Baseball’s AA Trail Orioles are looking ahead to an action packed upcoming season with one major goal in mind.
The O’s finished strong in the AA Washington State American Legion Baseball’s (WSALB) National League division last season, going 10-4 and taking second at Districts to win a berth to the State championship in Lacey, Wash. at the end of July. Despite the team’s success, Orioles hitting coach Kyle Mace says the veteran players weren’t happy with the 0-2 result at the State tournament.
“We want to go back to States, that’s our expectation for sure,” said Mace. “And that’s the kids’ expectation, especially the returning kids. They got that taste in their mouth last year, and their really unsatisfied with what happened. So they want to push the pedal again this year.”
The team, consisting of players between ages 13 and 18, will start the season running when the O’s travel to Lethbridge at the end of the month for the Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) Showcase Tournament. The tournament is attended by college scouts from Canada and the U.S., and is a good opportunity for local players, as it was for AA Orioles pitching and fielding coaches Kyle Paulson and Joey Underwood who attended the Academy.
“We’re going to practice quite a bit here,” said Mace. “I think we have about eight or nine in the next three weeks, before we go to Lethbridge just to get the kids ready. We’re really young so it should be an eye opener, but it’s going to be great.”
The AA Orioles will field a young team this season, but have a strong core of returning veterans in Bradley Ross, Ross St. Jean, Brendan Makay, Reese Tambellini, Colton Miracle, Daniel Gagne, and Austin Cox. Players like Austin Tambellini and Nathan Soukeroff, who are eligible, will likely play for the Senior Men’s Orioles this season. New additions include Dallas Cox, Marty and Nate Ingram, Pete Pasqualatto, Ali Schroder, Ryan Stainer, Lucas Miracle, Kian Johnston, and Justin Coombes.
“I think we’re going to hit the ball well, I really do,” said Mace. “I think we’ll play good defence. Pitching is going to be a work in progress.”
To shore up the rotation, pitching coach Paulson will likely convert last year’s closer Colton Miracle to a starter.
“Last year he was just automatic out of the bullpen, so we’re going to need someone to step up in the (starter) role for sure.”
In addition to Kyle and Paulson, Ron Mace returns as head coach, and new addition, Underwood, will coach the infield. Underwood graduated and played for the NAIA Bryan College Lions in Tennessee before spending the 2015 season with the Okotoks Dawgs in the Western Major Baseball League. The shortstop, along with Kyle Mace and Paulson, also helped the Trail AM Ford Orioles win the Western Senior Men’s Baseball Championship in 2011.
“It will be awesome,” said Mace. “It (the addition of Underwood) takes a lot of responsibility off myself and my dad for the infielders. We’ll just let Joey do his thing. He’s phenomenal there and he can teach the kids a lot.”
The team opens their season in Trail’s XBL League, Apr. 21, and to warm up for the PBA tournament Apr. 29 to May 1, the AA Orioles will play a series of four exhibition games against the Senior Men’s Orioles on Apr. 23 at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Apr. 24 at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The AA Orioles also host their own wood-bat tournament with six teams already booked for June 17-19, followed by the Spokane Wood-Bat tournament in July.
Trail’s AA schedule includes over 60 games and counting, and, with the majority of the squad also playing for the J. L. Crowe Hawks baseball team – which hosts a tournament this weekend at Butler Park – the Oriole players should be adequately seasoned once the WSALB Districts and State championships roll around in July.
“It wasn’t great going down there and not winning a ball game. So our goal this year, as a team, is to get back there and actually compete at the state level.”