Friday, July 25, 2014

Corvallis Knights series preview

The Victoria HarbourCats welcome in one of the signature WCL franchises on Friday as the Corvallis Knights make their only visit of the year to STD at RAP this weekend. The Knights are currently leading a hotly contested (and very strong) South division so every game matters to them. The same is true for the 'Cats as they try and pull a rabbit out of their hat and claw their way back to within shouting distance of a wildcard spot.

Corvallis comes in on a relative hot streak, winning seven of their last ten games while Victoria has been playing about .500 ball. The 'Cats have just come off playing two of the weaker franchises in Klamath Falls and Cowlitz and now take on a true titan. In the nine years that the WCL has been in existence (this being the tenth), the Knights have been in the finals six times, winning it three. They are currently the reigning champs and playing like it again so Victoria definitely has their work cut out for them.

Tale of the Tape 

Victoria: 18-21 (.462), 2nd in West Division
Corvallis: 25-14 (.641), 1st in South Division


Victoria: .273 avg. (3rd in WCL), .367 SLG (5th), .364 OBP (6th)
Corvallis: .264 avg. (7th in WCL), .386 SLG (2nd), .368 OBP (T-5th)


Victoria: 4.09 ERA (7th), WHIP 1.45 (8th)
Corvallis: 3.44 (4th), 1.28 WHIP (2nd)

Who to Watch - Victoria

Snubbed All Star Nathan Lukes has been on fire lately and has taken over the HarbourCat lead in average with a lofty .351, good enough for fifth in the league. In the second game of Thursday's twin bill, Lukes had a six game hitting streak snapped, with all six games being multi-hit affairs. In fact, he has hits in twelve of his past fifteen games with nine of them being of the multi-hit variety. Hunter Mercado-Hood is a force at the plate as well, sitting just below Lukes at eighth overall in the League with a .341 average. HMH continues to lead the league in RBI's with 36 and - as Gus pointed out - has a chance to challenge the WCL single season record of 48. Speedster Wyler Smith has also quietly raised his average to .308 by hitting safely in thirteen of his last sixteen games as well.

On the mound it has been the usual suspects - starters Mikey Wright, Alex Rogers and Logan Lombana - continuing to dominate batters. Both Rogers and Wright still have a WHIP below 1.00 and all three have ERA's around 2.50. But in the last few outings, the 'Cats have had some pretty solid relief appearances with Angel Delgado, Sean Watkins and more recently Carson Schneider making very trustworthy contributions. This has to keep up against the Knights, especially with Quintin Torres-Costa and Alex Fagalde recently dabbling in the starter's role.

And as with every series, if the 'Cats decide to wear their iron gloves ("clank") then things could get ugly quickly. Victoria has made 50 errors this season to the Knights' 39.

Who to Watch - Corvallis

Kevin Kline the actor
Heavy hitting Kevin Kline sits in second place in the league in home runs with six (tied with our own Home Run Derby champ, Gabe Clark) and is only 3 RBIs behind HMH for the league lead. He is hitting a respectable .310 but has only one hit in his last five games and his average has fallen every game since July 7th when it was .376. Let's hope his lumber stays asleep at least for three more games. Dalton Kelly has been pretty consistent of late and leads the Knights with a .342 average while hitting in the three-spot. Another guy to be wary of is lead-off hitter Grant Melker who is batting .326 and is tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 16, while also sporting a very nice on base percentage of .458.

Kevin Kline the Knight (photo courtesy of
The Knights' pitching staff is led by ace right-hander Jake Lockwood who leads the league with six wins against two losses. In four of those wins, Lockwood has received excellent run support and has a WHIP of 1.26 so he is not untouchable by any means. Probably more scary is lights-out closer Brandon Choate who has a WHIP and ERA of just over 1.00 and is second in the league with seven saves (on top of a 2-0 record). Fans may remember Choate from last season where, as the Knights' closer, he ended up with 5 saves and an unworldly 0.51 ERA. Finally, the 'Cats can't forget about starters Angel Landazuri and Jason Snodgrass who both have unblemished 3-0 records and near identical ERA's of 2.18 and 2.17 respectively. Landazuri also brandishes an Indiana Jones-like WHIP of 0.85.


Lots to consider in this one and it goes beyond the numbers which show the teams statistically fairly even. Corvallis does have more pop at the plate and they also have more at stake in trying to fend off the Bend Elks from stealing their division crown. I know Victoria still dreams of a playoff spot, but that is essentially a pipe dream. For this reason, I'm tipping the Knights to take at least two of three with a sweep not out of the question. That said, I will be at the yard cheering against that prediction as hard as I can!

After our one rainy day this summer, the weather looks to be excellent again for me to try my next victim on the Bin 4 menu rotation so come on out and join me. After this three game set, there are only two more home series' so stop putting it off. The lawn can wait. Paint the fence later. I expect the Knights to bring a good calibre of baseball to the diamond so in the words of WWF and Canadian legendary announcer Billy "Red" Lyons, "Don'tcha' dare miss it"!

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