Corvallis is a formidable foe, and since being swept by Kitsap in late June, they have been on a sizzling hot streak, winning eleven of their past fourteen games. This is a team that knows how to win. They have two WCL titles - the last one coming in 2011 - and have been in the finals three other times in the short eight year history of the league. The success of this year's team is very evident when you break it down - they have excellent pitching and they are an absolute menace on the base-paths. Check out these quick hitters:
- The WCL single season stolen base record is 105, and heading into tonight's game the Knights
have swiped 94 so are on track to smash that record, potentially in this homestand
- To put it in perspective, the next closest team is Medford with 59 while Victoria weighs in with 33. Corvallis have been caught only 23 times to Victoria's 19
- Hard hitting fireplug Dane Lund leads the league with 18, closely followed by Grant Melker with 16 and the flake Blake "the Snake" Drake (who likes cake) with 14
- They lead the league in ERA at 2.89 with the next closest being Medford at 3.46. Victoria's team ERA is 4.46
- They also lead the league in WHIP (1.20), opponent's BA (.227), home runs given up (8), hits given up, runs, earned runs, shutouts, opponent slugging percentage and are second in walks surrendered
- Other than that, they suck
With the All Star game just behind us, here is a quick look at the Knight's selections:
- Dane Lund - steals bases and hits for average with a .357 average and no round trippers but has struck out only six times in 115 at bats
- Cody Lenahan - hits about .300 but leads the team in K's with 23
- Blake Drake - lead-off hitter who also hits just under .300 with a .401 on base percentage
- Devon Parker - a statistically "quiet" pitcher with a 4.05 ERA who just gets the job done as a starter and now reliever (probably because of his climbing ERA)
- Brandon Choate - a stud reliever/closer who has not given up an earned run since his first appearance on June 5
- Also keep an eye on starting pitcher Chris Bishop with his sub 2.00 ERA
On the mound, Conant "the Barbarian" continues to roll and Connor Russell seems to be back in favour as a starter, having a decent outing just a couple of nights ago. It's doubtful we will see him in this series though other than in relief. Ryan Keller seems to be doing a nice job out of the bullpen lately, and his arm will be needed in the late innings to keep the starter's pitch counts out of the stratosphere. In general, the 'Cats recent pitching performances (in Kitsap) have been pretty good. As well, team errors are down with only one error in the two games down there so far. Both of these things will be key in keeping the Knights off the scoreboard. Against such a good running team, extra bases will sting you very badly.
So all that said, what can we expect at RAP this weekend? I think we'll see quick, low scoring games and the arms of our catchers being tested as the Knights try to run wild at every opportunity. Lots of sacrifices, lots of hit and runs, lots of small ball. I would like to think that this is the TSN turning point for Victoria; the point in the season where they have a good series against a solid team, and build momentum for the final chase to the playoffs. So with my heart, I say 'Cats take two of three but with my head, Corvallis leaves here winning two games. I've been told I have no heart, so let's hope the pundits are wrong.
In any case, it will be excellent weather for baseball and the boys need support, go grab your tickets and get out there, Victoria!