Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The real HarbourCats of Santa Barbara

This blog post is the first of our regular updates on the four Victoria HarbourCats who are currently playing for the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Gauchos. This first installment was a joint effort by Gus and the newest addition to our team of bloggers, WC. We hope that our series of UCSB blog posts will give you a useful introduction to these four HarbourCats before you come out to see them play at Royal Athletic Park this summer.

The UC Santa Barbara baseball program will be supplying four outstanding young athletes to our HarbourCats this summer. Aside from a future that includes taking to the hill at Royal Athletic Park, the foursome of Connor Baits, Robby Nesovic, Dillon Tate and Art Vidrio have another thing in common -- they are all freshman pitchers who will start the season in the Gauchos bullpen.

The “Fab Four” appear to be in very good hands as they set out on their college careers. UCSB’s head coach, Andrew Checketts, has a great reputation for both recruiting and developing young talent. Before taking his current job, he became known as one of the best pitching coaches in the country thanks to three highly successful seasons at the University of Oregon, seven at UC Riverside and one at Riverside City College (working under HarbourCats head coach Dennis Rogers). While serving as the pitching coach for Rogers in 2001, the RCC hurlers set a school record for team ERA. That record of success and level of familiarity helps to explain the strong relationship between Checketts and Rogers – otherwise we wouldn't have acquired one third of our pitching staff from a single program. This elite coaching connection will help boost the development of a lot more ballplayers than just these four HarbourCats.

UC Santa Barbara got their 2013 season off to a successful start this past weekend, taking two out of three at Fresno State. Game one of the series saw the Gauchos fall by a score of 8-1, but they turned the tables for an 8-1 win on Saturday to even the series. The Sunday rubber match was a convincing 11-3 win for UCSB.

Nesovic (6) and Baits (41) during batting practice
The most highly-touted pitcher of the four HarbourCats, Connor Baits, threw a scoreless ninth inning to close out Saturday’s victory. He didn’t allow a hit and recorded one strike out and one walk. Trusting Baits with the lead in the final inning is a pretty good indication that Checketts already has a lot of confidence in the freshman.

Robby Nesovic didn’t pitch on the weekend, but he started the first game as the designated hitter. He went 0-for-2 on the night and narrowly missed becoming the hero for the Gauchos. Trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning, UCSB had the bases loaded when Nesovic came to the plate. Unfortunately, he lined out to the shortstop who then doubled off the runner on second to end the threat. It will be interesting to see how many plate appearances Nesovic gets with the Gauchos this spring and whether or not the HarbourCats use him as a two-way player as well. It’s always good to have guys on your team with the athleticism required to play the role of utility man.

Neither Dillon Tate nor lefty Art Vidrio saw any action on the weekend, but hopefully Checketts will be able to ease our young recruits into some games in the near future. The next opportunity comes on Friday afternoon when the Gauchos open up a four-game weekend series against the University of San Francisco.

The Sooners opening-day lineup
  • Alex Real is listed as a catcher on the HarbourCats roster, but he started all three games at first base for the University of New Mexico Lobos this past weekend. Real is off to a bit of a slow start with the bat, as he picked up three hits in 14 at-bats. However, he did walk twice to keep his on-base percentage at a respectable .313. The Lobos lost two of three games against Oklahoma State and dropped out of Baseball America’s College Top 25 rankings.
  • One of the most common words used to describe Anthony Hermelyn as a ballplayer is "versatile". While I was aware that he played a number of infield positions and can pitch (effectively), I wasn’t aware that he also was a catcher. So you can imagine my surprise when I checked the opening-day lineups and saw Hermelyn pencilled in behind the plate for the Oklahoma Sooners. He apparently played first base in the fall, but a last-minute decision was made to use the freshman as Oklahoma’s regular catcher instead.
  • Hermelyn has started four of the first six games at catcher. He is off to a decent start offensively, hitting .250 with 4 RBI in 13 at-bats. The Sooners now have a 6-0 record and are ranked 18th in the country by Baseball America. They appear to be a team on the upswing and they could do some serious damage in the College World Series in June.
  • You can watch the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader between the Sooners and Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sooners Sports TV. Anthony Hermelyn’s four at-bats come at the 29:38, 56:56, 1:28:28 and 2:07:23 marks.
  • Look for Alex Real and Anthony Hermelyn to be two of the big boppers in the middle of the HarbourCats lineup this summer.
  • In case you haven’t had enough of the Harlem Shake phenomenon, check out the version released by the Cal State Fullerton Titans.

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