Sunday, March 24, 2013

HarbourCanucks corner - March 24th edition

Nick Pivetta
Nick Pivetta of the New Mexico Junior College (NMJC) Thunderbirds continues to pitch extremely well this season. On Friday, he went the distance to lead the Thunderbirds to a 6-3 victory over Howard College and raise his record to 5-2. Pivetta gave up three earned runs on eight hits in his nine innings of work. He also struck out four and didn't walk a single batter. Pivetta now has a 3.05 ERA, a nifty 1.11 WHIP and he has walked fewer than two batters per nine innings. Given that his velocity took a big jump in the fall, it’s a wonder that his control has also improved from the 3.7 walks per nine innings that he issued with the Thunderbirds last season. It’s pretty easy to understand why the scouts have been flocking to Pivetta’s starts this year.

NMJC ended up taking three of four games from Howard College on the weekend to raise their record to 23-7 on the year. Their next action is this upcoming weekend when they take on Odessa College in a four-game series.

The VIBI Mariners played their first conference games of the season on Saturday and Sunday and Connor Russell earned the Opening Day start. Although the temperature in Nanaimo was 7C (45F) at game time on Saturday, it felt closer to the freezing mark with a stiff breeze blowing most of the afternoon. Russell got off to a great start by retiring the Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) Dawgs in order in the first inning, but it was an uphill battle for the rest of the seven-inning game. After giving up a run in the top of the third inning, Russell was staked to a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the frame on an opposite-field grand slam by Darren Kolk. The score remained that way until the top of the fifth when the Dawgs struck for three runs to tie the game. Russell deserved a better fate in that inning, as the Dawgs used three consecutive flares to the opposite field and a pair of walks to draw even. PBA scored the eventual winning run with two outs in the top of the seventh inning on a throwing error by the catcher, making the final score 5-4 for the visitors.
Connor Russell

On the afternoon, Russell went seven innings and gave up four earned runs on eight hits. He walked six, struck out five and threw a total of 123 pitches. Although this wasn’t the result he was hoping for, Russell still impressed me with his resilience and compete level against the defending Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) champions. Including non-conference games, he now has a 2-2 record and a 4.03 ERA on the year.

Unfortunately, things did not go any better for the Mariners during the rest of the weekend, as the PBA Dawgs won all four games. The Mariners have a heavy schedule in the next week with eight games coming up against the Sherwood Park A’s, Edmonton Prospects and the University of Calgary. All games are at Serauxmen Stadium in Nanaimo.

Austin Russell of the Southern Polytechnic Hornets failed to receive much playing time for the second consecutive week, although he did reach base on an error in his only at-bat. Russell’s average sits at .327, good for sixth best on the team. The Hornets can certainly use an offensive boost after being held by Lee University to one run and a measly 10 hits in a three-game series over the weekend, so perhaps Austin will be back in the starting lineup soon. The Hornets play a doubleheader against Point University on Tuesday and then they take on William Carey University in the three-game set next weekend.

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