After an inspiring run to the final at the Senior Men’s Western AA baseball tournament last weekend, the AM Ford Trail Orioles have set their sights on the Grand Forks International baseball tournament this week.
The Orioles fell to Manitoba’s Elmwood Giants in a close 3-0 decision in the final match Sunday, but the team’s 3-1 record prior to that loss leaves them confident heading into the GFI.
“We’ll be solid,” said player/coach Jim Maniago, whose team will share a pool with the San Diego Stars, Northwest Honkers and Thurston County Senators.
“All the teams are going to be good this year, there’s no freebies. I look at our division and it’s going to be tough, but you know what we could win all three or lose all three.”
Pitching proved to be the strength of the Orioles at the Westerns with Chris Kissock collecting 12 strike outs in the opening 3-2 match against Saskatchewan, followed by brother Darrin’s 7-1 thumping of Alberta and a solid effort from Kyle Paulsen in a 3-2 win over Brandon as the O’s won their first three games of the round robin.
“Our pitching was outstanding and our defence actually was really good, the key hits when we needed them we just couldn’t get them,” said Maniago.
The Orioles will be without pitching addition Denver Wynn, who was signed by the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association of Independent Professional baseball on the weekend.
However, pitching addition Aaron Cotter will stick with the team for the tournament this week, and, after missing the Westerns and provincials, O’s ace Scott Rhynold will join the team for the trip. In addition, Jordan Kissock, cousin to Chris and Darrin and a Los Angeles Dodgers draft pick in the 42nd round in 2001, will provide another strong arm. Other pick ups include hard-hitting Dustin Bissonette and outfielder Josh Loden from Cranbrook.
The team is going into the tournament with one of the deepest rotations since losing in the semifinal in 2002, however the O’s have won money in three of the last four years, which is their main goal again this year.
With the arms rested and ready for the five-day event, the Orioles will need run support if they hope to move onto the money round.
“That’s the thing, I mean our pitching is so good, they’re going to keep us in the game,” said Maniago. “We just have got to make the plays behind them . . . and we’ve got to get those key hits. Basically we’re going to be adding three different hitters into our lineup so hopefully that will help.”
The Orioles open the tournament on Thursday at 5 p.m. against the San Diego Stars with Fruitvale’s Chris Kissock getting the start. Friday the O’s go against the Thurston County Senators at 2 a.m. and Saturday versus the Northwest Honkers at 8 a.m.
Pool 1 is comprised of last year’s champion Lewiston Paffile Truckers, Langley Senior Blaze, Parkland Whitesox, and U.S. Military All-Stars while Pool 2 includes Seattle Studs, Canada West All-Stars, UCLA Bruins and Team Canada.
The first game of the tournament goes this afternoon at 2 p.m. but the Opening Ceremonies are scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The money round starts Sunday and concludes with the final going Monday at 2:30 p.m.