Victoria HarbourCats pitcher Josh Gessner turns pro

There is something about Victoria HarbourCats pitchers the Philadelphia Phillies obviously like. The Phillies went to the well at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park one more time and have signed HarbourCats hurler Josh Gessner.

Hometown Victoria product Nick Pivetta, the first starter in HarbourCats franchise history, is now with the Phillies in the MLB. The Phillies inked Gessner on Monday and will assign him to a Single-A affiliate immediately. The Aussie, who grew up surfing on Manly Beach in Sydney and who also spent several formative years in his mom’s home nation of Japan where he fell in love with baseball, will leave the HarbourCats. He will also not play NCAA baseball for Tulane University in New Orleans, to where he had committed.

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This also shows why scouts are paid to take the long view. Victoria starter Gessner was lit up like a roman candle Saturday before 4,000 fans on Fireworks Night at Royal Athletic Park as he gave up a 7-0 lead to the Corvallis Knights in just two innings. But he is only 18 and directly out of high school. One night does not a career make.

“He’s a player with tremendous upside and generated a lot of interest,” said HarbourCats GM and managing partner Jim Swanson.

“Tulane did a great job in recruiting him, as the pro interest would indicate. It's tough for Tulane to lose him, and same for us. But it’s another indication of how close our guys are to the top level of the game — including the 11 players we had drafted last week [by MLB] teams.”

Gessner seems to have all the tools.

“I throw hard and I have a slider,” said the six-foot-one, 205-pounder. “But I believe pitching is as much a mental game.”

That is why Gessner said his current reading list includes How Champions Think: In Sports and Life by Dr. Bob Rotella.

Meanwhile, the HarbourCats salvaged something out of their three-game set against the defending West Coast League champion Knights with a 4-1 victory Sunday afternoon.

Starter Cade Smith had a strong outing by striking out eight with one run allowed over four innings. University of Hawaii Rainbows teammate Calvin Turchin took the win in relief and Matt Amrhein the save at Royal Athletic Park.

Nate Pecota led the Victoria offence with two hits, including a double with an RBI and run scored. Harrison Spohn also had two hits with an RBI and Tanner Haney from the University of Texas Longhorns continued his fine start at the plate with two hits.

Victoria moved to 3-3 on the season. The Knights (2-4) won the first two games of the set.

The HarbourCats played a team from Union de Reyes, Cuba, in an exhibition game Monday night at Royal Athletic Park. The Cuban squad downed the HarbourCats 5-2.

The HarbourCats now head out on a five-game road trip Wednesday through Sunday in Yakima, Washington, and Kelowna.

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