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HarbourCats outscore AppleSox in another learning experience for both teams

Series finale goes Sunday afternoon
HarbourCats starter Malik Harris delivers against the AppleSox ­during WCL action on Saturday night at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Malik Harris is nicknamed the Bear and with good reason. The Victoria HarbourCats handed the ball Saturday night to the imposing six-foot-six, 235-pound hurler from the NCAA Div. 1 University of Memphis on Saturday night.

But HarbourCats head coach Todd Haney has another B-name nickname in mind for the native of Draper, Utah, who was the sixth-ranked right-handed pitcher in the state coming out of high school and the 14th player overall and makes the ball pop.

“He is a bulldog on the mound and loves to compete and he throws a lot of strikes,” said former MLB player Haney.

Harris, who was a three-sport star in high school along with football and basketball, and his all-round athleticism can also help him go bear, or bulldog, or beast mode at the plate and he had a .354 batting average with six home runs and three doubles in his freshman season at Memphis. He went 2-0 on the mound in his first NCAA season in nine appearances but will want to work on his 7.80 ERA. That’s what summer collegiate ball is for.

Harris went 3 1/3 innings Saturday night at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park and allowed four hits, three runs with two strikeouts and three walks as Victoria (5-3) beat the Wenatchee AppleSox (6-2) by a 9-6 count.

“Summer baseball offers opportunities to players who want to take full advantage of it,” said Haney.

Players such as AL all-star Adley Rutschman, 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber and two-time AL Gold Glove Award winner Steve Kwan did just that. There were among the 37 WCL alumni on MLB ­opening-day rosters this year. If that doesn’t motivate this current group of WCL aspirants to play their hearts out and improve, nothing will. A very small number of them will play in the MLB, of course, but it’s the dream that matters.

“Summer ball is part of the journey, where players can experience more and ­different coaches who can impact them and help in their ­development,” said Haney. “College coaches trust what we do here in ­Victoria.”

A lot of that is because of Haney, the 2023 WCL coach of the year, who guided the HarbourCats to the league championship game last year.

North Saanich-product Jacob Thompson, who took the ball from Harris, got the win in relief Saturday for Victoria by going 1 2/3 innings in relief with three hits and one run allowed. Garrett Teunissen, batting .345 on the season, led the HarbourCats offence with a three-run triple. Manny Ramirez Jr. made his ’Cats debut with a two-run single.

The HarbourCats and AppleSox close out their series with a 1 p.m. matinee this afternoon at Royal Athletic Park.

The HarbourCats and Nanaimo NightOwls open their Island rivalry for the 2024 season Tuesday night at RAP, followed by a game in the Harbour City on Wednesday night at Serauxmen Stadium and a game back at RAP on Thursday at 11 a.m. for the annual school game in which thousands of local students get a break from the classroom and come to the park as part of a spring field trip to the field.

FOUL TIPS: The Edmonton Riverhawks (4-4) edged the NightOwls (5-3) by a 4-3 count Saturday in the Alberta capital, despite a homer run by Nanaimo DH Wylie Waters. The game was moved to the afternoon for obvious reasons with the Oilers opening the Stanley Cup final in the evening in Florida.