by Jonathan Hodgson
March 9, 2014 (ISN) – After a Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) semi-final appearance in 2013, the first pitch of the 2014 season for Vancouver Island Baseball Institute (VIBI) will be thrown Saturday afternoon, March 1st.
It begins this weekend at Triton Field in Lynnwood, WA as VIBI plays a 4-game weekend series with 2 games each against the host Edmonds Community College, and Mt. Hood Community College. The series will consist of Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders. Saturday’s Opening Day begins at 12:30 pm, with Sunday starting at 1:00 pm
VIBI opens the season with a 20-game non-conference schedule against NWAACC junior college programs. The remainder of the non-conference schedule includes 6 games in Ontario, Oregon March 8-10, a 4-game series in Everett, WA March 15-16, and finally, VIBI will play Douglas College, the lone Canadian member of the NWAACC, 6 times this season.
The 28-game CCBC regular season begins March 21 in Kamloops, BC. A 12-game homestand takes place at Serauxmen Stadium from March 29 through April 16 as Thompson Rivers University, the University of Calgary, and Okanagan College are welcomed to Nanaimo.
After a difficult beginning, VIBI won 7 of their final 10 games in 2013, including 3 wins at the CCBC Tournament, before bowing out to the University of Calgary in the semi-final.
Leading VIBI once again is head coach Jordan Blundell, who enters his 9thyear as head coach of the program. The native of Edmonton is a graduate of the University of Jamestown (then Jamestown College), where he made an NAIA World Series appearance as a player in 2004. He returned to Jamestown in 2005, guiding Jamestown to their third consecutive conference championship, before taking over VIBI in 2006.
Returning for his second season as Blundell’s assistant coach, is Nick Salahub. A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Salahub played his college baseball at Lyon College (NAIA) in Arkansas, graduating in 2010.
VIBI returns 18 players from 2013 as they look to erase the memory of a 9-19 record a year ago and compete for their second CCBC National Championship (2010).
Leading the core of returnees on the roster is a class of 5 seniors including pitchers Connor Russell, and Cory Curtis.
The right-handed Russell (Victoria, BC), will once again lead the starting staff, looking to get back to his all-star form, after somewhat of an off year in 2013. He is coming off of a strong 2013 summer season with the Victoria Harbourcats where he worked to a 3.53 ERA in 55 innings pitched in the highly competitive West Coast League.
Returning to the pitching staff this year is junior Frank Kaluzniak (Brandon, MB) who missed last year due to injury and is looking to once again be a key element of the starting rotation. Sophomore Austin Penner (Sherwood Park, AB) looks to take a more prominent role on the staff coming off of his freshman year in 2013.
Newcomers on the staff include names like freshmen Aidan Goodall (Nanaimo, BC), Tyler Ulrich (Stony Plain, AB), Brandon Strohan (Saskatoon, SK), andZach Horman (Edmonton, AB).
One addition to the pitching staff who expects to make a major impact is Steve McKinnon (Fresh., Duncan, BC) who was a member of Canada’s National Junior Team and was a Texas Rangers draft selection in 2010. He will see time as a corner infielder, providing a presence in the lineup as well.
Rounding out the senior class is catcher Jeremy Harasymchuk (Edmonton, AB), and infielders Dallas Monk (Comox, BC), and Cody Pendergast (Calgary, AB).
Harasymchuk will once again be back behind the plate to lead the pitching staff, partnering with Ty Armstrong (Soph., Ladysmith, BC) to form the catching tandem.
Monk, who posted a .340 batting average in 2013 CCBC play, and Pendergast will provide a solid double play combo up the middle, while both providing potent bats to ignite the top of the lineup. Also factoring into the middle infield picture are junior Chad Schultz (Swift Current, SK), and freshmen George Hudec(Swift Current, SK), and Mitch Hawkins (Victoria, BC).
Combinations of names like Jackson McCuaig (Jr., Victoria, BC), Will Lamb(Soph., Yellowknife, AB), Tyson Dyck (Soph., Wymark, SK), and Gobind Sall(Fresh., Duncan, BC) will occupy the corner infield spots.
The outfield sees the return of juniors Connor Merilees (North Vancouver, BC) and Greg Brady (Cold Lake, AB), as well as sophomores Josh Siemens (Swift Current, SK) and John Weiss (Maple Creek, SK). Freshmen competing for time in the outfield include Tim Bunnett (Surrey, BC), Dan Singer (Surrey, BC), Riley Moskaluk (Edmonton, AB), and Adrian Gutierrez (Lloydminster, AB).
The game day presentation for VIBI’s 12 CCBC home games will be vastly upgraded this year, with the addition of sponsored game day promotions, and improvement of various in-game elements to make the fan, and player experience at Serauxmen Stadium a memorable one. Full details on home games will be released closer to the beginning of the home schedule.
All games will be carried live on ‘VIBI Webcasts presented by The Canadian Baseball Network’, with Jonathan Hodgson providing live play by play on vibaseball.ca.
Comprehensive coverage will be provided all season long on VIBI’s various online homes.
Full series previews and recaps, webcasts, and any other news will be found each week on our official website, while regular updates on games and other engaging content to bring fans closer to the team will be found daily on VIBI’s social media homes on Twitter and Facebook. All major online content will also be run on The Canadian Baseball Network.
New this year will be the contributions of Ryan Peppin, who will produce photo and video content throughout the season, to be found on the website and social media.
It is an exciting group this year; we look forward to seeing what they can do on the field and are excited to showcase our product to the people of Vancouver Island and Canada, through our home games, webcasts, and our partnership with The Canadian Baseball Network.