Victoria HarbourCats’ clubbers make history

From when Royal Athletic Park housed a New York Yankees farm team in the 1940s to the Northwest League Single-A Victoria Mussels of the 1970s, there have been some heavy hitters on Caledonia Street over the years.

But the current baseball group at RAP has truly earned the moniker the Clubbers of Caledonia.

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The Victoria HarbourCats have become the first team in the 14 years of West Coast League history to score more than 400 runs in a season. The HarbourCats have 409, heading into today’s regular-season closing matinée against Port Angeles at RAP, following Saturday’s 7-4 victory over the Lefties before 4,000 fans on Fireworks Night.

The performance has obliterated the old record of 360 runs, set by the Bend Elks in 2015.

The HarbourCats have done so with a kind of platoon system. Summer collegiate baseball team rosters at the end of the season barely resemble those from the beginning of the campaign. A feature of summer collegiate ball this time of year is the bleed of players back to their NCAA teams because the academic year in the U.S. begins in late August.

HarbourCats coach Todd Haney estimates 10 to 15 players have left the team already to go back to school. Several new players have been brought in to fill out the roster and this replacement platoon hasn’t missed a beat at bat and continues to hammer out the hits.

They all have to adhere to the standards set by the departed players, and the core group that has stayed on, Haney said.

“The new guys see the way we go out and play, and know what the expectations are,” said Haney, who believes the WCL season should end earlier.

“We make sure our new guys have an opportunity to acclimatize to our team culture and approach and that they know what’s expected,” added Haney, who played five seasons in the majors, including with the Expos.

“Our objective remains the same — to win a championship for Victoria.”

The most impressive newcomer has been infielder Gus Wilson from Duncan, who is hitting .381 in his nine games for the HarbourCats.

The HarbourCats extended their win streak to seven games Saturday as Nick Plaia, Tyson Hays, Griffin Paxton, Harrison Spohn and Kyle Sherick homered.

Victoria (20-6 in the second half and 38-15 overall) won the North Division first-half title and playoff berth that goes with it. Victoria will start the best-of-three North playoff final Tuesday in Wenatchee, Washington, against the second-half representative AppleSox (17-8 and 39-23). The second game is Wednesday at RAP. The third game, if required, will be in Victoria on Thursday.

The North and South champions will meet in the best-of-three WCL final Aug. 18-20.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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