The AM Ford Trail Orioles are ready to wing into another season in the Pacific International League (PIL) on Friday as they host Kelowna Jays for a three-game set at Butler Park.
The PIL provided stiff competition for the O’s inaugural season in 2011, and although the Orioles went 4 and 14, it did prepare the Trail squad for an exciting run and ultimate victory at the Western Canadian Championships at Butler Park in August.
“It’s very good competition, which is what we’re looking for,” said the O’s Jim Maniago. “We didn’t win a whole lot of games last year, but we competed and didn’t get embarrassed . . . I thought it was a great tune-up for the provincials and the Westerns.”
The team has a strong contingent of returning veterans including full-time addition and hard-throwing southpaw Scott Rhynold who has since relocated to Trail after being named MVP at the Westerns as an Oriole pickup.
“He’s one of the top three pitchers in the province so he’ll be a big addition to our pitching staff,” said Maniago.
Graduating to the Orioles from the Trail Jays are Garrett Kucher, Kyle Paulson, Gerry Rebelato, and Jesse Rypien; young players that should add some youth and depth to the veteran-laden team.
“We’ve got our veteran guys that are back again and with adding these younger guys from the Jays will be nice,” said Maniago. “We’ll have a bit more speed and hopefully we can play a little bit different baseball. With the speed, now all of a sudden you can steal, and hit and run, and bunt a little bit more so we’re hoping that means a little bit more offence and generate more runs.”
While the O’s are just in their second season in the PIL, the 10-team league is celebrating it’s 20th season by opening this weekend in Trail. Founded in the fall of 1992, the PIL is considered the premier Summer Collegiate Baseball league in the Northwest.
Most PIL players are NCAA eligible and are unpaid in order to maintain their eligibility.
FROM PAGE 11 The PIL is different from many other summer collegiate baseball leagues in that the league also allows former professionals and college graduates to participate.
In addition to playing teams such as the Seattle Studs, Burnaby Bulldogs and Northwest Honkers as well as a special stop at Butler against the San Diego Stars.
The O’s also have many tournament stops on tap with the Kelowna cash tournament, the Provincials in Prince George, the Westerns in Winnipeg and the annual Grand Forks International to close out the season.
“We hope to compete in the PIL, and hopefully have a better showing at the Provincials than we did last year and we want to take a run at the Westerns again . . . we’re looking forward to getting started this weekend. Everyone is anxious to get out and get playing.”
The first Oriole pitch flies Friday at 7 p.m. with a double-header on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Butler Park.