Bragg’s HarbourCats debut a real blast

Harrison Bragg of the Victoria HarbourCats admits he winces every time he thinks of the LSU Tigers being in this week’s best-of-three 2017 College World Series final against the Florida Gators in Omaha. That could have been him and his powerhouse Mississippi State Bulldogs, who lost to LSU in the Super Regionals.

So instead, Bragg drove 40 hours from Mississippi to Port Angeles in his Ford Escape, hopped a ferry, pinch-hit a home run in his first at-bat for the HarbourCats on Sunday afternoon, and then got back on a ferry the next morning with his new teammates and bused eight hours for a game in Corvallis, Oregon, on Monday night.

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Welcome to life in the summer collegiate West Coast League.

The six-foot-four, 230-pound slugger’s soaring eighth-inning, three-run homer was estimated to be hit 400 feet and well over the centre-field fence at Royal Athletic Park and tied the Sunday matinée against the Walla Walla Sweets 6-6 in the most dramatic of fashions. But the HarbourCats squandered that by allowing the winning Sweets run in the bottom of the ninth inning on a wild pitch in a 7-6 loss.

The HarbourCats (10-13 ) followed that up with a 9-1 loss Monday evening in Corvallis against the WCL South Division-leading Knights (14-8 ). Bragg had a single and two strikeouts in five trips to the plate as the Victoria batting was unable to unlock the Corvallis pitching with only five hits on the night. HarbourCats starter A.J. Block (2-0) from the Washington State Cougars of the Pac-12 went five complete innings with three hits and one run allowed and three strikeouts and two walks to keep Victoria in contention. But the bullpen collapsed, with Taylor Prokopis tagged with the loss.

The strapping infielder Bragg, meanwhile, is a true presence on the corner bases.

“I pride myself in my defensive versatility,” he said.

Bragg’s power at the plate isn’t bad, either. It became evident when he hit .355 with six home runs and 44 RBIs with 14 doubles and three triples in 41 games during his sophomore season at Tacoma Community College. That’s when Mississippi State came calling, which is a heck of a long way to go play NCAA ball for a guy from Lakewood, Washington.

“But I still cheer for the Seahawks and Mariners, even all the way down there,” quipped Bragg, admitting that makes him somewhat of a curiosity in Mississippi.

Bragg hit .290 and three home runs in 30 appearances as a junior this season for the Bulldogs, who were 40-27 and made it one step away from the 2017 College World Series. If he can’t play in the College World Series, he described Victoria as a good summer-league consolation.

“It’s closer to home than Mississippi, so it’s far easier for my family to come up and see me play,” said Bragg, who played last summer in the California League.

The weather here is also more familiar to a guy from Washington state than it is in Mississippi: “I like that there is less humidity.”

Even though he has only played one game so far at RAP, with only one at-bat in it, Bragg likes what he sees in his new summer home.

“[Royal Athletic] is a beautiful park with good fans who are behind you and really supportive,” he noted.

And what he did Sunday — a bomb of a homer in his first at-bat — is what you call an entrance.

Bragg knows what he wants out of his HarbourCats summer.

“I want to use this to get dialed in for fall ball and my senior season,” he said.

“That first-bat was sure a great start.”

Bragg and the HarbourCats continue their three-game set tonight and Wednesday in Corvallis before returning to host the Cowlitz Black Bears for a three-game set beginning Thursday at Royal Athletic Park.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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