Late Surge Secures Number 13 for HarbourCats

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

June 25, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Another fine outing by pitcher Will McAffer and three big runs in the eighth inning secured a 5-1 win for the Victoria HarbourCats over the Kitsap Blue Jackets in West Coast League (WCL) action Saturday night at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.

This is an all too familiar scene at RAP as the HarbourCats have now won 13 straight including 11 at home (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win was the HarbourCats franchise record 13th in a row and sets them on the verge of tying the West Coast League record of 14 in a row (held by Wenatchee) should they sweep the Blue Jackets on Sunday afternoon.

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Another strong outing for Victoria’s Will McAffer who went six innings, giving up a run on two hits, two walks and eight strikeouts, earning the 5-1 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Last weeks’ WCL and summer collegiate baseball pitcher of the week, McAffer, was at his best again Saturday, giving up a run to Kitsap in the second, but shutting them down for the rest of his six full innings, allowing just two hits and two walks over that time, while striking out eight, giving him a league leading 30 strikeouts on the season.

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Victoria’s Griffin Andreychuk is forced out at second by Kitsap shortstop Luke Stampfl (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

McAffer’s performance came in handy, as the HarbourCats were also having some difficulty finding their way offensively against Kitsap starter Jake Prizina, who gave up just three hits in five innings of work. Like McAffer, Prizina allowed a run in the second on a Matt Lautz single that scored AJ Alcantara, but the ‘Cats would then get to him for another in the fourth when Tommy Jew came through with an RBI single to score Joe Prior, who had walked.

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Kitsap starter Jake Prizina did his best to keep the Victoria offence in check, allowing just 2 runs on 3 hits over 5 innings of work (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That tense 2-1 score held through the seventh, thanks to some clutch relief pitching by both Kitsap’s Nick Caudillo and John Matros, as well as the HarbourCats Holden Lyons, who worked his way out of trouble after coming in for McAffer in the seventh.

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Victoria baserunner Ben Polshuk steals a base early in Saturday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Lyons would encounter more difficulty in the top of the eighth when Bryce Steckler would get on with a one-out single and eventually find his way to second on a steal. Lyons would buckle down though to strike out the next two batters and leave the tying run stranded on second.

That seemed to wake up the HarbourCats offence and pinch-hitter Cody Snider made the most of his opportunity, lining a single to right off Matros, to lead off the bottom of the eighth.

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Both Victoria’s Tommy Jew (top) and Griffin Andreychuk (bottom) had their turn at turning double plays on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Joe Prior would then be hit by a pitch and then when Kitsap third baseman Jack Stronach slipped while fielding an AJ Alcantara sacrifice bunt attempt, the HarbourCats suddenly had the bases loaded with no one out.

A walk to Ryan Anderson plated Snider to put the ‘Cats up 3-1 and when Kitsap’s Jordan Knoll came in to relieve Matros, he was greeted by a Lautz single that scored Prior and Alcantara, Lautz’s second and third RBIs of the game, giving the HarbourCats the 5-1 lead.

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A leadoff, pinch-hit single from Cody Snider sparked a three-run eighth inning for Victoria, sealing their 13th straight win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That late rally seemed to take the wind out of the Kitsap sails and in the ninth, Lyons returned to the mound and had little trouble, retiring three straight batters, including the final two on strikeouts, to close out the win.

The HarbourCats will send big lefty Josh Mitchell out to the hill Sunday afternoon to look for win number 14, while the Blue Jackets will counter with their ace, Jake Brewer, who leads the WCL with a paltry 0.39 ERA over five starts. Game time at Royal Athletic Park is 1:00 PM.

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After pitching a shaky inning Friday, closer Holden Lyons was near perfect Saturday, going three innings and giving up just one hit and no walks while striking out six (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

GAME NOTES: After going on a tear to begin his season, Griffin Andreychuk had a three game hitless streak that he ended tonight with a base hit. Matt Lautz’s two hits also ended a 3 game hitless streak. As the HarbourCats win streak rises, so too does their attendance. Saturday’s crowd was a respectable 2,370. Sunday’s game is Bark in the Park day and fans will be allowed to bring their dogs to the game (leashed please, at Harvey’s request).