjoying multi-hit games in all four.

The HarbourCats would put the icing on the cake Friday with six more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, as the Cowlitz bullpen, including Parker McFadden, Devin McKesson and Jake Hawken gave up five more hits and saw the HarbourCats bat around the lineup, much to the enjoyment of the 1,500 or so fans in attendance.

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Victoria shortstop Cameron Cannon was 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs Friday and took home co-Player of the Game honours with starting pitcher Josh Mitchell (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Mitchell would take it from there, finishing his night by going seven full innings, and giving up that one Cowlitz run on just four hits, while striking out seven and walking two. Skyler Henderson would come on in relief and pitch a flawless eighth and ninth, retiring all six batters he faced, striking out two.

The HarbourCats win was their ninth in a row, tieing a franchise record, and ninth of the season, and keeps them two games ahead of Bellingham, who also won Friday, for the North Division lead. It also moves them into a tie with the 9-3 Yakima Pippins (7-4 losers to Bend) for the WCL league lead.

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Try as he might, Victoria baserunner Ryan Anderson could not avoid the tag on this play at third base during Friday’s 11-1 win over Cowlitz (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Victoria will have a chance Saturday to eclipse their team record for consecutive wins when they face off with Cowlitz in game two of the series, a 6:35 PM start. Game three then goes on Sunday afternoon, Father’s Day, at 1:00 PM.

Game Notes: It was Guaranteed Win Night Friday and the fans got just that. Had the team lost, fans would have been able to redeem their ticket stub for a ticket to any regular season game over the remainder of the season. The HarbourCats have released slick-fielding youngster Wyatt Young who has reported back to his high-school team in Hawaii.

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