Eagles Grounded by Whalley, Mother Nature in Home Opener

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Despite Loss, Eagles and New Coach Anthony Pluta Looking for Big Success in 2013
Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

April 13, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Eagles began the home portion of their 2013 BC Premier Baseball League season with a tight 2-0 loss to the Whalley Chiefs at a cold and rainy Lambrick Park on Saturday afternoon.

They were defeated again in Game 2, this time by Mother Nature, as the game was postponed due to rain, hail and unplayable field conditions.

In the opener against the Chiefs, pitcher Brett Hull took to the mound and was looking to follow-up on his successful start last week in Nanaimo when he took a perfect game into the seventh inning.

Brett Hull would get the start in the Eagles home opener on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart - Island Sports News)
Brett Hull would get the start in the Eagles home opener on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

Hull would pitch well and limit the Chiefs to three hits through four and two-thirds innings (with three walks and eight strikeouts), but a run in the third and a run in the fifth were all the Chiefs would need to tag Hull with the 2-0 loss.

The Eagles meanwhile, struggled offensively, scattering just five hits off of Chief starter and complete game winner Yuta Kikuzaki who benefitted from a solid defense behind him that turned a pair of double plays early in the game to squash Eagle threats.

Whalley second baseman Matthew Yee leaps over baserunner Gobind Sall after turning a double play in Saturday's action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart - Island Sports News)
Whalley second baseman Matthew Yee leaps over baserunner Gobind Sall after turning a double play in Saturday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

Offensively for the Chiefs, first baseman Garrett Hasner had three of the Chiefs six hits, as well as a run and an RBI. Right fielder Connor Chorpita also contributed a pair of hits and an RBI.

Whalley pitcher Yuta Kikuzaki would go the distance Saturday, getting the 2-0 win over the Eagles (Photo: Christian J. Stewart - Island Sports News)
Whalley pitcher Yuta Kikuzaki would go the distance Saturday, getting the 2-0 win over the Eagles (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

For the Eagles, Kyle Murai, Brandon Feldman, Gobind Sall, Tony Ebbs-Canavan and Will Wild had the hits, while reliever Jason Heckl pitched very well in relief, giving up three hits in his two and a third innings of work, while walking one and striking out three.

Eagle pitcher Jason Heckl would have an effective outing for the Eagles on Saturday(Photo: Christian J. Stewart - Island Sports News)
Eagle pitcher Jason Heckl would have an effective outing for the Eagles on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

The game marked the home debut of new Eagles field boss Anthony Pluta who will be familiar to many Victoria baseball fans from his stint on the mound with the Victoria Seals in 2009 and 2010 when the team played here in the Golden Baseball League.

Whalley's Braeden Allemann heads to third in Saturday's action against the Eagles.  Allemann would be thrown out on the play (Photo: Christian J. Stewart - Island Sports News)
Whalley’s Braeden Allemann heads to third in Saturday’s action against the Eagles.  Allemann would be thrown out on the play (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

Pluta brings over 13 years of professional baseball experience to his position, and as a pitcher, will be able to provide invaluable insight to young hurlers like Hull and the likes of Kurt Horne, missing on Saturday as he is at the Junior National Team training camp in Florida.

Former Victoria Seal and 13-year pro Anthony Pluta has returned to Victoria to manage the Eagles this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart - Island Sports News)
Former Victoria Seal and 13-year pro Anthony Pluta has returned to Victoria to manage the Eagles this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

“It’s good to be back in Victoria for sure,” said Pluta, who was lured back to the Garden City by his new wife Jennifer – they were married just over a month ago – and then even more so by the job offer from the Eagles.

“I love coaching and I’ve been doing it since I was drafted when I was 18. I’ve now played pro ball for 13 years with 7 different minor pro affiliate teams and I just want to keep giving back as much as I can and this was a great opportunity.”

As a pitcher himself, Anthony Pluta (right) should be an excellent influence on Eagle pitchers like Brett Hull (left) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart - Island Sports News)
As a pitcher himself, Anthony Pluta (right) should be an excellent influence on Eagle pitchers like Brett Hull (left) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

Pluta hopes to use that professional experience to help change the culture of the team and the organization from one that focuses on development of players, to one that focuses on development of players under a common philosophy and structure through the entire organization and one that also teaches players how to play competitively and enjoy better success on the field.

“In the past few years the Eagles had a great organization but each player in each of our high performance divisions (Bantam through Premier) seemed to be on their own agenda and schedule for development,” notes Pluta. “There was no structure and coordination between all the teams.”

“What I hope to do is put more of a professional baseball structure in place, where for example, in our case, the Premier Team is like the major league club and the players at the Junior and Bantam levels are the minor league clubs with players that are all working toward getting to and aspiring to be on the major league club.”

“As such we are putting a new structure in place that ensures that all of our players and coaches, from Bantam on up, are on the same page and are sharing the same organizational philosophy toward the game and toward their development as players.”

The Eagles should benefit this season from the professional experience that Manager Anthony Pluta brings to the organization (Photo: Christian J. Stewart - Island Sports News)
The Eagles should benefit this season from the professional experience that Manager Anthony Pluta brings to the organization (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

While Pluta missed the fall ball season as he was pitching in Japan, he has not had a lot of opportunity to see his players in action yet, but he has been impressed with what he has seen to date, especially the pitchers.

“We have a great group of pitchers for sure and I would trust giving the ball to any one of them,” said Pluta. “I’ve been impressed with guys like Erich Hegadoren, a kid who wasn’t even playing ball until 3 years ago and is now entertaining scholarship offers…Hull, who had a perfect game going last week…and Kurt Horne, a kid who is just in Grade 11 and he’s off with the Junior National Team already. We have some unbelievable talent and I’d be surprised if they didn’t go on to play college baseball.”

In addition to Hegadoren, Hull and Horne, the Eagles strong pitching staff includes BC Selects members Riley Edmonds, as well as Heckl, who moves up from last year’s Junior Premier team. Rookies Ethan Skuija and Adam Bontkes will see their fair share of time on the mound as they get their feet wet in the PBL. Brandon Feldman, will also log some innings on the mound and will serve at times as the team’s closer.

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Riley Edmonds (left) and Kurt Horne (right) will be two pitchers the Eagles rely upon heavily this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

Calling the games for the pitchers will be a three-fold effort with returners Gobind Sall and grade 11 standout Sam Stevenson both returning behind the plate, along with multi-position standout Vinnie Martin, who undertook catching duties against Whalley on Saturday. Gobind and Stevenson both will also see time in the infield and outfield, respectively and are anxious to improve on their rookie seasons in the PBL in 2012.

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Vinnie Martin (top), Sam Stevenson (bottom left) and Gobind Sall (bottom right) will share the catching duties this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

The infield will consist of 40 Man Selects Camp invitee Vinnie Martin, as well as BC Selects Brandon Feldman, Zane Takhar, and rookie Ben Goertzen. All the infielders have experience playing different positions, providing the team with great versatility. Tony Ebbs-Canavan will see time at first base, as will Kurt Horne. Mitch Hawkins, who played there on Saturday, will see time at second, while RJ Forbes should see a fair number of innings at third, as he did in 2012.

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Clockwise from top left, Mitch Hawkins, Zane Takhar, Tony Ebbs-Canavan and Brandon Feldman will spend a good deal of time at the infield positions this season for the Eagles  (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

In the outfield, speedy Kyle Murai and RJ Forbes will see a fair number of innings on the grass, as should Will Wild, rookie Ethan Skuija and Hawkins.

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The Eagles outfeld will be patrolled regularly by the likes of (left to right) Kyle Murai, RJ Forbes and Will Wild  (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

On the coaching side, in addition to Pluta, another new face on the Eagles bench staff is another former Victoria Seal, Chris Van Rossum who will be working with the outfielders and hitters. Dave Auger returns to help coach the infield, while former Manager Gautam Srivistava now takes on the role of General Manager.

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Former Victoria Seal Chris Van Rossum (here making a catch while with the Seals in 2010) joins Anthony Pluta on the Eagles coaching staff for 2013 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News)

The Eagles will play a 48-game league schedule against the other teams in the BCPBL. In addition to league play, the Eagles will also compete in 2 tournaments this season: the Parksville Tournament as well as a college showcase tournament in Washington State. The Premier Eagles will also play 10 games in the Victoria Mavericks Men’s League.

For more images from the Eagles game with Whalley, as well as other game action images through the season, please visit Christian J. Stewart’s web site HERE.

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