Thursday, June 27, 2013

HarbourCats ready to pounce

After taking two of three from the hard-hitting Bend Elks on the weekend, the HarbourCats have been kicking back and enjoying a rare five-day layoff. The extended time off is made possible by the fact that the West Coast League is operating once again with an odd number of teams, but there are few such days off for Victoria once they get back into action on Saturday night with a tilt against the Cowlitz Black Bears in Longview, Washington.

Brett Urabe (44) joins the dog pile after UCLA wins the CWS
The 'Cats have been practicing at Royal Athletic Park for the last three days in preparation for the next leg of their journey to the post-season -- a 12-games-in-12-days odyssey that will be yet another litmus test for the team. Up until this point in the season, the HarbourCats have been blessed with a significant number of off days, which has allowed them to limp by with (largely) an eight-man pitching staff. Ryan Keller from the University of San Diego and Cameron Cuneo from UC Santa Barbara have recently joined the team, so they'll head out on the road with at least 10 pitchers in tow. The 'Cats are currently sixth in ERA in the West Coast League with a 3.63 mark, but I would expect that number to come down a bit as the season progresses and the hurlers settle into their new roles.

Victoria still has the best record in the league with a 10-4 mark, but they remain only 1/2 game ahead of the second-place Bellingham Bells in the North Division standings. As if that wasn't enough of an accomplishment for an expansion team, this week the HarbourCats came in at #11 in Perfect Game's rankings of the top summer collegiate teams. It looks like the "new guy in town" has made quite a statement to everyone else in the West Coast League, including perennial powerhouses like Wenatchee and Corvallis.

The 'Cats will send "Mr. Utility", Robby Nesovic (0-1, 6.42 ERA), to the mound on Saturday in the first game of the Cowlitz series. He'll be followed by Bryan Conant (2-0, 1.54 ERA) and Ty Provencher (3-0, 2.14 ERA) on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Victoria then moves on to Wenatchee to play the AppleSauce (oops, I mean AppleSox) in a three-game set that starts on Tuesday night. The HarbourCats then return home for a six-game home stand against Kelowna and Walla Walla that begins on Friday July 5th.

Brett Urabe (bottom left) has a chance to win two championships in one year
  • The UCLA Bruins won their first-ever College World Series on Tuesday night by upsetting Mississippi State in two straight games. Brett Urabe of the HarbourCats is a freshman utility player on the Bruins, and he'll hopefully be in uniform at RAP during Victoria's next home stand.
  • Scott Kuzminsky leads the league with a 0.00 ERA in 15 2/3 innings pitched. He also has an incredible 13:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
  • Bryan Conant (1.54) and Connor Russell (1.61) are sixth and seventh in the league in ERA. Russell also ranks fifth with 21 strikeouts in spite of the fact that he has only had three starts.
  • Alex Real is second in the batting race with a .366 average.
  • Chris Lewis is fourth in the league with 14 RBI and he has quietly compiled a 10-game hitting streak. 

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