Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Pac-12 edition

OSU Beaver Michael Gretler
Canadian (and Canadien) thoughts may be focused in on the developing Stanley Cup playoffs but just south of the border, in the Pac-12, our future HarbourCats toil away on the final stretch of their NCAA college season before making their way up here to Victown. I'm guessing the Canucks early exit may help some locals look more to the mound than the net, but in any case, here's what I know...

Overall, the last couple of weeks have not been too eventful for the the Pac-12 gang. There have been a lot of DNP's (did not play) including - for the first time in a while - our main man at Oregon State Gabe Clark. Gabe has struggled at the plate lately and hasn't played in three of the past four games for the Beavers. Going only a combined one for eleven (.091) in his last four appearances, Clark has found himself on the outside looking in.

The other Oregon State product, third baseman Michael Gretler, was riding the pine for five of the past seven games and has only had three plate appearances and no hits in that time. So not much to say there, other than hoping we get to see more of him down the stretch.

OSU currently sits in fifth place in this very competitive conference after taking two of three from both Arizona and then powerhouse USC. With four big conference series' coming up - all against teams lower than them in standings - here's to hoping both Clark and Gretler get back on the diamond and start "hittin' em where they ain't".

Up in Washington, catcher Zach Bonneau sat for nine straight games before seeing action in the last two. Hopefully that means we'll get to see more of what he can do in the coming weeks. The other Husky prospect, left-handed pitcher Henry Baker has announced that he will not be joining the HarbourCats this summer so that he can refocus his pitching mechanics. You never really know if this is the reason, but looking at his stat line this year at Washington, it makes some sense. Currently, in two and a third (NOT 2.1...that is two and one TENTH) innings, he has a 3.86 ERA but has five walks and two hit by pitches and has allowed no hits. An interesting stat line to say the least! Best of luck to "Hank"!

Our UCLA boy, third baseman Scott Jarvis, is still yet to see action as he continues to play for a hot team behind a solid starter. UCLA is currently ranked number two by and has a legitimate shot at making a deep run in the post-season.

In summary, not much insight this week into anything good or bad but I am hopeful that the boys will see some more action down the stretch and if so, you'll be the first to know about it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

HarbourCanucks Corner - April 28th edition

Like the three Canadians who’ll suit up for the HarbourCats this summer, we may have one eye on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but we continue to look forward to Opening Day of the West Coast League baseball season (we’re down to only 37 more days!). Now let’s get you caught up on what our local boys have been up to lately.

Salt Lake Community College’s Chris Fougner hit his third home run of the year on Friday to tie for the team lead in round-trippers. The freshman right fielder has gone 5-for-23 with a homer, two steals and five RBI over the last couple of weeks. Fougner is hitting .299 with three home runs and 32 RBI in 157 at-bats this season, and he sports a healthy .396 on-base percentage.

Salt Lake Community College (16-12) is currently four games out of first place in the Scenic West Athletic Conference standings with three games to play. Their regular season wraps up on Saturday afternoon with the finale of a three-game set against the College of Southern Idaho.

Alex Rogers
Photo by Emmy Gazaway
Alex Rogers of Trinidad State Junior College held Otero Junior College to only four hits in seven scoreless innings on April 15th, but then he got knocked around by Lamar Community College on April 22nd. Rogers was pulled after giving up three earned runs on seven hits and a walk in only three innings on the mound in the start against Lamar CC, but the Nanaimo native has turned in a solid sophomore season with a 3.77 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 11 starts. Trinidad State, with an 18-12 record in Region 9 play, wraps up its regular-season on Saturday.

Seattle University’s Griffin Andreychuk had an eight-game hitting streak snapped on April 17th, but the Nanaimo native quickly put together another one and is currently riding a five-game streak. In his last eight games, Andreychuk has gone 7-for-28 with seven walks and a pair of RBI. After a slow start to the year, he’s put together a solid sophomore campaign based on a .298 batting average with a home run and a team-leading 29 RBI. As we have come to expect from Andreychuk, he has also boosted his on-base percentage up to the .392 mark.

Seattle U may have gone 2-4 in conference play over last two weeks, but they’re still only ½ game behind Grand Canyon University for first place in Western Athletic Conference. The Redhawks and Antelopes have a huge three-game series this weekend in Phoenix with the winner claiming sole possession of first place. The WAC regular-season wraps up on Saturday May 16th.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Staj lighting up the Mountain West

Carl Stajduhar is having a fantastic freshman year at the University of New Mexico. 

Stajduhar (30) bumps elbows with old friend Danny Collier (43)
In 42 starts this season, the Fort Collins Colorado native has shown he definitely belongs on an NCAA Division 1 roster. All he’s done so far is hit .320 with 5 home runs, and 38 RBI. His is an impressive stat package all-round. While he started slow, he’s been picking up speed – and hits – over the past month to raise his average forty points in that time frame. This past weekend, while the rest of the Lobos were struggling against a tough Wichita State team and losing all three games, Staj was on fire, going 7-13 with 4 runs batted in. Consistency is a key with this kid – he’s hit safely in 31 of 42 games, and is currently riding a 13 game hitting streak. He goes to the plate looking to hit, not walk – he has only a single free pass in his last 17 games, and only 10 the entire year. Really looking forward to seeing what he can do hitting in the three spot in front of Gabe the Babe this year!

Other HarbourCat Notables making news:

We have lost a UNM Lobo (and a familiar face) since the last update…  P Carson Schneider is taking the summer off to “rest his arm”. Not sure what that means, because since that announcement, he’s been moved from regular starter to a middle-to-late relief lefty (which is his strength), and has gone back to pitching light’s out. He’s given up only a single hit in 9.1 innings across 4 games since. Seems like his arm is doing just fine. We could have used that kind of consistency coming out of the pen!  

That makes 4 of the 6 LHPs that had been signed for 2015 who are no longer coming north this year.

Preston Ryan still has his ticket for the west coast though. He’s continuing to  get consistent work out of the UNM pen in middle inning short relief. There he’s shown signs of brilliance, mixed in with the odd tough inning.  In his eight appearances in April, he’s held opponents hitless 5 times, while getting rocked for a 2 and a 3 run inning. Keeps his ERA around the 4.50 mark, but certainly shows potential. Overall, Ryan has improved significantly from this point last year and should bring that extra experience and confidence North with him.

In San Diego, we have also lost our Toreros since the last update (and yes, I have looked under the couch)!  As reported last week, CF Kacy Smith and RHP Seve Romo are no longer planning to join us this summer. Smith is an interesting case – he had a great college career before switching to San Diego, but hadn’t been playing much this year. Turns out, he’s also an accomplished football star as well, and has a legitimate shot at being the starting safety for USD this coming season. Given that opportunity, he has decided to focus on the odd-shaped ball this summer. We wish Kacy all the luck in his sport of choice. Don't sell your Romo jersey just yet though...

At this point, that leaves us with one pseudo-Torereo in OF Kevin Collard. Still in high school, Collard has signed with USD for the fall - but he may not make it there as he’s being talked about quite frequently in MLB draft discussions. He could get drafted this summer, which means we may have another Nick Pivetta situation on our hands - he may be in town for a couple games, then get drafted and pulled away, or he make take the summer off to prepare. If he does play here, his impressive numbers could help get the 2015 ball rolling in a big way.

And speaking of impressive numbers, I’ll predict right now that Pepperdine’s Ryan Wilson will be 2015’s ace on the mound for the HarbourCats. Wilson has continued his consistent season for the Wave, upping his record to 7-1 while maintaining a respectable 3.25 ERA. His control is outstanding, walking batters at a pace of about 1 every 3 or so innings. That control will go nicely with a burger and side of fries on Pembroke this summer.

As the college season draws to a close in the coming weeks, watch for more player movement, likely a few more no-show announcements due to signings, changed plans, and injuries. It's all expected in Summer leagues - teams that do well are those who are able to adjust and pick up top replacements to fill the departed holes. Like watching the waiver wire in your hockey pool for a late-season rookie, sometimes it's more about luck and being in the right place at the right time. Stay tuned...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - CCCAA / Big West edition

Let’s get you updated on the progress of the 2015 HarbourCats who are playing in the California Community College Athletic Association and the Big West Conference. While there are four weeks remaining in the regular season for NCAA Division I baseball, the California community colleges have just wrapped up regular season play.

Freshman outfielder Mareno Rankin (aka Reno Rankin Jr.) of LA Mission College ended the regular season on a five-game hitting streak. Over the last two weeks, Rankin has gone 9-for-29 with two RBI and seven runs scored, giving him a .310 / .445 / .402 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 87 at-bats this season. The speedster was also five-for-five in stolen base attempts this spring. LA Mission College finished the season 14-8 in conference play and they play Irvine Valley College (10-11) in a winner-take-all playoff game on Tuesday.

Alex Fagalde in action last
summer with the HarbourCats
Cuesta College’s Alex Fagalde may have started the season with four rough outings, but he has been the measure of consistency since then, as the sophomore right-hander finished the season with seven consecutive quality starts. In his last two starts, Fagalde earned both victories and only gave up four earned runs on 14 hits in 16 innings on the hill. He finished the regular season with a 6-5 record, 3.30 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 76 ⅓ innings pitched. Cuesta finished the season 15-9 in conference play, but it is unclear at this point if they will advance to the postseason.

Sophomore centre fielder Kevin Amezquita of East LA College has gone 5-for-24 with five walks, a home run and three RBI over the last two weeks. Amezquita finished the regular season hitting .252 with one home run and 16 RBI in 139 at-bats. However, he led the team in walks (19) and had a robust .360 on-base percentage. East LA College’s season is now over, as the team only finished with a 6-15 record in conference play.

UC Davis freshman Matt Blais has made three appearances over the last couple of weeks, including the first start of his college career. In those three games, Blais surrendered 12 hits and four earned runs in 6 ⅔ innings pitched while he walked one and struck out one. The right-hander now sports a 4.50 ERA and an incendiary 1.73 WHIP in 22 innings pitched this season. His lack of strikeouts continues to be a concern: After fanning 10.2 batters per nine in the California Collegiate League last summer, Blais has only struck out four hitters this season with the Aggies.

UC Irvine came into last week ranked 21st in NCAA Division I baseball, but they dropped a mid-week game to #3 UCLA and then lost two of three this weekend to Cal State Fullerton. Freshman Adam (AJ) Alcantara has been out of action for some time with a quad injury, but he returned to the lineup on Saturday and stroked a pinch-hit single. The corner outfielder has put up a .300 / .386 / .320 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 50 at-bats this season.

Freshman right fielder Ben Polshuk of Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) has only played a half-inning of defense over the last couple of weeks and he hasn’t set foot in the batter’s box since April 11th. He’s 1-for-18 at the plate this season. The other current HarbourCat on the Cal Poly squad, freshman Austin Dondanville, has yet to make his college debut on the mound.

Zander Clouse tosses no-no

Zander Clouse
Zander Clouse's magical season just keeps rolling along. On Saturday, the Bellevue College sophomore tossed a seven-inning no-hitter against Olympic College (Bremerton, Washington), leading the Bulldogs to a 5-0 victory. Clouse, who needed only 99 pitches to toss his masterpiece, walked three and struck out seven on the afternoon.

The stellar outing gives Clouse a 6-2 record, 1.90 ERA and an impressive 0.94 WHIP on the season. After suiting up for the HarbourCats this summer, Clouse will head off to Lynchburg, Virginia to play Division I baseball for Liberty University.

On behalf of all of the scribes at the Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog, congratulations on the no-no, Zander!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

H-Cats introduce their new ownership group

Jim Swanson (L) and John Wilson (R)
sport the team's new road jerseys.
Photo courtesy @WCLBaseball Twitter account.
The Victoria HarbourCats announced today that Bhootan LLC / Matthew Stoudt has agreed to sell the club to a group of four local investors. The transfer is still subject to approval by the West Coast League, however.

The four members of the new ownership group are:
  • GM Jim Swanson.
  • John Wilson, C.E.O and owner of Wilson's Transportation.
  • Ken Swanson (Burnaby, BC), brother of Jim Swanson.
  • Rich Harder (New Westminster, BC), friend of the Swanson brothers.
For more information on this story, please see the following links:
All of us at the Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog would like to congratulate all of the parties involved in getting this ownership issue resolved prior to the start of the 2015 season. The deal goes a long way towards ensuring that the HarbourCats will remain in Victoria for many years to come.

  • The HarbourCats also announced that four more players will not be suiting up for the team this summer (for a variety of reasons): LHP Henry Baker (University of Washington), IF Cam Santos (Chico State), RHP Seve Romo (University of San Diego) and OF Kacy Smith (University of San Diego). The current roster now contains 33 players, but don't be surprised to see more players added before Opening Day.

Monday, April 20, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - NWAC edition

It has been a couple of weeks since we last updated you on our HarbourCats in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), so let’s get you caught up on what our boys have been up to of late.

Not only has sophomore Jamie Umbinetti of Edmonds Community College been hitting the cover off of the ball, but he has also shown incredible plate discipline this season. Over his last seven games, he has gone 9-for-15 with eight walks, a home run, five runs batted in and ten runs scored. Umbinetti is hitting .381 with a slow-pitch-like .571 on-base percentage and a robust .556 slugging percentage in 63 at-bats this season. The left-handed slugger will share first base with Gabe Clark this summer, so you can be sure that there will be no shortage of firepower from that position.
Zander Clouse

Bellevue College’s Zander Clouse has returned to form after a rare bad outing on April 4th. Over the last couple of weeks, the sophomore has thrown a pair of quality starts, giving up only three earned runs on 14 hits over 14 ⅔ innings pitched. Clouse, who will play Division I baseball for Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia) in the fall, now sports a 5-2 record with a sparkling 2.17 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 49 ⅔ innings on the hill this season.

First baseman John Naff has continued to swing a hot bat after breaking out of a lengthy slump on March 29th. Over his last 10 games, the Everett Community College sophomore has gone 12-for-34 with six walks, five RBI and four extra-base hits. Although he was only hitting .140 on March 29th, Naff now has a .260 average with one homer and nine RBI in 100 at-bats. He has also walked twice as often as he has struck out this season (18 walks versus only 9 strikeouts), and he’s 9-for-11 in stolen base attempts.

Everett CC’s Curtis Bafus continues to struggle to find some consistency in his freshman season. The 6-7, 230 lb. right hander only gave up three earned runs today against Bellevue College, but he was tagged for 10 hits and two walks in 4 ⅔ innings. A week earlier, Bafus threw 6 ⅔ shutout innings against Shoreline Community College, limiting the Dolphins to only five hits and two walks while striking out four. Bafus has an excellent 2.97 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 33 ⅓ innings on the hill this season in spite of a trio of poor outings.

Freshman pitcher/outfielder Kyle Francis has seen limited playing for Everett CC this month, especially on the mound. Francis has not pitched since April 2nd due to control problems (5.7 BB/9) and a nasty 1.61 WHIP, although he did get seven at-bats this weekend -- his first since March 29th. Over the weekend, Francis went three-for-seven with a walk, a run scored and an RBI. The offensive outburst raised his season numbers to a .244 batting average with no homers and five RBI in 41 at-bats.

Everett CC (12-4) and Edmonds CC (8-2) are currently first and second, respectively, in the NWAC North Region standings. Although the two clubs have yet to meet this year, the Trojans and Tritons will square off four times to close out the regular season on May 9th-10th.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

T-C report: 'Cats sold to local owners

John Wilson
According to Mario Annicchiarico of the Victoria Times Colonist, the HarbourCats have been sold to a local ownership group that includes GM Jim Swanson and John Wilson, C.E.O and owner of Wilson's Transportation. It is worth noting that the members of the ownership group are still unconfirmed at this time.

The news comes a mere four months after it was revealed that former owner John McLean had lost control of the team to Bhootan LLC / Matthew Stoudt in a BC Supreme Court civil suit. The quick sale shouldn't come as a surprise, as Stoudt had shown little interest in owning a baseball team for any length of time. It's also no shock that local owners stepped forward immediately, especially considering the relatively healthy financial state of the franchise, the favourable West Coast League business model, and the strong support of fans in the league's largest market.

The deal must be approved on Monday at league meetings in Tacoma. Given the current scenario, I wouldn't expect Monday's vote to be anything but a formality (but anything is possible, especially in the sports world). Victoria is the crown jewel of West Coast League franchises and this deal goes a long way towards ensuring that the HarbourCats will remain in Victoria for many years to come.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

HarbourCanucks Corner - April 14th edition

Griffin Andreychuk
Three Vancouver Islanders have been signed by the HarbourCats to full-season contracts for the summer of 2015, so let’s get you caught up on what our local boys have been up to lately.

Griffin Andreychuk continues to hit the cover off of the baseball for Seattle University. The Nanaimo native, who homered for the HarbourCats in a June 24th game at Royal Athletic Park last summer, hit his first career home run for the Redhawks on Sunday to help complete a three-game sweep of the hapless New Mexico State Aggies.

In his last five games, Andreychuk has gone 9-for-23 at the plate with a homer, seven RBI and a pair of stolen bases. Not only has the sophomore pieced together a seven-game hitting streak, but he has also collected at least one hit in 15 of his last 17 games. Andreychuk’s impressive run has moved him into the team lead for batting average (.308) and runs batted in (27), and he has boosted his on-base percentage to a solid .390 mark. The surprising Seattle U squad sits in first place in the Western Athletic Conference with a 11-1 conference record, although Grand Canyon University trails the Redhawks by only ½ game.

Freshman Chris Fougner of Salt Lake Community College had his 10-game hitting streak snapped last Thursday, but the former Victoria Mariner continues to swing the bat with authority. The right fielder went 4-for-12 with five walks and two RBI in a four-game sweep of Western Nevada College last weekend. The sweep helped Salt Lake Community College (12-8) move to within one game of first place in the Scenic West Athletic Conference standings. Fougner, who has started 40 of the Bruins’ first 43 games, has a .315 batting average with two homers and 24 RBI in 130 at-bats. He also boasts an excellent .413 on-base percentage.

Trinidad State Junior College’s Alex Rogers had another good outing on April 10th. The sophomore from Nanaimo held Lamar Community College to two earned runs on six hits and no walks in 5 ⅓ innings pitched while striking out four batters. Incredibly, Rogers has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over seven-to-one and he has only issued five base on balls over the entire season. He currently sports a  3.99 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 47 ⅓ innings pitched.

Monday, April 13, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Pac-12 edition

Washington Huskies catcher Zach Bonneau
It's been a couple of weeks since we checked in with the future HarbourCats of the Pac-12, so I am happy to help quench your thirst for information on the boys of this western conference. It's now time for a lot of conference play as the teams get into the meat of their season.

UCLA is the most successful Pac-12 team, climbing to number three in the rankings which is up from number six a week ago. Scott Jarvis, the six foot two freshman third baseman, has yet to play a game so not much to report there, and neither has newly announced 'Cat Jake Pries. In Pries' case though, this is not a bad thing as he is still a senior at JSerra Catholic High School in California.

Jake is a towering six foot four outfielder who helped lead the Lions to a Trinity League championship in 2014 while being named to the Second Team All League. More recently, he and his companions have JSerra as a "Team to Watch" while just last week winning the Boras Classic tournament going away. Our boy Jake had a fine second game where he went three for four with a double, triple and four RBI's. It's always tough to know how these high school freshman will transition to ball at the next level, but we will be able to see for ourselves this summer as he patrols the open fields at the RAP.

Up in Washington, the Huskies have gone 6-4 over the past couple of weeks which includes a convincing 5-1 win and two extra innings losses to the number twelve ranked USC Trojans. One of Victoria's four left handed pitchers, Henry Baker, got a start against the Gonzaga Bulldogs a few days earlier, but unfortunately for him, it lasted only five pitches - a walk and then a hit by pitch - before he was sent to the showers. The Zags eventually loaded the bases without swinging at a pitch and marched a couple of runs across as well, but a seven run fourth inning saved Baker from the loss. He has had a couple of rough outings this year and has not pitched again since this game on March 24. With conference play underway, he might go a little longer before he sees any more action but here's to hoping he gets back on the horse and gets some solid innings under his belt to boost his confidence.

Backup Washington catcher Zach Bonneau has seen the odd inning but has not had an official at bat in his last four outings, mostly coming into games in the late innings as a pinch hitter or simply to catch. Bonneau did, however, drive in a run in a 13-1 thumping of Stanford, getting the Huskies their first series win in Palo Alto since 1997. Zach is one of four signed catchers for the HarbourCats for next season.

Moving on to Oregon State, fan favourite Gabe "the Babe" Clark has recently had a nice run for the Beavers, hitting safely in four of his last six games at a .375 clip in his starting role at DH. His best game in that stretch was a three for four effort in a losing cause to the mighty UCLA Bruins. As a team, the Beavers have fallen away from the national ranking sheet by stumbling to a 4-6 record in their last ten.

Clark is third on the team in strikeouts with 22 in 97 at bats, which is no surprise to HarbourCats fans as he does hold the season record for K's set last year at 42. But that, my friends, is the price you pay for his power. The Babe also holds the 'Cats record for most home runs in a season (with 8) and is third all time in slugging percentage at .494. He is also tied for the OSU team lead with seven round trippers. I, for one, am looking forward to having him shield the sun from his eyes at first base this year in HarbourCat blue and white!

Finally, Oregon State third baseman Michael Gretler has inched his average above the .200 mark and did have a nice two hit game in a losing cause against Oregon this past weekend in the series opener. The following day was not as kind as Gretler stranded five runners while going zero for five, but the Beavs' still managed to sneak away with a 4-2 win.

So overall, not a super-eventful past couple of weeks for our boys in the Pac-12, but lots more baseball to go. I'm hoping some of the lads get a few more innings so we can get a better feel for what they are made of and start to guess at how they will fit into Big Brother's lineup this summer.

  • The HarbourCats announced earlier today that the University of New Mexico’s Carson Schneider will not be joining the team this summer due to an arm issue. Schneider went 1-1 with two saves and a 3.37 ERA in 17 appearances with the ‘Cats in 2014.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Big West edition

Let’s get you updated on the progress of the four (2015) HarbourCats who are playing in the Big West Conference.

Matt Blais
UC Davis freshman Matt Blais continues to chip away at an ERA that was inflated by a nightmarish collegiate debut on February 19th. Over the last two weeks, Blais has made three lengthy relief outings and he has only allowed two earned runs on 13 hits and two walks over 11 ⅓ innings. He now sports a 4.11 ERA and 1.63 WHIP for the season, but his lack of strikeouts is a bigger concern right now. After fanning 9.8 batters per nine innings in his senior year of high school and 10.2 batters per nine in the California Collegiate League last summer, Blais has only struck out three hitters in his 15 ⅓ innings on the mound this season.

The red-hot UC Irvine Anteaters came into this weekend’s Big West showdown with the Long Beach State Dirtbags on a 13-game winning streak. After winning the first two games of the three-game set, the Anteaters dropped the series finale on Sunday to snap their win streak at an impressive 15 games. UC Irvine may have come into the season with modest expectations, but head coach Mike Gillespie’s tactic of sharing the playing time at a number of positions until an obvious starter emerges appears to be playing dividends.

UC Irvine’s Adam (A.J.) Alcantara continues to start roughly half of the team’s games and split his time between the two corner outfield positions. Over the last two weeks, Alcantara has gone three-for-eight with an impressive six RBI, but it’s still not enough to earn a starting job with the team firing on all cylinders. Alcantara has put up a .286 / .375 / .306 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 49 at-bats this season.

Freshman right fielder Ben Polshuk of Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) has only been given a pair of at-bats over the last couple of weeks. He’s 1-for-18 at the plate this season. The other current HarbourCat on the Cal Poly squad, freshman Austin Dondanville, has yet to make his college debut on the mound.

UC Irvine continues to hold down the top spot in the Big West Conference with an 8-1 record in conference play and they may even crack the Top 25 rankings this week. Cal Poly is tied for third place with a 4-2 conference record, while the UC Davis Aggies fall to 4-5.

Mareno Rankin
aka Reno Rankin Jr.
  • Over the last 15 games, LA Mission’s Reno Rankin Jr. has gone 9-for-25 with three walks, eight runs scored and nine RBI. The speedy outfielder has clubbed three extra-base hits in his last 20 at-bats after only registering one in his first 38 at-bats, so it’s good to see his slugging percentage (.397) on the rise.  Although Rankin has been splitting time between left and right field, the freshman can also play in centre. For the season, he’s hitting .310 with no homers and nine RBI in 58 at-bats, and he boasts a team-leading .488 on-base percentage, so I would expect him to get more playing time moving forward if he can keep getting on base at that clip. Rankin has also walked more often than he has struck out this year (10 walks versus nine K’s).
  • Alex Fagalde of Cuesta College has settled into a groove after four rough outings to start the season. The sophomore right-hander has posted wins in three consecutive starts, limiting the opposition to only five earned runs on 21 hits and six walks in 24 innings on the hill. Fagalde walked six and struck out 17 over those three appearances, and he has now thrown five consecutive quality starts. He currently sports a 3.58 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 60 ⅓ innings pitched.
  • Sophomore centre fielder Kevin Amezquita of East LA College has gone 5-for-21 with three walks and an RBI since we last checked up on him a couple of weeks ago. Three of those five hits were for extra bases, a good sign considering that he only launched three extra-base hits in his first 94 at-bats of the year. Amezquita is hitting .261 with no homers and 13 RBI in 115 at-bats this season, but he has notched a solid .363 on-base percentage.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pivetta promoted to Advanced A ball

Victoria's Nick Pivetta
As I predicted last fall, the Washington Nationals announced recently that former HarbourCat Nick Pivetta was being promoted to the Carolina League for the start of the 2015 season. The Victoria native, who is ranked by Baseball America as the 10th-best prospect in the Nationals' system, was assigned to the Class A (Advanced) Potomac Nationals.

On top of earning the promotion, Pivetta took to the mound Thursday night as Potomac’s Opening Day starter and he came through with an outstanding outing. The 6-5, 220 lb. right-hander held the Lynchburg Hillcats to only one earned run on three hits and two walks in a nifty five innings on the hill. Pivetta also struck out seven Hillcats on the night. Although the only run that he surrendered scored on a squibber than barely made it past the mound, he was still tagged with the hard-luck loss.

Pivetta was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, just a few hours after throwing the first pitch in HarbourCats history. He went a combined 1-1 with a 2.91 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 34 innings split between Rookie and Short Season ‘A’ ball in 2013. Pivetta then spent the entire 2014 season in the South Atlantic League (Class A) with the Hagerstown (Maryland) Suns, going 13-8 with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 132 ⅓ innings pitched.

The other former HarbourCat in the minors, Alex Real, is currently serving a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test last November. The 22-year-old slugger tested positive for Methylhexaneamine, the same stimulant that Jays starter Marcus Stroman was caught using in 2012.

Real holds the single-season record for the highest slugging percentage in HarbourCats history (.518 in 2013). He was drafted as a junior out of the University of New Mexico by the Minnesota Twins in the 24th round of the 2014 draft, and he was assigned to the Elizabethon (Tenessee) Twins in the Appalachian (Rookie) League shortly after signing. Real posted a .284 batting average with one homer and 11 RBI in 88 at-bats for Elizabethon. The Twins don't have a Short Season A affiliate, so Real may start the 2015 season in Class A ball with the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels when his suspension ends, although a brief return to Elizabethon is not out of the question.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Potential #1 MLB draft pick was almost a HarbourCat

Dillon Tate
Prior to their inaugural season, the Victoria HarbourCats signed four freshmen pitchers from the UCSB Gauchos, including an unheralded right-hander by the name of Dillon Tate. Fast forward two years and Tate now has a decent chance of being the first overall pick in this June’s MLB draft.

Unfortunately for Victoria baseball fans, Tate chose not to report to the HarbourCats for the summer of 2013 and we never had a chance to see him pitch. According to a very interesting article by Kendall Rogers on, UCSB coach Andrew Checketts wanted Tate to play summer baseball (in Victoria) and refine his repertoire after a rocky freshman season, but Tate decided to spend the time working out at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California instead. According to Rogers, Tate added 30-40 pounds of muscle over the summer and the rest is history.

Thanks to Checketts’ leadership over the last few years, the Gauchos have evolved into the 11th-ranked team in Division I baseball and they’re poised to make some noise in the upcoming NCAA Baseball Tournament. In a tournament that is usually full of surprises, the underdog story of Dillon Tate will be well worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

HarbourCat updates from the AAC, MW, WCC, and CCAA

It’s been a while since we meandered through the AAC, MW, WCC, and CCAA searching for future HarbourCats making news. Today’s update brings us a few gems (no not the potato kind).

The University of Pittsburgh Panthers are having a tough season. Sitting at 11-19 overall, and 4-11 in conference play is well below preseason expectations. Freshman reliever Josh Mitchell is getting minimal work out of the bullpen, pitching a total of 8.2 innings in 7 appearances so far. His 7.27 ERA is a team high, but it’s a fairly limited sample size at this point.  

Pepperdine sits at 17-16 at this point, 7-5 in West Coast play, leaving them a long-shot at making it into the sweet 16 this year – but it’s not because of starter Ryan Wilson. Wilson continues to impress, and has worked his way to a 5-1 record with a 3.10 ERA in 8 starts. His 1.30 WHIP (if you like that stat) makes him a solid #2 starter on the Waves, and should translate well onto the ‘Cats roster.
Pepperdine's Ryan Wilson, avec cheesy stash

Chase Lambert has been given a chance to start 11 games so far for the Waves and seems to have settled into starting at SS when he’s in the lineup. While playing well defensively, he seems a bit overmatched against D1 pitching, hitting a light .182 on 8 hits in 44 tries. 

St. Mary’s College is working on a fine season, posting a solid 19-13 record so far, 6-6 in conference play. Catcher Jackson Thoreson has been holding his own in a backup role for the Angels, getting the start in 12 games so far and hitting a very respectable .326 in 46 plate appearances. Pitcher Sean O’Toole continues to get an inning here and there in relief, and sits with a 5.40 ERA over the 7.1 innings he has pitched. As with Mitchell above, it’s tough to get a sense of these players with such limited experience.

The University of New Mexico Lobos are also performing well below expectations so far, sitting at 16-14 against Div 1 opponents, 8-7 within their conference. Last year’s division leader for most of the season, they find themselves in 4th behind the two powerhouses of Nevada and San Diego. Carl Stajduhar, who started the season on fire, has come back to earth a bit, sitting now at a modest .250, going 29-116 in 29 starts. He holds a hot glove though, sporting a .972 fielding percentage playing either 1B or 3B.

On the Lobo pitching side, Carson Schneider and Preston Ryan continue to get regular work. Ryan is exclusively coming in out of the pen, but has registered a 3-1 record doing so thanks to some strong late-inning Lobo comebacks. His 3.98 ERA keeps him in the heart of their reliever rotation. Schneider has been performing well in the starting rotation this season as part of the 4 or 5-man rotation the Lobos run with. He’s maintained last year’s exceptional control, giving up only 5 walks in 29.1 innings of work. He has been the victim of a couple big innings unfortunately, leaving his ERA at a lofty 5.40. Apart from a few innings like that, he’s a solid performer.

And speaking of the U of San Diego Toreros, let’s talk about two relatively new HarbourCats CF Kacy Smith and RHP Seve Romo.  Romo leads the team with a 0.00 ERA – ok, so he’s only pitched 2 innings and given up a hit, but it’s a start. Smith is also seeing very limited use, and is hitting .176 in 17 at bats. Odd for a junior to see so few AB at this point in the season, I’ll have to dig on that a bit…

Not forgetting one of our NCAA Div 2 HarbourCats down in Chico State, Cameron Santos is starting to get playing time as well. Starting 10 games so far, he’s hitting .132 in 38 tries, playing in the middle at either 2B or SS.

Don’t be overly concerned that our future 'Cats are riding more pine than they are swinging (creative licence - they use Aluminum bats in College). As the college season’s progress and teams start to realize their year-end positions, these freshmen and sophomores will see more playing time, seasoning them nicely for summer ball. The increased exposure to Div 1 pitching and hitting will be key in getting these players ready for a busy summer in Victoria.

Monday, April 6, 2015

HarbourCats heating up in the NWAC

Jamie Umbinetti
Photo by Kevin Clark
It has been a couple of weeks since we last updated you on the 2015 HarbourCats who play in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), so let’s get you caught up on what our boys have been up to lately.

Sophomore Jamie Umbinetti of Edmonds Community College finally ended his power outage and slammed his first two doubles of the season in a March 28th doubleheader against Bellevue College. In the last two weeks, Umbinetti has gone 4-for-10 with four walks and three RBI in Edmonds’ four games. He continues show incredible plate discipline with a team-leading 20 bases on balls, eight more walks than anyone else on the Tritons. All of those free passes have boosted Umbinetti’s on-base percentage to a spectacular .534 mark. He’s hitting .313 with one homer and 9 RBI in 48 at-bats this season.

Zander Clouse continues to pitch extremely well for Bellevue College. In a March 28th game against Edmonds CC, he posted his second consecutive outstanding outing, giving up only one earned run on three hits in seven innings pitched. Clouse came back to earth on Saturday against Shoreline Community College, however, as the sophomore had his first bad outing of the year and was lit up for seven earned runs on eight hits in 5 ⅔ innings on the hill. As was the case with his March 28th start, Clouse struck out seven and only walked two batters. Even after his hard-luck outing this weekend, Clouse still has excellent season stats: a 4-1 record in five starts with a 2.31 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 35 innings pitched. He has also notched a save this year.

John Naff is back on track
We knew it was just a matter of time, but Everett’s John Naff has finally broken out of his lengthy slump. The sophomore first baseman, who will play in the outfield this summer for the HarbourCats, went 7-for-20 with four walks, three RBI and six runs scored over the last two weeks. The outburst helped Naff raise his batting average by 60 points, and he is now hitting .212 with one homer and four RBI in 66 at-bats this season. Has also leads the Trojans with 12 walks, giving him a very respectable .333 on-base percentage. Now that he is on a roll, look for Naff’s batting average to rise back over its usual .300 level.

Curtis Bafus of Everett Community College followed up his first career collegiate start with another dominant outing, this time a gem against Skagit Valley College on March 29th. Bafus only allowed three men to reach base in eight scoreless innings and he limited Skagit Valley to one hit and no walks while striking out five batters. His third career collegiate start was yesterday, but unfortunately Bafus ran into some difficulty against the tough Canadian hitters in the Douglas College (New Westminster, BC) lineup. The freshman only lasted 2 ⅔ innings against the slugging Canucks, giving up five earned runs on six hits and three walks with no strikeouts. Bafus is still having a great season in spite of yesterday’s setback, as he now sports a 2-2 record with a 3.27 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 22 innings pitched. The fact that he has only walked six batters and struck out 19 makes it pretty clear that the strong start to his collegiate pitching career is no fluke.

Freshman pitcher/outfielder Kyle Francis’ playing time is starting to dry up. He made only one appearance on the mound for Everett CC in the last two weeks, an April 2nd start against Skagit Valley College in which his control issues continued to surface. Francis lasted only 3 ⅓ innings in that outing, giving up three earned runs on six hits and three walks without striking out a single batter. He now has a (flattering) 3.04 ERA in spite of an ugly 1.61 WHIP in 23 ⅔ innings on the mound. He has also walked more batters than he has struck out (15 walks versus 11 K’s). Francis made only one start in right field and and one at DH over the last seven games, going 1-for-7 with an RBI over that span. For the season, he has posted an anemic .206 / .250 / .206 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 34 at-bats.

Entering today’s action, Everett CC and Douglas College were tied for first place in the NWAC North Region standings with identical 4-2 records in conference play. The defending NWAC champions, Edmonds Community College, is tied for third place with a 2-2 mark.

  • The HarbourCats announced on social media earlier this week that left-handed pitcher Matt Fish of Pierce College will not pitch for them this summer due to academic reasons.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - WAC showdown edition

The mighty Sacramento State Hornets travelled to Bellevue, Washington this weekend to take on Seattle University in a showdown for first place in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Although the Hornets were the pre-season favourites to repeat as WAC champions, the Redhawks pulled off a surprising three-game sweep of Sacramento State, thanks largely to a Seattle U pitching staff that only allowed five runs (four earned) in the entire series.

Griffin Andreychuk was inconsistent on the weekend, but he still played a pivotal role in the series for Seattle U. In Friday’s thrilling 11-inning victory, the Nanaimo native turned an outstanding double play in the top of the 11th to shutdown a Sacramento State rally. With a runner on first and one out, the base runner took off on a 3-2 pitch and Andreychuk went to his left and dove for a ground ball up the middle. After snaring the ball, Andreychuk tagged second and then got to his feet to throw out the the batter at first to end the inning.

Andreychuk’s week, which also included a mid-week matchup against the Oregon Ducks, was less than perfect though. Not only did he snap his eight-game hitting streak on Wednesday, but he went a mere 3-for-15 with two RBI over the four games. Andreychuk also committed three errors this week to lower his fielding percentage to a sub-par .905. For the season, he’s hitting .291 with a .375 on-base percentage in 110 at-bats, and he is second on the team with 20 RBI in spite of hitting at the top of the order for nearly the entire year. Andreychuk has also chipped in with five stolen bases in six attempts this spring.

Sacramento State’s PJ Floyd has encountered defensive troubles of his own of late and it’s starting to eat away at his playing time. Floyd committed three more errors at third base this week to lower his fielding percentage to a dreadful .806 mark. Head coach Reggie Christiansen has even resorted to using the infielder in left field and at DH to get his bat in the lineup, but Floyd went 0-for-7 at the plate over the last four games and the freshman now sports an unimpressive .258 / .324 / .323 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 62 at-bats this season.

The other (2015) HarbourCat who plays for the Hornets is Dane Fujinaka. The 5-foot-8-inch Hawaiian has continued to see regular playing time with Sacramento State as their DH, with the occasional start behind the plate. In four games this week, Fujinaka went 5-for-15 at the dish with a pair of walks. He now sports a .357 batting average with 11 RBI in 42 at-bats this season.

Seattle U now sits atop the WAC standings with an 8-1 record in conference play, while Sacramento State’s record falls to 6-3.

Chris Fougner
  • Victoria native Chris Fougner has been hitting the cover off the ball for Salt Lake Community College. The left-handed slugger has gone 9-for-19 with four RBI, four extra-base hits, four walks and a pair of steals over the last couple of weeks and he currently has a 10-game hitting streak going. Fougner has also been brilliant defensively for the Bruins, as the former Victoria Mariner has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 54 total chances, including three outfield assists. His outfield defence has been so good, in fact, that he has been moved to centre field from his usual position in right field for the last couple of games. Fougner is hitting an impressive .313 with two homers and 21 RBI in 112 at-bats in his freshman campaign.
  • Trinidad State Junior College’s Alex Rogers has been wildly inconsistent recently. He had his best outing of the year on March 28th against Western Nebraska Community College, a three-hit, complete-game shutout.  Rogers then gave up eight earned runs in 3 ⅓ innings pitched against Northeastern Junior College on April 2nd, which was easily his worst outing of 2015. On the season, the Nanaimo native is 4-4 with a 4.07 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 42 innings pitched. His underlying numbers are outstanding (32 strikeouts and only 5 walks), so his ERA should improve as the season goes on.