Washington State American Legion Baseball (WSALB) steps up to the plate for another season this weekend with the Trail ‘AA’ and West Kootenay ‘A’ Orioles in action.
The ‘AA’ Orioles took a break from action last season, but return to the diamond and WSALB play with renewed commitment and a strong contingent of West Kootenay players. Coached by last year’s single ‘A’ Orioles trio of Tim Taylor, Kevin Ihas, and Mark Profili, this year’s ‘AA’ Orioles boast a strong combination of youth and experience.
“It’s looking good,” said Ihas. “We have a really good core group. A bunch of single ‘A’ players that have moved up, and of course it’s a building year this year because of not having a team existing last year, so we’re getting a few kids that didn’t play last year back into ball which is nice.”
Top end players like Allison Schroder, Jesse Ihas, Ryan Stainer, and the Pasqualotto brothers, Antonio and Pete, lead the ‘AA’ Orioles as they prepare for a doubleheader against ‘AA’ Medical Lake High School on Friday to open the season.
After going 11-3 in the regular season, the last Trail ‘AA’ team to play in WSABL came within a game of advancing to the Washington State championship in July, 2016. The 2015 AA Orioles advanced all the way to the State championships after a solid 10-3 season, yet, with the year off, this year’s coaching staff is taking it one game at a time, starting Friday.
“This will give us something to gauge off of,” said Ihas. “This week will be our first round to see where we’re standing.”
The O’s play a 20-game schedule (10-doubleheaders) in the competitive 10-team Area 3 ‘AA’ National division against teams from Colville, Medical Lake, Mt. Spokane, Chewelah, Central/East Valley, Deer Park, Chatteroy’s River Side Rams, and Rogers and Indians Black from Spokane.
Trail travels to Spokane Valley the following week to take on Central/East Valley, before their home-opener on June 10 versus the Riverside Rams at Butler Park.
In preparation, the ‘AA’ Orioles have been squeezing in practices when they can on a busy Butler Park field this past month, and have been coming out to play XBL baseball on Tuesdays and Thursdays to get some game-time practice.
“Trying to find field time has been difficult this year, which is unfortunate,” said Ihas. “It’s the calm before the storm basically. There’s that little lull, then it’s baseball, baseball, baseball, a doubleheader here, then on the road, then back and forth every weekend.”
The Orioles final regular-season game goes on July 12, with the WSALB District and State championships to follow.
In addition, the West Kootenay ‘A’ Orioles open their season against West Valley High School on Saturday in Spokane. The team, coached by Steve Forte and managed by Keith DeWitt, will try to duplicate an excellent 16-2 record manufactured last season and a spot in the District championship.
“I think we will have a very competitive team this year,” said Forte in an email. “Every player is new this year so we are a young team.”
But West Kootenay will benefit from players advancing from the 13U team that played in the Spokane Indians Youth Baseball League last season, and were part of the Trail All Stars Little League team that came within a run of winning the BC Little League Major Championship in 2016.
“We have five players on the team that were runners up for the BC Little league Provincial tournament two years ago and have added a few other strong players as well,” added Forte.
The ‘A’ Orioles play in the ‘A’ National division against Washington State and Idaho teams that include Chewelah, Colville, Mead, Mead 2, Central/East Valley, Medical Lake, North Idaho Dawgs, Prairie Cardinals, West Valley and the Whitman County Cougars.
The ‘A’ Orioles play their first home games on June 2, when they host the University Titans ‘A’ at 5 and 7 p.m. at Butler Park.