Vancouver Notebook: First Week Review

Through the first week of action, the Vancouver Canadians tread water, going 4-4 in their first eight games. Jeremy Knight gives us a rundown of the team's first week of action for the 2009 season.

A little more than a week ago, the Vancouver Canadians were embarking on a season filled with promise and optimism, just like most Northwest League seasons start for the C's, who have not made an appearance in the league finals since two consecutive finals appearances in 2005 and 2004.

Rising prospects such as SS Nino Leyja and OF Rashun Dixon looked destined for good seasons for the C's, but with only one left-handed pitcher in their staff, most fans wondered if the pitching could get it done.

In front of a sellout crowd on Opening Night, just the fourth in three seasons, the Canadians wanted to show fans they could hit and pitch well enough to make a post-season push, but the Everett Aquasox stood firmly in their way. Just two 2009 draftees started on Opening Day, Conner Crumbliss and Kent Walton, but even the Extended Spring Training roster couldn't figure out Aquasox starter Taylor Lewis.

Lewis wound up going six strong innings, giving up one run on four hits, walking three, and striking out half-a-dozen.

Lewis' one blunder was giving up a bomb to left hit by Rashun Dixon, the 18-year-old prospect out of Jackson, Mississippi. Dixon crushed it, and the ball must have left Nat Bailey Stadium, a pitchers' park, in under four seconds. It was an absolute laser beam.

Dixon was one of three Canadians with multi-hit games in the opener, with Wilfredo Sosa and Nino Leyja being the others, but he was the only one to score for Vancouver in an otherwise disappointing game for the hometown team.

Joselito Adames gave up a pair of runs over five innings, pitching well, but Ronny Morla and Jonathan Joseph allowed a combined eight runs, seven of which were earned, in just 2.1 innings. Jorge Arrioja did his best to keep the game in check, pitching 1.2 scoreless innings, but the Aquasox already had 10 runs, to Vancouver's one, which ended all hopes of a comeback when the top two Canadians hitters both struck out back-to-back to end the game.

After losing 10-1 the night before, the Canadians came-out firing on Sunday, scoring two runs in the first two innings on a Kent Walton double and a mind-boggling sac bunt by Wilfredo Sosa. Sosa popped the bunt in the air trying to advance Gabriel Ortiz, but it was caught by Aquasox 1B Gerardo Avila. Ortiz tagged up, and no one could handle the throw back to first trying to get Ortiz, so he ran to second and then third once RF Wellington Dotel picked up the ball. Dotel then overthrew 3B Hawkins Gebbers, and ignoring the stop sign, Ortiz chugged home, something a catcher wouldn't normally do, and he scored.

Vancouver went on to win 3-1, as Ricardo Penalba pitched six scoreless innings, striking out seven and giving up four hits, before turning it over to Bo Schultz and Jose Guzman, who combined to go four innings, giving up three hits, a run, three walks and four strikeouts. Rashun Dixon had his second multi-hit game in as many days.

Proving Sunday was no fluke was easy with a 7-1 drubbing of Everett in the series-deciding game on Monday. An announced crowd of 3,465 fans saw Hector Garcia give up one run (unearned), before turning it over to the 'pen which had to go five innings, but gave up just two hits and three walks over that time. Nino Leyja, Kent Walton and Gabriel Ortiz all had two-hit nights, and Leyja made a spectacular catch falling backwards to end the game. Suddenly, the optimism heading into the season was translating to success on the field.
After taking the first series of the year, a tough task lay ahead for Vancouver, who faced the Tri-City Dust Devils on the road, a team that featured Scott Beerer hitting .786 heading into the series.

In the series opener, the C's gave up two runs in the first with LHP Julio Ramos on the hill, but Vancouver settled down and scored once in the fifth, and again in the eighth, hoping to mount a comeback against the Dust Devils who scored as well in the fifth to take a one-run lead.

Vancouver's bullpen kept them in it, but the offense didn't really get going after the eighth, as they lost by a run. Leyja and Walton both had their second multi-hit games in as many nights, but this time it wasn't enough. For the fourth straight year, Vancouver lost their first road game by only one run. Michael Gilmartin made his pro debut, going 0-4 in the process.

On Wednesday night, the C's turned to veteran pitcher Chad Lee, fresh off of an injury-filled season in '08, who shutdown the Dust Devils through four innings, giving up a lone hit over that time and striking out seven.

Vancouver mustered a run in the fourth, but Bo Schultz gave up a walk-off hit-by-pitch to Joey Wong with two-out and the bases loaded in the ninth, sealing the deal for Vancouver's second straight loss.

The C's offensively only had three hits, one for Conner Crumbliss and a pair to Nino Leyja, who raised his average to .421.

Hoping to win their first road game, the C's turned to Joselito Adames, their Opening Day starter. He began Thursday's game by giving up three runs in four innings, prompting the bullpen to enter the game in the fifth.

The trio of Jorge Arrioja, Daniel Straily and Paul Smyth kept the C's in the game, giving up a run over four innings, and that the C's did, as they tied the game at four in the seventh inning.

It looked as though another walk-off win would be in order for Tri-City, with a runner on third and one out in the ninth, but catcher Ryan Ortiz, in his first pro series, picked off Dallas Tarleton to end the threat. Nathan Long retired the final batter of the inning to send the game into extras.

Vancouver got on the board in the 11th, as a walk followed by back-to-back sac bunts scored Tyreace House, giving the Canadians an eventual victory.

If the team was tired from its nearly four hour game the night before, they showed it Friday, giving up seven runs to start the game before clawing back with three over the course of the middle innings. Tri-City sealed the deal, however, with a run in the eighth. It just wasn't the C's night, as they officially lost the series. A bright spot was Kent Walton, who was 3-4, while Jose Crisostomo's two hits allowed his average to climb to .417.

Starter Ricardo Penalba, who was masterful in his first start, gave up six runs over three and a third, striking out three. Despite the great performance five days earlier, his ERA rose to 6.48.

Already knowing they'd lost the series may have helped the Canadians on Saturday as they looked to win their fourth game of the year. The C's squared off against Brian McAtee of the Dust Devils.

Over the course of the first three innings, the Canadians drew seven walks, and had just two hits, but it didn't matter as they scored four times against the losing pitcher McAtee. After three, the Canadians were winning by a score of 5-0. Vancouver managed two more runs, and won 7-2.

On Saturday, Hector Garcia allowed his first run of the year over the course of 8.2 innings in total, and Kyle Christensen gave up one run in three relief.

Starting on Sunday is a battle with divisional foe Salem-Keizer, who are two games up on the C's in first place. The series is the short-season version of the Bay Bridge Series, as the Volcanoes are the affiliate for the San Francisco Giants.

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