Victoria HarbourCats’ newcomers help bury Bend Elks

The freshness factor is hard to find amid the day-to-day grind of baseball. When you come across it as a coach, you leap on it. That is what Victoria HarbourCats skipper Todd Haney did with hometown product Jason Willow and NCAA Big 12 Baylor Bears first-baseman Chase Wehsener, both of whom arrived to join the HarbourCats this week.

Wehsener literally stepped off the Clipper from Seattle on Monday and rushed to Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park and proceeded to hit a two-run homer on a two hit night in a 5-3 Victoria win over the Bend Elks.

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And he didn’t let up on Tuesday. Wehsener’s torrid bat unleashed three hits on two doubles and a single with three RBIs and three runs scored as part of the onslaught that staked Victoria to a 6-0 first-inning lead and 15-6 advantage by the fourth inning en route to a 17-7 victory over Bend in a scoreline that sounds more like a Baylor football game.

“It’s been a whirlwind. But this is a great venue and it’s been a lot of fun,” said Wehsener.”

Wehsener hails from San Diego and is showing why he started this past NCAA season for Baylor as a red-shirt freshman.

Willow, a draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles and former Canada U-18 World Cup captain, also joined the HarbourCats this week and contributed with a hit Monday and two hits, an RBI and three runs scored Tuesday. The sophomore centre-fielder was an all-conference honourable mention this season for the NCAA Big West Conference champion UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos.

“I grew up here and know this ballpark well and it’s great to be back, and my parents are especially happy,” said Willow, whose initial season last year with the HarbourCats was curtailed by a broken finger.

Willow didn’t sign with the Orioles out of Lambrick Park, opting instead for UC-Santa Barbara.

The Victoria Mariners junior graduate enters his second draft-eligibility year next season as an NCAA junior.

“We had 10 [UC-Santa Barbara juniors] players taken in the MLB draft this year and the thing you learn is that guys do best when they put their heads down and work hard and not get caught up in where they will go in the draft and how much money they will get,” said Willow.

“I’ll just keep pushing.”

The HarbourCats (8-5) and Elks (5-6) conclude their three-game set today at 11 a.m. in the annual school field-trip game at Royal Athletic Park.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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