Okanagan seeks title as opener nears

marcus 11

* RHP Marcus Drewry (Parksville, BC) went 5-0 on his way to all-conference honors pitching for the Okanagan Coyotes last spring. Now, OC is after the CCBC title. Photo: Lorne White/Okanagan Sports Page. ….

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The Okanagan College Coyotes will head into their seventh season with one goal, a championship.

In 2014 the Coyotes were bounced out of the CCBC championships in the first playoff round after squandering a 6-2 lead to eventual champions the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs. Fast forward to September and the Coyotes have regrouped and reloaded. With the season starting Feb. 5th the Coyotes are putting the final touches on preparations for a successful playoff run.

geoff whiteThe pitching staff will be a major piece of the 2015 puzzle. For the Coyotes to return and make a push in playoffs they will rely on some key arms. RHP Marcus Drewry (senior, Parksville, BC) emerged in 2014 as the staff ace, posting a perfect 5-0 conference record and first team All Conference selection.

“Marcus has grown significantly in our program, from his freshman year to now he has become one of the best pitchers in our conference. He commands four pitches well which makes him tough. We will look to him to lead the staff in his final year,” said coach Geoff White.

LHP Zach Burlon (junior, Etobicoke, Ont.) and RHP Austin Orsted (sophomore, Calgary, Alta.) will also be in the starting rotation mix. Burlon is coming off of a up and down season that saw him post a 1-3 record and 5.45 ERA while Orsted was 1-1 with a 2.42 ERA. “Burlon had a couple of tough starts that inflated his numbers last year, he will be looking for a bounce back year,” said White, “Orsted put up some impressive numbers for a freshman, he has put in his time this offseason and looks to emerge as one of the pitching staff leaders, both of these guys will be looked upon as mainstays in the rotation,” finishes White

The fourth spot in the rotation looks to be solidified over the course of the preseason. There are some notable returners that are up for the job but also some new faces that are making a bid for it. RHP Joel Lamont (junior, White Rock, BC), RHP Brandon Becking (sophomore, Coquitlam, BC), RHP Zac Yandeau (sophomore, Plumas, Man.) are three returnees that could fill the last spot in the rotation.

“Lamont is a two way player that might see some time in the back end of the bullpen, or possibly in a starting role, he gained some valuable experience over the summer and has continued to get stronger and add velocity,” said White. “Becking and Yandeau each had strong summer and fall campaigns. Becking worked in more of closing role in 2014 and had some success as a freshman, he might be ready for a larger load of innings. With Yandeau he has potential be a big part of the staff, he has always thrown allot of strikes which is crucial.”

New faces that will also make a strong case for the last rotation spot will be RHP Jason Merz (freshman, North Vancouver, BC), RHP Will Russell, (freshman, Kelowna, BC), and LHP Bo Meikljohn (freshman, Edmonton, Alta.). Merz is coming of a BCPBL second-place finish in 2014 with the North Shore Twins and has shown some promise in the fall. “Merz should be interesting to watch develop, he has some arm strength and just starting to scratch the surface, there is a ton of potential with a 6-foot-3 frame and loose arm action,” said White.

Russell is a year out of playing for the local Okanagan Athletics, (BCPBL) where he pitched a team leading 58 innings in 2013. “Russell had a strong fall and has the ability to throw on short rest, so we will see how the early spring plays out in a variety of roles.” said White.

Meikljohn comes to the Coyotes from the FX Baseball Academy in Edmonton where he excelled as a two way player. “Bo has been a pleasant surprise this fall, he doesn’t over power teams but he can throw multiple pitches for strikes which led to a solid fall.” adds White, ”he also had some of our better hitting statistics this fall, which might lead to some time on the mound and with a bat.”

Other players rounding out the pitching staff are RHP Mitchell St Laurent (junior, Edmonton, Alta.), RHP Joey Fraser (freshman, West Kelowna, BC), RHP Wyatt Hummel (freshman, West Kelowna, BC), RHP Tyler Lemke (freshman, Penticton, BC), RHP Brett Fleming (freshman, Penticton, BC), RHP Braden McCready (freshman, Richmond, BC), RHP Jake Gaetz (freshman, Okotoks, Alta.) and RHP Cole Parusinni (sophomore, Coquitlam, BC). McCready and Gaetz each saw limited action in the fall due to some nagging injuries that they have over come during offseason workouts.

“It should be fairly competitive for innings this spring with a deep pitching staff. St Laurent transferred in from Alan Hancock College in California where he was a two year All Conference performer in a tough division of Junior College baseball, he will add some experience at the back end of the bullpen,” said White. “Flemming, Lemke, Hummel and Parusinni each shown promise over the fall as well and could fall into any role.”

The Coyotes begin the 2015 campaign on the road Feb. 5th in San Marcos, Calif. against St Katherine’s College, a program that will be entering the NAIA in 2016. Stay tuned for the position players preview.

New and familiar faces patrolling the infield. Brennan Reidy (Moose Jaw, Sask.) BrennanReidy-Coyotes2013-webis back for his senior season, along with juniors, Braden Heyland (Lethbridge, Alta.), Troy Fisher (Dartmouth, NS), and sophomore Jared Dulaba (Coquitlam, BC).

“We have some experience and leadership back this year, guys have continued to work and make improvements,” said White. “There are lots of guys battling for the infield spots and its pushing guys to work hard, we have high expectations of our upperclassmen.”

New faces to the Coyotes are transfers Tony Olson (freshman, Edmonton, Alta.), Logan Wedgewood (junior, Edmonton, Alta.) and Jared Frew (junior, Calgary, Alta.), all three of whom came from Douglas College. Olson is coming off a red shirt 2014 season where he had an injured shoulder and has now recently fully recovered. “Olson has been another pleasant surprise at the plate, he can run, he is aggressive, in the fall he was limited to minimal throwing so we have only seen a glimpse of the defensive side, but he is constantly working and preparing,” said White.

Frew is coming off of a solid 2014 campaign in the NWAC junior college circuit where he hit .298 with a handful of extra bases. “Frew will see time at multiple spots early in the spring, he brings some experience and a lefty stick with some power,” adds White. Wedgewood will see more of a utility role, between catching and third base in 2015. He had a tough spring with Douglas in 2014, but bounced back in the summer with his hometown Edmonton Prospects of the Western Major Baseball League. He hit .283 where he spent more time at third base and gained some valuable experience.

“Wedgewood will see time at both spots early, we like his receiving abilities behind the plate and has worked really well with the staff, and also showed well at third in the fall,” White said.

With the departure of third basemen Garrett Wiese, now a member of the coaching staff, the Coyotes will have to fill a void at third and in the middle of the order. “With our 2014 starting shortstop departing for the U.S. during the summer, we have to fill that spot on the field and the top of the order,” said White.

Other newcomers to the infield will be INF Erick Junnola (freshman, Okotoks, Alta.), INF Alex Owen (freshman, Coquitlam, BC), INF Joey Gladman (freshman, White Rock, BC) INF Ryan Prockiw (freshman, Smokey Lake, Alta.), and INF Hayden Sormaz (freshman, Calgary, Alta.).

“Our freshman class has been solid, they have come a long way since September, and are right in the mix if they continue to progress,” says White.

There are also a couple of two way players that will see time in the infield. RHP-INF Joel Lamont (junior, White Rock, BC) and INF-RHP WillRussell (freshman, Kelowna, BC) are utility players that might see some time both on the mound and in the field. “Russel and Lamont are also available to swing a bat,” add White. “Bottom line is we will need to make plays around the infield behind our staff. If we play to our potential we will be just fine.” finishes White.

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