Monday, April 29, 2013

Alex Real helps UNM climb to #17

The University of New Mexico swept a three-game series from UNLV this weekend to run their current win streak to 10 games, good enough to propel the Lobos from 24th to 17th in the current Top 25 rankings from Baseball America.

One of the big reasons for UNM's amazing run has been Alex Real of the Victoria HarbourCats. Real served as the team’s DH this weekend and went 4-for-14 with four RBI, bringing his batting average to .337 on the season. He now has six homers and 28 RBI to go along with the second-best slugging percentage on the team (.533).

Given Real's progress in the last twelve months, don’t be surprised to see the sophomore among the West Coast League leaders in most power numbers this summer. One can only imagine what his home run totals will be like in a couple of years, because he has also slugged 15 doubles in only 169 at-bats for UNM. If he can continue to improve while he matures physically, those doubles will be clearing the fence with ease by his senior year.

  • Opening Day for the HarbourCats is just over five weeks away! On Wednesday June 5th, our team will be taking on the Kelowna Falcons at Royal Athletic Park in their first-ever West Coast League game. Be sure to get your tickets via the HarbourCats website
  • Freshman Anthony Hermelyn continues to play a bigger role for the 12th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners as the season progresses. This weekend Hermelyn was inserted into the cleanup spot and he responded by going 4-for-10 with an RBI to raise his average to .318 -– 93 points higher than it was back in mid-March. Becoming the starting catcher and cleanup hitter for one of the best Division I teams in the country speaks volumes about the kind of talent this young man possesses.
  • Local boy Nick Pivetta of the New Mexico Junior College Thunderbirds was knocked around in his second consecutive start, taking a no decision in an 11-8 loss to Western Texas College on Friday. Pivetta gave up 10 hits and 8 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched. He also struck out three, walked four batters and saw his ERA rise to 3.66 – almost a run and a half higher than just two weeks ago. The Thunderbirds, who hold a 41-11 record on the year, are currently the 20th-ranked junior college in the country. They wrap up their regular season next weekend with a four-game series against Frank Phillips College.
  • Connor Russell made his second consecutive appearance in long relief for the VIBI Mariners on the weekend. He held a tough Prairie Baseball Academy squad to only one earned run and four hits in five innings pitched, while he struck out five and walked two batters. Russell now has a 3.44 ERA in conference play. 
  • Austin Russell’s Southern Polytechnic Hornets took two of three games on the weekend from the Brewton-Parker College Barons to finish the regular season with a 37-17 record. Russell did not appear in any of the three games. The Hornets are off to the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament, which begins on Tuesday in Columbus, Georgia.
  • Life just got a bit easier for catchers in the West Coast League. We recently learned that last year's WCL stolen base champion, Marc Gallegos of the Corvallis Knights, will miss the entire summer with a shoulder injury. Gallegos stole 21 bases in 26 attempts and hit .316 last year for the Knights.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Titan Connection - special high school edition

Timmy Richards
While there has not been not much recent action at Cal State Fullerton for our HarbourCat pitchers Bryan Conant and Joe Navilhon, another future 'Cat and CSF recruit - Tim (Timmy) Richards - is putting together a nice senior year at Woodrow Wilson High.

Richards, a five foot ten inch senior, weighing in at 170 pounds, is batting .354 with a .416 on base percentage, and leads his team in extra base hits with 10 (8 doubles and 2 triples) in just over one hundred plate appearances this year. Compared to last year where his average was just .233, all his stats have improved quite dramatically.

His natural fielding position seems to be at short where he looks to have good range and a decent arm for his slight stature (which I'm sure is a bit larger than noted above, given he's still a growing boy!). Poking around in YouTube, you are able to watch him in a few prospect videos as well as highlights from his high school career.

While I am truly amazed how much information these US High Schools maintain online, it is still hard to get a feel for how he plays without actually watching him in action. He does seem to whiff a fair bit, with 25 K's in those one hundred plate appearances which is up slightly from last year. It's also hard to tell if he hits for average or power, as there have only been 4 home runs by his entire team in 26 games, so, hard to get a sense of perspective there.

However, when you look at the year-to-year improvement, nice average/on base percentage and the fact that he does get a lot of extra base hits, he is certainly an intriguing prospect. Being signed by Cal State Fullerton speaks loudly as well, since the Titans are a very solid college team and can presumably be quite picky with its recruits. All in all, he seems to be one of those "multi-tool" guys who is more than competent at the plate and in the field. As with all the lads, it will be exciting to see him strut his stuff at RAP this summer in just over ONE MONTH!!!

  • A couple of weeks ago, the 'Cats mascot, Harvey, was in attendance to help kick off the Cordova Bay Fastball season. By all accounts, Harvey seemed to be a hit with the kids and very active at the event - high fiving, singing O' Canada and even catching the first pitch to kick off the season. It is awesome to see this community spirit in our fair city - nicely done HarbourCats!
  • As for Harvey the mascot, I look forward to meeting him in "person" this summer. While I'm slightly confused by his dinner jacket and bow tie that he has been seen wearing, and his fangs remind me of Kirsten Dunst (and she doesn't scare me...much), I hold hope that his conservative appearance masks some sort of mascot "attitude". And I don't mean obnoxious attitude (see Marty the Marmot), I'm talking "bad news", like one of my favourite mascots of all time, Rocky from the Denver Nuggets. Come on me proud!!
    Harvey at the Cordova Bay Opening Ceremonies

Sunday, April 21, 2013

HarbourCanucks corner - April 21st edition

Connor Russell (30)
Connor Russell (2-2) picked up the win in relief on Saturday afternoon in the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute’s 11-2 victory over the Okanagan College Coyotes. “Russ” limited the Coyotes to only two unearned runs on two hits and a walk in 3 1/3 innings pitched. He also struck out five batters in the game and lowered his ERA in conference games to 3.69. The VIBI Mariners, now 5-15 in conference play, head to Whalley, BC to face Douglas College in a doubleheader on Wednesday. Their next conference games are on the weekend when the team plays a four-game series against the first-place Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, Alberta.

It has been surprisingly difficult to get information on the New Mexico Junior College Thunderbirds this season, and our attempts to dig up their box scores from this past week have not been fruitful. Nick Pivetta took to the mound on Friday afternoon against El Paso Community College, but details of his start are still hard to come by. We do know that he pitched 5 2/3 innings and left with an 11-7 lead, but that’s about all we can gather on his performance. The Thunderbirds went on to lose the lead after Pivetta was removed from the game, but they rallied with four runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a wild 19-18 victory. The next action for NMJC is on the weekend when they play a four-game series against Western Texas College.

The Southern Polytechnic Hornets went a perfect 6-0 this week, but unfortunately Austin Russell watched most of the action from the dugout. Russell played in two of the Hornets’ games, going one-for-seven with two runs scored to bring his batting average to .292 on the season. The Hornets now sport an impressive 35-16 record, and they wrap up their regular season play next weekend with a three-game series against Brewton-Parker College.

  • Catcher Anthony Hermelyn has continued his hot hitting for the 11th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. On Sunday he went two-for-three with three RBI and a pair of runs scored. Hermelyn is now hitting .310 in his freshman season, good for third best on a team with a bona fide shot at making an appearance in the College World Series.
  • Jordan Ellis had a big weekend for Cal Poly, but it wasn't enough to prevent the 4th-ranked Cal State Fullerton Titans from taking two out of three games from the Mustangs. Ellis went 6-for-13 with three runs scored on the weekend, raising his average to a sizzling .361.
  • The University of New Mexico Lobos won their seventh consecutive game on Sunday, and HarbourCat Alex Real played a big role in the win. Real clubbed three doubles, scored a pair of runs and had an RBI in a 15-11 victory over the Nevada Wolf Pack. Real is now hitting .342 in his 155 at-bats with a scintillating .974 OPS.
  • David Schuknecht continues to be the regular left fielder for Dennis Rogers' Riverside City College Tigers. On Saturday, Schuknecht hit his fourth homer of the year to lead RCC to a 5-0 victory over Santa Ana College. He now has four of the five homers hit by the Tigers this season. Schuknecht's .263 batting average is second best on the RCC squad, and he leads the team with a .485 slugging percentage. 

The New Mexico Junior College box score from Friday April 19th has finally been posted. Pivetta's line: 5 2/3 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3K. His ERA now stands at 2.92.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

HarbourCats sign Chris Lewis from Sacramento State

The HarbourCats roster has been tweaked recently with four players released and another one added. The newest H-Cat is Chris Lewis, a 6-foot, 190-pound utility player from the Sacramento State Hornets. The redshirt freshman is listed as an outfielder on the HarbourCats roster, but he played shortstop in his senior year at Serra High School (Burlingame, Calif.) and has been the designated hitter for all 36 of the Hornets’ games so far this season.
Chris Lewis at the dish

Although his numbers as a high school senior were modest (.301 BA, 9 RBI), Lewis has been outstanding in his first season of NCAA baseball. Hitting in the cleanup position, he leads Sacramento State with a sparkling .365 batting average and an impressive 33 RBI in 137 at-bats. He currently has a 13-game hitting streak and he has reached base safely in the last 27 consecutive games.

On top of his offensive accomplishments, Lewis has gained a reputation as a hard-nosed, throwback type of player who consistently plays the game all out. From what I have read, he seems like the kind of player who regularly has the dirtiest uniform out on the field – exactly the type of guy who just might become one of the fan favourites at Royal Athletic Park this summer.

The four players released were David Olmedo-Barerra (Cal State Fullerton), Josh Cushing (University of Washington), Dillon Tate (University of California Santa Barbara) and Kyle Moses (Sacramento State). None of the four have received significant playing time with their respective teams so far this year. The moves bring the HarbourCats roster down to a total of 29 players, and more changes are expected before Opening Day.

Titan Connection - April 17 edition

For the first time in a while, one of our HarbourCats got some action for Cal State Fullerton, with Bryan Conant pitching 2 perfect innings in relief while also picking up the win! Conant had it going on last night as he faced the minimum 6 batters, striking out three of them in an 8-4 Titan win at Pepperdine.

The Titans, currently ranked number four by Baseball America, had a total of seven pitchers in the game last night with all of them throwing less than three innings. Given the way the game went, it seems the CSF coach was looking to get some innings for a number of pitchers on the staff. It was great to see Conant take full advantage of it and bag his first collegiate win.

A while back, on March 29, in a 9-4 victory against Pacific, Joe Navilhon also had an appearance that I'm sure he'll want to forget, giving up three hits (2 of them home runs) and 3 runs without recording an out. He has not pitched since that time but with 19 games (18 of them important conference ones) between now and May 25th, here's to hoping he gets called into action again soon.

As it stands right now here is the line on our 2 'Cats pitchers:

                        ERA   W-L   App   IP   H   R  ER  BB   SO  b/avg  WHIP
Bryan Conant    5.40    1-0      7    8.1  6    5    5     3     10   .222     1.11
Joe Navilhon     7.71    0-0      5    5.2  5    5    4     2       5   .278     1.35

Forgetting ERA, which to me is a useless stat - especially for relievers, not bad for a couple of freshmen on a team with extremely high expectations. Conant in particular has a very decent WHIP as well as opponent batting average. Granted, it is a small sample size, but I think it will be exciting to see both of these lads on the hill at RAP this summer. Here's to wishing them continued success for the college stretch run!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ellis earns starting job with Cal Poly

Jordan Ellis
Expectations for sophomore Jordan Ellis of the Cal Poly Mustangs were muted coming into this season, to say the least. After only getting 15 at-bats in his freshman season with the Mustangs, Ellis spent part of last summer playing for the lowly Kitsap BlueJackets, compiling a .270 batting average with no homers and seven RBI. Given his modest numbers, it wasn't a big surprise when Ellis was slotted near the bottom of the outfield depth chart for Cal Poly early this winter. However, things haven’t exactly gone as planned for the Mustangs outfielders this season.

The left-handed hitting Ellis spent most of the early going on the bench, collecting only six at-bats in the Mustangs' first 16 games. His season quickly turned around on March 12th, however, thanks to a big performance against San Jose State in which Ellis went two-for-four with three RBI. His third RBI of the night tied the score in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Mustangs would go on to win that game 6-5 in extra innings. From that point on, Ellis was off to the races. He has now started 11 consecutive games in the outfield – seven in left field and the last four in centre field – and he has become a fixture in the number two spot in the batting order.

Ellis now has a .339 batting average with no homers and 11 RBI in 59 at-bats, and it's safe to say that he’s on the verge of breakout season. The only downside to Ellis’ increased workload is that his playing time has come at the expense of fellow HarbourCat John Schuknecht, although the highly-touted freshman will get his day in the sun before too long.

Cal Poly came into this season as an unranked team, but a 25-9 record has them currently ranked 23rd in the country. They’ll take on the fourth-ranked Cal State Fullerton Titans in one of the marquee match-ups of this coming weekend in NCAA baseball. With a total of five HarbourCats in uniform for the series, you can be sure that our boys will have a say in how this Big West Conference shootout plays out.


Here is a CSF - Cal Poly series preview from Baseball America:
No. 4 Cal State Fullerton travels to No. 23 Cal Poly in the biggest series of the year in the Big West. The Titans, of course, are the class of the Big West as usual, and they have reeled off three separate winning streaks of 10 games this year. At 8-1 in the league, Fullerton has a two-game lead over the Mustangs, who took a bad loss last Sunday against 8-24 Hawaii. The Titans and Mustangs are two of the three best offensive teams in the Big West, but they are also the two best pitching teams in the league, so runs won’t be easy to come by. The first two pitching matchups of the weekend are outstanding, as Thomas Eshelman (fresh off his first walk of his collegiate career) takes on Joey Wagman on Friday, and Justin Garza matches up with Matt Imhof on Saturday.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

HarbourCanucks corner - April 14th edition

Nick Pivetta continues to dominate on the mound for the New Mexico Junior College Thunderbirds. Since we last checked in on our Canadian HarbourCats, Pivetta has had three stellar outings. His most recent start was a complete-game victory on Friday over the New Mexico Military Institute in which he only gave up one earned run on five hits while striking out five and walking two. The win raised his record to 8-2 on the season and lowered his ERA to a miserly 2.20.

Connor Russell
Connor Russell (3-2) has had three decent starts for the VIBI Mariners since our last update, with the most recent outing coming on Saturday against the Okanagan College Coyotes. “Russ” pitched eight strong innings and only gave up one earned run on five hits, but four Mariners errors led to a 6-5 extra-innings loss. Russell struck out nine and walked four on the afternoon.

There was an excellent article in the Nanaimo Daily News on Russell earlier this week describing how he has changed his mechanics since the end of last season in an attempt to increase his velocity. His goal is to not just dominate in the Canadian College Baseball Conference, but to play college baseball in the U.S. and hopefully play professional baseball someday. After smashing school records last season, Russell’s numbers have taken a small step backwards this spring. They are still very good though -- in his seven starts, he has a 3.75 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. The most important thing is that he is still controlling the strike zone – he has notched 9.5 strikeouts and walked 3.6 batters per nine innings this year, so look for that ERA to continue to come down as the season progresses.

Unfortunately, the news on Austin Russell is not quite so rosy. In the last 16 games played by the Southern Polytechnic Hornets, Russell has two singles and a walk in only nine at-bats. He’s hitting .310 in his 58 at-bats this year, but playing time has been hard to come by on a team bursting with offensive talent. The Hornets have a 29-16 record on the season, thanks largely to a .312 team batting average.

  • Single game tickets go on sale to the public on Monday April 15th, so be sure to reserve your seats for the opening series against the Kelowna Falcons (June 5-7). Tickets can be purchased online at Fans who purchase tickets online will receive a 5% discount on walk-up prices. For more info on single game tickets, go to the official HarbourCats site.
  • Alex Real is having a breakout season for the University of New Mexico Lobos. The sophomore had an 11-game hitting streak snapped last week, but he has been able to raise his batting average to .341 and his on-base percentage to .436. Real now has 5 homers and 20 RBI in a total of 138 at-bats this season. Although he struggled in the field in the early going, Real has now gone 24 consecutive games without committing an error.
  • Anthony Hermelyn continues to improve in his freshman season with the Oklahoma Sooners. Hermelyn has been the Sooners’ regular starting catcher and a solid last few weeks at the plate has raised his average to .286. He now sports an impressive .384 on-base percentage and he has knocked in 13 runs in his 84 at-bats on the year.
  • Matt Cooper of the University of Hawaii has settled nicely into the starting rotation after beginning the season in the Rainbows’ bullpen. Although he limited Cal Poly to only four hits and a walk in eight innings pitched on Saturday, he still took the loss and his record now sits at 2-4 on the season. In spite of a losing record, Cooper has only walked 10 batters in his 53 1/3 innings pitched and he leads the team with a 2.53 ERA.
  • Since getting lit up on March 7th, Andrew Nelson of Cuesta College has strung together seven consecutive solid appearances. On Saturday, Nelson pitched a three-hit, complete-game shutout against LA Pierce to lower his ERA to a team-leading 2.60.
  • Brett Urabe of the UCLA Bruins registered the first hit of his college career on April 7th – a home run in a 5-2 loss to Oregon State. You can view Urabe’s blast below: