Butler Park is manicured, the schedule is set, and the Trail AM Ford Orioles are ready to host the Pacific Western Brewing BC Senior Men’s Baseball championship this weekend.
The Orioles last won the championship in 2011, but are quietly confident heading into the fray this weekend when eight teams from across the province will vie for a berth to the Canadian Men’s baseball championship.
“They (the Orioles) all know how to prepare for games, they have great fundamentals,” said manager Kevin Oliver. “So we’re ready.”
The Orioles will play in a Division A with the Burnaby Bulldogs, Nanaimo Coal Miners, and Victoria Mavericks Red, while Division B consists of Coquitlam Angels, Kamloops Sun Devils, Ladysmith Pilots and Victoria Mavericks Blue.
“Last year, Coquitlam won, so they’re always good, and Burnaby is always good, and Victoria has two teams coming, so they may be a little weaker than normal,” said Oliver. “But we have a good strong team, and we got a good chance if we get some breaks.”
Oliver believes the Orioles strength is on the mound with starters Chris Kissock, Scott Reinhold, Brian Mahon, Colton Miracle and Jordon Kissock rounding out a pretty solid starting rotation.
The first challenge is getting out of the round-robin and advancing to the playoffs. The top seed in each division gets a bye to the semifinal, while the second and third seed crossover and play an elimination game Sunday evening. The winners advance to the semifinal.
Pitching will be key early, and saving your top pitchers for a playoff spot won’t be an option for the Orioles.
“If we don’t qualify, we don’t get in the playoffs, so we can’t hold anybody back, we have to try to get out of our group first.”
The Orioles last saw game-time action at the Calgary Longhorn Tournament July 12-14, winning their opening two games before falling in the semifinals. Trail faced some difficulties lining up the competition this summer, having cancelations from both Vernon last weekend and Kamloops in June. However, Trail hosted an entertaining match up with Cuba on June 23 and a three-game set versus Calgary in April.
Pitcher/coach Chris Kissock is unfazed by the lack of game-time situations and believes the Orioles are ready and resilient with a good mix of veteran and younger players.
“I think we’re more prepared than we have been in the last three years, for sure. We played more games this year, and we had more practices and I think we’re more prepared.”
The team will be bolstered by imports Jordon Kissock (2001 L.A. Dodgers draft pick), infielder Devon Franklin, and catcher Clayton Howell, and also see returning veterans Kyle Mace, Joey Underwood, Matt Larmour, Cam Strachan, Jim Maniago, Joel Graf, Brad Ross, Oggie Ortman, and Dallas Calvin take to the field, along with College players Ross St. Jean and pitcher Austin Tambellini.
The Orioles last hosted the BC Senior Men’s provincials in 2014, and made it to the playoff round before losing to the Coquitlam Angels in the semifinal. With Trail products Pat Brown and Cam Strachan in the Kamloops’ line up, the Sun Devils went on to win the championship, taking a 16-inning thriller against defending champion Langley Blaze.
Baseball fans can expect the same intensity at this year’s provincial tournament as Canada’s best baseball players take to the diamond to battle for the provincial title. The AM Ford Orioles would like nothing more than to repeat their victory in 2011, and hope to see the same support from local fans and volunteers.
“We get to play the last game of the day on each day, so we get to kind of figure out who to start and what we have to do to win. We just want to get to the quarterfinals, win that one and go from there.”
The BC senior men’s baseball championship kicks off at Butler Park on Friday at 4 p.m. with Kamloops playing Coquitlam in the opening match, followed by Trail versus Burnaby at 6:30 p.m.
Butler Park will also have a full concession, beer garden, and 50/50 raffle so don’t miss a great weekend of baseball.
See schedule (inset) for game times.