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Sweep start to NightOwls Season

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The Nanaimo NightOwls picked up where they left off in 2022, posting a 7-3 victory over the visiting Walla Walla Sweets at historic Serauxmen Stadium on Sunday afternoon, completing a three-game opening-series whitewash.

Following on the heels of a 14-4 win in the home opener, and a 6-5 late-inning Houdini act on Saturday evening, the NightOwls have now won eight games in a row dating back to August of 2022 when the expansion club closed that season with five wins in a row, including three wins at Serauxmen over the Port Angeles Lefties.

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The NightOwls are one of six teams, in a league of 16, to start 3-0 in this young West Coast League season, sitting in a tie atop the North Division with the Victoria HarbourCats, Wenatchee AppleSox and Bellingham Bells, who will be at Serauxmen Stadium for a Friday-Saturday-Sunday afternoon set next weekend. Springfield and Corvallis are tied at 3-0 in the South Division. Four teams from each division make the playoffs.

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Outfielder Brandon Hupe (UBC) and first baseman Ethan Rivera (Cal State San Marcos) went back-to-back with long balls in the first inning, setting the tone. Hupe, in his second year as a NightOwl and with a year of college eligibility remaining, drove a ball to left field, while Rivera, a versatile right-handed bat who also catches, drove a pitch to the opposite field over the “Screen Monster” to put Nanaimo on a path they would never be pushed off.

Starter Cooper Littledike and five relievers, four of them lefties, combined to scatter seven hits, walk just three, and fan eight hitters, most of those strikeouts coming at key points.

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Otho Savage of Walla Walla took the loss.

Hupe, who is batting .714 to start the season, was 3-4 with three runs driven in and two runs scored, adding a double to his day. Justin Ramirez, the all-time hits leader at Arizona Christian, and DH Wylie Waters were both 2-4 as part of a 12-hit NightOwls attack — including a double each. Slick shortstop Elijah Ickes (Hawaii) was 1-2 with a walk to improve his batting average to .667. Catcher Michael Easter (East LA College) was 1-1 with a run and two walks and is batting .750 in the season’s early days.

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The traveling Sweets move on to play at Victoria on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday — the NightOwls have Monday off before a trip to Kelowna to play the Falcons (1-2) in games Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with right-hander Payton Robertson (Arizona Christian) slated to start the first game, followed by another righty in Talon Mihalinac (New Jersey Institute of Technology) in the second game.

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Stability and more support the story for NightOwls coaching staff

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Greg Frady, Gorman Heimueller, Sean FitzGerald are the only coaches the Nanaimo NightOwls have ever known.

With the West Coast League team entering its third season at historic Serauxmen Stadium, that trio will have some help for 2024 — and the local kind.

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Frady, the Head Coach and veteran of college and international baseball, is proud to add two local coaches to the staff — First Base Coach Tyler Moretti, and Mental Skills/Bullpen Coach Jordan Herbison.

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Pitching Coach Heimueller, amazingly, is approaching his 50th year in the game, a career that includes two World Series rings, while FitzGerald, who runs the offense from the third base box, brings a wealth of junior college experience from Skagit Valley College.

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Moretti is well known locally as a former Pirates player who went south to play at Jamestown College, also seeing time at then-named VIBI. He has coached at the PBL and collegiate level.

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Herbison, originally from Ontario, played at UBC and the former RHP is now an instructor at Vancouver Island University, and was the mental performance coach for the NightOwls in 2023.

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Herbison and Moretti will give NightOwls players more opportunities for development.

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Arm injuries in pro and college baseball — NightOwls make organizational statement

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Heimueller has served as a minor league pitching coach and coordinator for many MLB organizations, most recently with the Padres. He has World Series rings for his work with the Twins and Phillies.

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With the NightOwls, Gorm has enjoyed working with them all — but especially strong-command pitchers such as Nathan Buchan, Garrett Goodall, Jake Fleury and Josh Laukkanen.

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“Gorm loves to say he’s never seen a ground ball leave the park,” said Swanson.

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“We see athletes on our team and others using max effort rather than prioritizing strikes — that makes for longer games, too, another focus in baseball. If someone can throw 97, with healthy actions and commanding the baseball, that’s great — but few can and let’s stop turning our backs on pitchers who can get people out with pitch location as the priority.

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“There is too much focus on radar gun ratings, on spin rate readouts, and Gorm and our coaching staff will be developing and rewarding pitchers who locate pitches and get batters out.”

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The NightOwls are excited about the player roster for the coming season, and the mix of pitchers on the roster — different styles, to create different looks and get the 27 outs required to win games.

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Victoria HarbourCats – 2024 Season Ticket Pick-up Event

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WE ARE BACK! 2024 Season Tickets Available for Pick-Up

May 17, 2024

We are inviting all season ticket holders, host families, and fans to join us for our annual “MAX MIXER” Season Ticket Holder Pick Up Event on Tuesday, May 28th from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at MAX FURNITURE at 3460 Quadra St. in Victoria.

WHAT: Season Ticket Pick-Up and Pre-Season Mixer
WHERE: MAX FURNITURE – 3460 Quadra St.
WHEN: Tuesday, May 28th from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Come meet your fellow fans, grab your season tickets, and mingle with HarbourCats staff and Harvey the HarbourCat as we kickoff the 2024 season.

There will be ticket and merchandise deals offered exclusively at the event.

NO RSVP required but if you have any questions, please contact the HarbourCats office at 778-265-0327.

If you can’t make the event, you can pick up your tickets at the HarbourCats office at 101-1814 Vancouver Street. Open M-F 9AM to 5PM, and Saturdays 10AM to 4PM.

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