HarbourCats keep swingin’ a hot bat

More than 3,100 students from 37 schools played hooky Wednesday afternoon. But not the Victoria HarbourCats. They more than reported for duty, and for the second consecutive game, scored the equivalent of two converted touchdowns and a field goal in drubbing the Bend Elks 17-5.

The HarbourCats, 17-7 winners on Tuesday night, swept the three-game West Coast League set against the Elks at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park.

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Wednesday’s morning-start game was played amid a constant din created by the thousands of school kids in the annual field-trip fixture. Many of them surrounded HarbourCats right-fielder Nick Plaia on the concourse following the game, holding up hands and chirping for an autograph. At six-foot-three, he certainly stood out from the swarm of elementary-school kids.

“This is awesome and makes it so much fun,” said the 2018 Victoria team MVP, of the adoring students.

“I haven’t cut my hair, so maybe some of them remember me from last year.”

Even the pitchers not used on the day could feel the energy created by the students from as far away as the bullpen: “It was a fun atmosphere and it’s cool being role models. That makes it even more special,” said HarbourCats pitcher Jack Hyde from the University of San Diego.

Reliever Luka Green from Pomona-Pitzer got to come out of the bullpen in the fourth inning and took the win for his two innings of work.

But it was the offence that was the story of the day, if not the week, as Victoria improved to 9-5 and Bend fell to 5-7.

Plaia, a native of Santa Clarita, California, who plays at NCAA Div. 1 Cal-Baptist, had a hit, two RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base Wednesday. But it was the long ball the HarbourCats utilized more with home runs by Jason Willow, Frankie Niemann and Matt Turner.

Niemann, out of Tulane University in New Orleans, also had a double and finished with four hits and three RBIs on the day as the designated hitter moved his batting average to a torrid .522 over 12 games.

Hometown product Willow, a draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles and former Canada U-18 World Cup captain, had three hits and three RBIs and two runs scored as the Victoria Mariners junior graduate showed why he was named all-conference honourable mention this season for the Big West Conference champion UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos.

Chase Wehsener from the Baylor Bears, hitting .583 since joining the team for the start of the Bend series, continued his hot-hitting ways with one of his two hits a triple with two RBIs and three runs scored.

Wehsener’s Baylor-teammate Kyle Harper had two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored while shortstop Chase Meidroth had a double and a triple in the 18-hit Victoria onslaught.

“It’s just going for us and we’re rolling right now,” said Plaia.

The 2018 MVP attributed it to team attitude: “We’re getting to the field early on game days and working on our hitting.”

It’s paying off.

“Both our hitting and pitching are on point,” said Plaia.

“We have that winning mentality.”

The HarbourCats will hope to carry that on the road with them as they meet the Yakima Valley Pippins tonight in central Washington state, before heading down to Oregon to begin a three-game set Friday in Portland against the Pickles.

DIAMOND DUST: Brendan Turcotte of Victoria started on the mound Wednesday for Bend.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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