Long road trip beckons for Victoria HarbourCats

One of the reasons for summer collegiate baseball is to get NCAA university players used to what it will be like if they make it to minor-pro ball.

The Victoria HarbourCats will absorb that lesson well, especially the bus travel part of it, as they head out on a five-game, 1,300-kilometre West Coast League road trip tonight through Sunday in Yakima, Washington, and Kelowna. Toss in a couple of ferry rides for good measure to complete the loop back home.

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There are two games in Yakima against the North Division-leading Pippins (5-1), followed by three in the Okanagan against the division-trailing Falcons (1-5). Victoria is 3-3.

“The travel in this league is tough,” said HarbourCats slugger Frankie Niemann, who is hitting a league fifth-best .480, with two doubles and four RBIs.

“But this is what you have to go through at the next level [minor-pro ball],” said the catcher from Tulane University.

The HarbourCats return for a three-game home set next Monday against the Bend Elks, which is immediately followed by a single road game in central Washington against the Pippins, followed the next day with the start of a three-game set in Portland against the Pickles.

It’s more than just the travel.

The players also have to get used to wood bats in the WCL after a season of swinging aluminum in university and college ball.

“Wood has a whole different feel to it,” said Niemann, who has obviously adapted well.

Players entering summer collegiate leagues like the WCL know the experience is a lot different than weekend-only play in NCAA university or college.

“You need to have consistency over nearly 60 games [in just over two months],” said Niemann, a six-foot, 205-pound native of Sanford, Florida.

“You play almost every day. You need to come in with the same mentality day in and day out.”

Meanwhile, Patrick Caulfield of the Walla Walla Sweets (6-0 in the South Division) was named the first WCL position player of the week for the 2019 season for leading the league in batting at .560 with seven stolen bases.

Joe Magrisi of the Pippins, from Cal State-Fullerton, was the inaugural pitcher of the week for the season with 10 strikeouts in six innings over two games.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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