The West Kootenay ‘A’ Orioles celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday in style sweeping their U.S. counterparts in a pair of doubleheaders on the weekend.
The single-A Orioles beat Ferris 7-3 and 11-1 on Friday at Butler Park, then routed Selkirk 6-2 and 17-7 on Saturday to claim the top spot in the Area 3 Central Division of ‘A’ Washington State American Legion Baseball (WSALB) and advance to the District championship in Spokane July 14-17.
“We were stretched thin on our bench that’s for sure, but it was a good weekend of ball,” said Orioles coach Kevin Ihas. “Everybody really stepped up and played hard in the heat that’s for sure.”
Pitchers Allie Schroder and Austin Cox picked up the wins on Friday, then were away for Saturday’s games, but the team didn’t miss a beat pounding out 23 runs to wrap up their regular season matches against Selkirk and finish the year with a 16-2 record.
A well-rounded team, the Orioles combine excellent pitching, solid bats, and an athletic infield that continues to impress the West Kootenay coach.
“Our pitching has been really strong, our bats – obviously you can see by the scores, and our defensive play has been phenomenal, lots of outs,” said Ihas. “We’re encouraging our pitchers not to try to overwhelm a batter, keep your pitch-counts down, hit the ball, we’ll make a play.”
The Orioles beat every team in their division with it’s only two losses coming when they split their doubleheaders at Butler Park last month against Coeur d’Alene and Deer Park. The West Kootenay also played two match-ups versus Shadle Park of the American ‘A’ Division and won both ends of the double bill, and will face the Federal Division leading Chewelah ‘A’ on Friday, a possible preview of a WSALB District match up.
“We’re going to have some strong competition,” said Ihas. “But we’ll be ready for it. It’s going to be a different format for us with pitch counts, and a short window of turnover … It’s going to take a little more thought of how we’ll be managing our pitchers for Districts that’s for sure.”
The ‘A’ Orioles advance to the District playoffs for a second consecutive year. Last season, the Orioles battled to make it in with a 10-8 record, but were eliminated early. Ihas has greater expectations for this year’s team.
“A lot of the core kids have returned, they’re a year older, and I have a couple stronger ones that have joined the team. Last year gave us a better idea of what to expect for this season, but I’m quite sure we’ll fair well.”
The West Kootenay will play its final two home games of the season against Chewelah ‘A’ on Friday at Butler Park before leaving for Districts. Game times for the non-divisional matches are 5 and 7 p.m.
The top teams in Districts advance to the WSALB State championship in Bellingham July 22-27.