Sunday, July 7, 2013

HarbourCats start to roll

Alex Real digs in
In a sun soaked matinee, Victoria's momentum train started to roll just a little bit faster after coming up with a somewhat dramatic 9-5 win over the Kelowna Falcons in the series finale. As was the case in eight of the past nine games, HarbourCats starters gave up at least one run in the first inning and then tried to catch up. This "generous" habit is one that the 'Cats need to take care of as the team starts to get into the heart of the season.

Victoria starter Bryan Conant "the Barbarian" ended up giving up four earned runs in five innings of work - all off the long ball, while striking out three and walking two. Not wanting to be outdone, his Cal State Fullerton teammate, Joe Navilhon, gave up a solo shot of his own in the seventh inning that knotted the game at five apiece, robbing Conant of the victory. Other than that, Navilhon pitched well in his three innings of work as he struck out five and walked only one.

After falling behind 4-1 early, the 'Cats chipped away to pull ahead in the sixth until the Anthony Young dinger in the eighth. Timmy Richards went three for five hitting in the number two spot and raised his average to very nice .324. But it was Alex Real who provided the clutch hit in the bottom of the eighth after Richards hit one to second with the bases full. Real came up with two out and, apparently unhappy that he was not the first HarbourCat to do this, bashed a grand slam off loser Darren Kolk, to essentially put the game away at 9-5. Ryan Keller made sure there was no doubt as he pitched a solid last inning, giving up a lead-off double but then striking out two of the final three hitters.

It was great to see a timely hit by the 'Cats once again and even though they stranded nine runners,
they hit the big one when it mattered. In fact, the top three in the order went a combined seven for fourteen (.500) with eight RBI's and five runs scored, striking out only once - exactly what the top of your order should do. Besides Richards and Real, Mike Darr contributed as well, hitting in the leadoff spot. The raucous crowd of 1,402 seemed to be having a great time and took the "Darrrrrrrrrrrrr" chant a step further, bringing back fond memories of that RAP pirate from days gone by, Josh Arrrrrrrrrharrrrrrrrt. Nice job Victoria!

It was also nice to see the coaching staff pull the starter before he got too tired and gave up those seventh/eighth inning runs. Another joy of a league like the WCL is that it takes some experimentation with your staff to see what they can do and where they run out of gas. Here's to hoping this continues because if they eliminate their early runs and get the starter out of there before trouble brews, the strong staff of relievers will make it awfully tough to generate any late inning heroics.

Next up for the 'Cats are the Walla Walla Sweets, who are in town tomorrow for a three game set that will cap off the 12 consecutive games for our local lads.


  1. I also noticed how Dennis Rogers called his team in for a quick huddle outside the dugout in the middle innings. I can only imagine what was said, but the team looked lackadaisical until that point but they were fired up after the pep talk and soon rallied to take the lead 5-4. Darth, maybe Dennis took your suggestion and gave them the "Lollygaggers" speech!

  2. I felt bad for Bryan Conant, I'm not sure why the coaching staff who are calling the game for the pitchers continually call fast ball after fast ball. Sure there's the odd straight change but come on, how to ruin a kids confidence. There very well could have been a few more long balls given up as well as the ones we saw. I understand the the concept of establishing the zone but this is ridiculous, 3 sometimes 4 innings before we see a breaking pitch from the starter. Pitching is about keeping hitters off balance, I'm not sure how you accomplish that when all they see is fast ball after fast ball.I have never seen a pitcher lead with a breaking pitch and I've been to every game. They wonder why they give up runs in the first inning all the time. They give the relievers Navilhon and Keller the green light and call breaking pitches and Joe gets 5 k's in three innings and Ryan 2 in one inning. I think they need to change the strategy.

  3. What happened to Ty Russell? It looks like he's been relegated to BP catcher. How is it the coaches bump a kid with numbers like he had to slot in guys hitting in the 100's. Sounds nice when kids are coming from Div 1 schools but not very impressive on the score sheet. Do the coaches guarantee time to these kids coming from these schools? The roster is starting to look like the "Big West Club"
    Not sure how a kid batting 385 with an OBP of 636 ends up catching pen and guys who've been hyped to the max are 10k's for 23 ab's and 6 k's for 13 ab's are in the line-up? If this is about development why are we developing our own kids, were paying for all this aren't we?

  4. Anonymous, you raise some interesting points. While I agree that Ty deserves more playing time, there are some extenuating factors to consider. First off, the roster is put together every September for the following summer. I don't believe that Ty was on their radar last September, and he had an unexpected monster season at Marshalltown CC that may have earned him the 10-day contract that he signed at the beginning of June. Specific playing time may have already been promised to the guys (actually, the college coaches of the guys) who were signed last September. Rogers and Miller were obviously impressed with Ty and they decided to make him the only 10-day guy to stick around for the full year.

    Yes, Ty's numbers are eye-popping, but he did compile them in the first few games of the season against two of the weakest teams in the league. On top of that, the rosters of those teams were peppered with 10-day guys who were temporarily holding spots until the NCAA Div 1 showed up following their (later finishing) seasons. Although Ty is a great young player, I don't think you can extrapolate his current numbers against the competition that the HarbourCats have faced in the last couple of weeks and for the remainder of the year.

    My sense is that Ty's role will be limited to the occasional pinch hit appearance (he's an on-base machine) and he'll be the emergency third catcher on the team now that Greg Fettes has gone home. Even if he doesn't play much, Ty will benefit from the experience this summer, especially from the excellent coaching he will be receiving. I also believe that Ty, who is coming off his freshman year, will be back next year and will play a much bigger role then.

    Thanks very much for your comments. I love your passion, so please keep them coming!

  5. Anonymous,

    For background on how the rosters are put together, see Darth's excellent posts from May:

  6. Well now it makes sense, promises made, regardless of performance. You may be right regarding his numbers against current competition but in baseball you don't sit guys when they are on fire and then say well they wouldn't have done very well anyway. We just lost to Kelowna against the same pitcher that took the win on June 17. You can't say guys are promised playing time and in the same breath have a coach be disappointed with performance. We were 1 and 5 on the road and then came home and lost to Kelowna who's team by the way hasn't changed much if any. So to say he wouldn't have done well or you cant extrapolate the numbers, I feel is a stretch. As the coach you can't complain about losing or your offense when a guy who's batting 152 is the DH in the 4 hole and a guy who's in the top 3-4 on the team in average is on the bench. The same appears to be on the pitching side, seems like a new guy shows up and he gets the start? as was the case with Nesovic who apparently based on rotation is our number 1, really?. Now Kiest who just happens to play for the coach at RCC, I see now Kiest is on the bump on Wednesday again, he just pitched Friday. What happened to the local kid Russell, he was sitting at a 1.61 era and leading the division in K's and they gave him 17 days off, is he injured or out of the rotation?
    Which is it, playing time or winning? Seems like a city thats behind a team should expect the team to be behind it's local players and preference given there. If not maybe we should have a local/BC/Can coach and draw from the multitude of talent in Canada or is there some restriction to that?

  7. The team is currently employing a six man rotation (which allows starters to pitch once per week, just like in college). My guess is that Russell gets the first start of the next road trip, but that's just a guess. His ERA currently sits at 3.49.

    The West Coast League is a developmental league. Winning is important, but has to be balanced with the long-term development of the players (and any agreements between the WCL head coach and the head coaches of the players supplied to the team).

    There are no restrictions on the nationality of head coaches. However, one of the most important attributes of a WCL head coach is his ability to network and get us quality players. Dennis Rogers and Bob Miller are incredibly well connected and will ensure that we have a good team every season in which they are involved with the HarbourCats. Right now, our key pipelines include Cal State Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara, U of Oklahoma, Kentucky, University of Hawaii and Cal Poly.

    My hope is that Canadians will always play a significant role on this team. Right now Austin Russell is our cleanup hitter -- a much bigger role than he was playing with his NAIA team this spring.

  8. I hope this is what the blog is about...good debate. Let me know if I'm pushing it. I truly enjoy your writing.

    All I can say is it's wrong that Kiest gets the ball tomorrow. With him pitching tomorrow would mean we are working off a five man rotation. Sad for the local guy. It smells bad...we'll see what happens.

    You don't have to be that connected, have a look around in the backyard guys with the same calibre or better are all over the place...

    Rightfully so, he should be batting cleanup..until he doesn't perform and then he should be out trying to earn it back. Just like everyone else should whether they're from California, Kentucky or Victoria.

    Lets Play well tonight!

  9. Yes, this blog is about good debate. Let's keep it going!!

    Unfortunately, we didn't play well tonight. Tomorrow is another day.

  10. Not to take away from Ty's talents, as he is a great kid, but let's remember too that his brother is on the team and I believe his Mom works in front office, so that may have been some other external factors why he was only local kid to remain after his 10-day was up. And why he is now not seeing much playing time, but getting to hang out and fulfil other duties with the team. Just sayin'

  11. I'm quite sure that Ty Russell is fully deserving of his spot on this team. He had a breakout season this year at Marshalltown CC and he played extremely well as a 10-day contract player. IMHO, he deserves to see more playing time than he has recently.