Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bend Elks - series preview

Heading into the season, many observers were hoping that the HarbourCats would just tread water in the first couple of weeks until most of their regular players reported. To the surprise of many, the team broke quickly out of the gates and Victoria is currently sitting in first place with a stellar 8-3 record. Although some of the credit for the team’s early success should go to the local players like Ty Russell who were signed to short-term contracts and performed admirably, the regulars who arrived by Opening Day such as Alex DeGoti, Chris Lewis, Connor Russell and Ty Provencher have been outstanding. It’s also worth mentioning that the coaching staff has done an exceptional job of managing what has at times been an eight-man pitching staff.

All but three of the regular HarbourCats have now reported, so we’re finally going to get an idea of just how good our team is. Victoria will take on the Bend Elks in a three-game set at Royal Athletic Park this weekend, and the series will feature the teams with the two best records in the league. Here’s our series preview to get you ready for the titanic struggle.

Tale of the Tape

Victoria HarbourCats: 8-3 (1st place in North), .260 team batting average (3rd), 4.08 team ERA (8th)
Bend Elks: 11-4 (1st place in South), .303 team batting average (2nd), 3.21 team ERA (2nd)

HarbourCats – Who’s Hot
  • Alex Real is leading the league in hitting with a .412 mark. He has the potential to win the batting championship and be a candidate for league MVP.
  • Although he is only hitting .245 on the season, Chris Lewis has an eight-game hitting streak and has eight RBI in that span. His 12 RBI on the year is second-best in the WCL – that’s amazing considering how many hard-luck outs he has hit into this season. Look for Lewis to hit over .300 and post monster RBI numbers this season.
  • Alex DeGoti has reached base safely in each of his 10 games played this season. He’s hitting .300 with a .511 on-base percentage.
  • Scott Kuzminsky hasn’t given up an earned run (or a walk!) in 10 2/3 innings pitched. He has also picked up a pair of victories.
  • Ty Russell leads the team with a slow-pitch style .636 on-base percentage.
Tim Richards
HarbourCats Players to Watch

Slick-fielding shortstop Tim Richards made his first appearance in a HarbourCats uniform on Wednesday, just days after being selected by the Miami Marlins in the 40th round of the MLB draft. All indications are that Richards will not sign with the Marlins and he’ll spend the summer in Victoria before joining Bryan Conant at Cal State Fullerton this Fall. You’ll want to keep an eye on Richards this weekend – he’s an electrifying player.

Speaking of electrifying, keep your eyes peeled for pitcher / DH Robby Nesovic this weekend. Not only was the freshman given a significant amount of time on the hill for the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos this past season, but he also spent most of the year batting in the middle of the lineup as the team’s regular DH. In 187 at-bats, Nesovic hit .326 with four homers and 33 RBI. I have even heard rumblings that Nesovic might see some playing time as a middle infielder this summer. Is there anything this guy can’t do?!?!?

Elks – Who’s Hot
  • Clean-up hitter Derek Dixon leads the league with 20 RBI in only 15 games. Oh, and the first baseman is also hitting .396, good enough for a tie for second place in the batting race with teammate Seth Spivey.
  • Second baseman and leadoff hitter Seth Spivey is hitting .396 with 17 runs scored.
  • Pitcher / outfielder Adam Grantham has a 1.42 ERA and has struck out 10 batters in 6 1/3 innings pitched. He’s also a threat with the bat – he’s hitting .400 with a home run in 15 at-bats.
  • Pitcher / second baseman Tanner Ring is hitting .483 with a homer and five RBI in 29 at-bats. He’s had less success on the mound, but has still struck out an impressive 12 batters in 7 2/3 innings.
  • Closer Nick Highberger has three saves and has limited opponents to a .136 batting average.
Elks Player to Watch

Shortstop Keach Ballard is coming off a huge year for Murray State and he’ll be a teammate of HarbourCat Justin Burba at the University of Oklahoma this Fall. Ballard hit .352 with a .564 slugging percentage this past season, so don’t be surprised if he breaks out in a big way this weekend. 

Key to the Series

The Elks lead the league in homers (8), RBI (83), walks (63), slugging percentage (.412) and OPS (.812). The big question is: Can the HarbourCats pitching staff contain the big boppers in the Bend lineup? Victoria’s pitching has been up and down and they’ll be facing their toughest test of the young season in the Bend Elks. If the ‘Cats hurlers can minimize the extra-base hits then all will be good. If not, then it could be a long weekend for the hometown team. 


The Elks are a formidable foe, but their numbers have been helped by the fact that everyone on the team except Oregon State’s Tyler Painton reported over a week ago and their schedule has been relatively easy. I’m giving a slight edge to the HarbourCats, who will likely be pumped up to be playing in front of the home crowd at Royal Athletic Park. The HarbourCats will take two out of three.

  • You can expect to see some excellent defense played this weekend – much better than what was on display in the first home stand against Kelowna and Medford. The Elks have given up the fewest unearned runs in the league (six in 15 games) and the newly-bolstered HarbourCats lineup should be much improved in the field.
  • The Pitching Coach of the Elks is Alan Embree, the man who recorded the final out for the Red Sox against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.
  • The Elks feature one of the smallest players in the league, Jordan Aboites of Arizona State. He’s listed (probably generously) at 5-6 and 135 lbs. Let's hope he doesn't go into an Eddie Gaedel like crouch at the plate.
  • The Bend catcher, Tyler Servais, was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 36th round of the 2011 MLB draft. He’s the son of former big-league catcher Scott Servais
  • The right fielder for the Elks, Cullen O'Dwyer, was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 39th round of the 2012 MLB draft.
  • Seven members of the HarbourCats have been selected in previous MLB drafts: Greg Fettes, Alex Real, David Schuknecht, Jack Graham, Dylan LaVelle, Tim Richards and Brandon Smith.

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