Welcome to the inaugural edition of C’s Rewind on C’s Plus Baseball. It’s hard to believe the affiliation between the Vancouver Canadians and the Toronto Blue Jays is already six seasons in with at least two more to come after the two sides extended their Player Development Contract until 2018.
I have taken more than a few photos since arriving in Vancouver before the 2012 season so let’s delve in, shall we? Today’s C’s Rewind looks back at the Hillsboro Hops first-ever visit to Nat Bailey Stadium in 2013.
The Hops were the former Yakima Bears, who relocated to Oregon after the 2012 Northwest League season. The rebranded club, still affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks, played the C’s at brand-new Ron Tonkin Field in early July of 2013 and the Canadians wound up winning the series three games to two.
Hillsboro tried to return the favour by winning the first two games in the return engagement in Vancouver. The Hops turned to Braden Shipley – the 15th overall pick of the 2013 draft – to lead them to a series-clinching win while Vancouver countered with 2011 Blue Jays second-round pick Jeremy Gabryszwski.
Shipley’s draft pedigree didn’t faze the Canadians one bit as they got to him for four runs in the first inning.Dickie Joe Thon, then known as Dickie Thon Jr. back then, doubled home a Chaz Frank leadoff single before a Brenden Kalfus base rap eventually came home on a wild pitch. Thon would score the third run after a botched run down between third and home that started on a comebacker to the mound off the bat of Andy Fermin. Hops catcher Elvin Soto could not hang on to the ball after Thon ran into his arm standing up. Fermin managed to get all the way to third during the rundown and he would score the fourth run on a base hit by Surrey, B.C. native Justin Atkinson.
The C’s added to their lead off Shipley in the second when David Harris doubled, moved to third on a Frank groundout and scored on a Kalfus sacrifice fly. Doubles by Fermin and Melvin Garcia would chase Shipley with two outs in the third. The University of Nevada product was shipwrecked for six runs in 2-2/3 innings on seven hits while uncorking two wild pitches and committing a balk. The only positives were his K/BB and groundout/flyout totals were 2-0 and 5-2 respectively.
Meanwhile, Gabryszwski retired eight in a row and 13 out of 14 but Hillsboro would cut the Vancouver lead in half with a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Vancouver would match Hillsboro’s two-run total in their half of the sixth as Vazquez reached on an error to score a Frank base hit. Vazquez would then come home on a Fermin double to make it 8-3 C’s.
Recently converted pitcher Matt Johnson worked around a single in the seventh and a double in the eighth to keep the Hops off the board before turning the ball over to closer Chuck Ghysels in a non-save situation. Ghysels did himself no favours by walking the leadoff man and giving up a single and his defence did him no favours either as a throwing error by Atkinson at first loaded up the bases. Ghysels then walked the next hitter to score a run. He battled back with a couple of strikeouts but George Roberts cleared the bases with a three-run double to make the score 8-7. Ghysels was one strike away from ending the game and it looked like it would end after he induced a ground ball to short but Vazquez booted the ball again at short and that allowed Roberts to score the tying run all the way from second. Lefthander Joe Spano came on in relief and he struck out Soto to stop the bleeding.
After the C’s went down in order in the ninth, it was on to extra innings and it turned out to be an adventure for Spano. He gave up a leadoff single but got the next two batters on a strikeout and a groundout. Still, the potential go-ahead run was on second base in the form of pinch-runner Brian Billigen. Spano issued an intentional walk to the right-handed hitting Ryan Gebhart but he uncorked a wild pitch to push the runners up 90 feet. That led to another intentional free pass to right-handed hitting Jordan Parr to load up the bases and get a more favourable match-up against the left-handed bat belonging to Justin Bianco. Spano would get Bianco swinging to leave the bases loaded and give the C’s another chance to salvage this game.
Harris began the bottom of the 10th by collecting his fourth hit in five at-bats with an opposite-field single to right against J.R. Bradley. Frank pushed Harris to second base with a sacrifice bunt but Kalfus could not bring him home as he struck out. It was up to Vazquez, only in the throes of a 0-for-22 slump, to deliver. However, Vazquez was able to totally redeem himself by dropping a ball into left field to score Harris with the winning run as the C’s beat the Hops 9-8.
Here were some of the observations I had of this game on Batter’s Box.
It was an interesting matchup on the mound as Braden Shipley, the D-Backs first-round pick, pitched against Jeremy Gabryszwski. The C’s roughed up Shipley, who was throwing around 92-94 MPH, and he only lasted 2 2/3 innings. The G-Man had a no-hitter going until one out into the fifth. He appeared to be running out of gas in the sixth and gave up a bases-loaded double. The Hops had to settle for two runs instead of three as Melvin Garcia started a 9-4-2 play to nail the third runner at the plate. Still, it was a quality start and he was in line for the win after Matt Johnson pitched two scoreless innings. He was throwing around 90-92 mph. The Hops hit a couple of balls hard but they were at ’em balls.
Chuck Ghysels did himself no favours by walking the leadoff man in the ninth. Justin Atkinson made an error at first to load up the bases but he struck out the next two hitters and was a strike away from ending the game. However, Hillsboro hit a bases-clearing double to draw to within a run before a Vazquez error at short led to the tying run. Instead of wearing the goat horns, Vazquez wore the hero’s cape. Vazquez broke a 0-for-22 slump by dropping one fair down the left field line to score David Harris with the winning run.
The C’s will be hard pressed to make the playoffs, given the recent injuries to Thon and L.B. Dantzler, their number three hitter. Losing Jordan Leyland and Dan Klein to Lansing didn’t help either. However, it’s a chance for others to step up.
It was a crucial game as the C’s needed every win they could get to defend their back-to-back Northwest League titles.