Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
June 26, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – There may not be a breed of dog known as the California Polshuk, but after Sunday, the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs may want to create one in honour of the Victoria HarbourCats Ben Polshuk, whose 11th inning infield single and an ensuing throwing error by the Kitsap defence, allowed Brad Pluschkell to score all the way from first base, giving the HarbourCats a walk-off 6-5 win over the Blue Jackets in a dramatic West Coast League game played at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.
As Kitsap catcher Benny Kaleiwahea looks on dejectedly (far right) the HarbourCats begin their celebration after an 11th inning walk-off victory (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win, coming on a special themed “Bark in the Park” day that saw many of the 2,600 plus fans in attendance bring their pooch to the game, was the HarbourCats 14th in a row, tying the West Coast League Record set by Wenatchee in 2011.
Ironically, the ‘Cats will now have a chance to eclipse that record on Monday night in Wenatchee, when they hit the road for a three game set with the Apple Sox.
His hit never left the infield but it touched off a huge celebration as Ben Polshuk’s infield single (above) would result in an error that allowed Brad Pluschkell (below) to scamper home all the way from first base with the winning run (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
While Polshuk gets the honor of being the “Big Dog” on this special themed day by virtue of his game winning at bat, there were many other HarbourCats who very easily could have earned that title at the end of the day.
Reliever Casey Costello who came in to pick-up starter Josh Mitchell after he faltered in the fourth (4 runs on six hits) and went on to pitch five innings of one-run, two-hit ball to allow the HarbourCats to stay close to a pesky Kitsap squad;
Closer Greg Casper who made some key pitches over the final two innings of the game to pitch his way out of Kitsap threats and earn himself the win;
Casey Costello was excellent in long relief (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Greg Casper gets the win with 2 tough innings of relief in the 10th and 11th (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Shortstop Cameron Cannon, whose shoestring catch of an infield looper and resulting throw to first, resulted in an inning-ending double play to end a huge Kitsap threat in the top of the 10th inning;
Right-fielder Cody Snider, who entered the game in the ninth inning and then immediately made two excellent catches, one on a sinking line drive, the other on a fine running catch on a ball hit over his head;
Lead-off hitter Jarron Silva, who had a three-hit day and scored the HarbourCats first two runs of the day;
Jarron Silva had three base hits and scored the first two HarbourCats runs of the day (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Ryan Anderson, whose fourth inning home run provided a quick answer to the four runs scored by Kitsap in the top of the inning, sparking the HarbourCats to tie it up later in that frame;
Griffin Andreychuk, whose seventh inning solo-shot tied the game up 5-5 after Kitsap had forged ahead in the sixth; and finally
Pluschkell, who with a hit and a walk, scored two big HarbourCat runs, including the game winner.
Ryan Anderson’s 4th inning home run sparked the offence to tie the game 4-4 in that inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Griffin Andreychuk’s (21) 7th inning home run tied the game 5-5 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
It is contributions like this however, from up and down the HarbourCats line-up, that have become the norm and are the big reason for Victoria’s 14-game streak. Head Coach Graig Merritt has a multitude of puzzle pieces to choose from at any given point in a game and so far, he has been making all the right choices and the players have been stepping up and contributing in the clutch and when asked to do so.
For hard luck Kitsap, losers now of nine one-run ballgames, they did all they could in this one to break the HarbourCats streak , especially right fielder Bryce Peterson who had a monster day at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a double, home-run and two RBIs. Also of note was shortstop Luke Stampfl with a pair of hits including a double.
Somewhere under this pile is Brad Pluschkell who scored the winning run Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Kitsap starter Jake Brewer, who came into Sunday’s game as the WCL ERA leader at 0.39, would make it through five innings against the tough HarbourCats line-up and get tagged with two earned runs on six hits, but his defence failed him at crucial points, allowing two other runs on errors over that time. Brady Williams, who came on to pitch midway through the 11th, takes the loss in relief.
The win moves the HarbourCats record to a North Division and League leading 14-3 and moves them 4.5 games up on both Bellingham and Walla Walla for first in the North. In this new split-season format, the HarbourCats could potentially clinch a playoff position as early as this Thursday, as the magic number to clinch first for the first half of the season is five for Walla Walla and Kelowna and six for Bellingham.
Speaking of Thursday, that will be when the HarbourCats return to Royal Athletic Park following the three-game set in Wenatchee. They will face Canadian rival Kelowna Falcons in a four-game set including a double-header on Canada Day Friday. Thursday’s game is fireworks night and there will be a fantastic 20-minute show following the game which has a 6:35PM start.