Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
Victoira, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Mariners are off to a perfect start to the 2016 BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) season and after a double-header sweep of the Whalley Chiefs at Henderson Park in Victoria on Sunday by scores of 7-2 and 3-1, they sport an 8-0 record and sit in first place in the BCPBL standings.
Mariners second baseman Dylan Price makes a great leaping grab of an errant throw during the Mariners 7-2 win over Whalley on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Their fast start is a complete turn around from a 2015 season that saw the Mariners finish with their worst record (15-29) in the 13 years under the helm of Manager Mike Chewpoy (a 15-29 mark) and out of the BCPBL playoffs for the first time in that stretch.
Whalley baserunner Nolan Weger (right) tries to avoid the tag of Mariners third baseman Caleb Piechnik on this play in game one Sunday. Weger was called out on the play (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
“2015 was a tough year for us on many fronts,” said Chewpoy between games Sunday, “I think we’ve finished in fifth place or higher since I’ve been here, so as an organization, our players were disappointed with the result. This year, I think our veterans and the guys who went through that are using it as some motivation to show the league that we are back.”
Chewpoy notes the Mariners this year will be as good as their top five players and so far, those top five players – Nick Seginowich, Ty Schindel, Jason Willow, Chris Lata and Jesse Mycock – have been pretty darn good, leading an offence that is scoring on average eight runs per game, with Seginowich (12), Schindel (15) and Mycock (10) accounting for over half of those.
The Mariners Nick Seginowich is hitting .409 for the M’s and is one of five veterans that the team is counting on for leadership in 2016 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Mariners are benefitting big time from the re-acquisition of Mycock and the speed he brings to the top of the order and to his defensive position in centre field.
Mycock spent 2015 away from baseball and has returned this year with a fresh outlook and is the Mariners number one motivational guy, both vocally and with his performance on the field. On Sunday, for example, he was key in the Mariners 7-2 win, stealing three bases with a hit and an RBI, scoring two runs and assisting on a game ending double-play when he caught a fly ball in centre and then threw out the runner on first who was late in getting back to the bag.
After a year away from baseball, Jesse Mycock has returned to the Mariners and has become a spark-plug at the top of the lineup and a key motivator on the bench (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Mariners are also getting some key contributions early on from some of their youngsters in the lineup. “Dylan Price, Dawson Neal, Harrison Hurford and Chris Niketas have been great so far for us,” said Chewpoy. “They are part of our contingent of young guys who feed off the talent and advice of the older guys and it makes for a great team chemistry.”
Dawson Neal is one of the young Mariners that is contributing big-time so far in 2016, including all three RBIs in the Mariners 3-1 win Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Notable in that group is Price, who currently leads the BCPBL in hitting with a .632 average (12 hits in 19 at bats), including three in game one Sunday against Whalley. Also notable is Niketas, whose six RBIs puts him among the top ten in the BCPBL in that category thus far, along with teammates Lata (9), Schindel (7) and Seginowich (6). And all Dawson Neal did Sunday was notch a pair of hits and drive in all three runs in the Mariners game two 3-1 win.
Along with some solid defensive play, the Mariners Dylan Price is currently leading the BCPBL with a .632 average (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Those rookies have also been pretty solid defensively and that was exhibited Sunday as well, with Niketas throwing a player out at the plate on a sacrifice fly attempt, while Price made some great plays at second base, including a great diving stop of a wild throw from the catcher to keep a Whalley runner from advancing to third or further.
The Mariners defence has been solid so far this season and here catcher Dawson Neal has Whalley’s Nolan Weger dead to rights after receiving a great throw from left-fielder Chris Niketas (not pictured) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Mariners will also go as far as their pitching will take them and so far in 2016 that has also gone well for the team. With a regular rotation that consists of Liam Kruse, Jesse Simpson (who comes to the Mariners after spending 2015 with the Victoria Eagles), Duncan Brens-Knight, Jason Willow (currently in Florida with the Junior National Team) and Seginowich, the Mariners seem to have some great depth in the starting rotation and give Chewpoy a number of options on the hill.
Duncan Brens-Knight (top) and Nick Seginowich (bottom) are two of five regular starters that the Mariners can trot out to the mound in 2016. Both were winners on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
“With Willow away, we’ve been running Seginowich as our fourth starter,” noted Chewpoy and such was the case Sunday in game two, as Seginowich started and picked up the 3-1 win, giving up just three hits and no runs in five innings of work, while striking out six.
His performance followed that of a similarly good performance from Brens-Knight, who held the high powered Whalley offence to a run and a pair of hits in five innings of work in the 7-2 game one win.
When he is not pitching, it is expected that Nick Seginowich will spend most of his time catching for the Mariners (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Mariners seem to have some decet depth in the bullpen this year and it looks like Taylor Nygaard is going to be a key “go-to” arm for Chewpoy and pitching coach Randy Holt. Nygaard pitched the final two innings of both games against Whalley on Sunday, picking up the save in game two.
Taylor Nygaard pitched the final two innings of both games Sunday and looks like he will be a go-to guy for the Mariners out of the pen in 2016 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
It is anticipated that Jacob Moss, Neal and Price will see their fair share of relief innings, along with spot duty by the likes of Ethan Brunton, Zeke Holt, Hurford, Schindel and Matthew Galbraith.
“As to our pitching, none of our guys are really overpowering,” said Chewpoy, “but they all throw strikes and in this league, when you do that, you can have some pretty good success.”
Another young Mariner making solid contributions thus far in 2016 is Chris Niketas, who with this RBI double Sunday, pushed his RBI total to six for the season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Sunday’s wins were also important for the Mariners, as they were the first wins of the season against a team at the top of the standings. While the previous wins against Parksville (3-5), White Rock (3-6) and Abbotsford (3-8) were key for building team success and chemistry, the wins against Whalley, a team that prior to Saturday’s loss to the Eagles were 7-0 and a team who many feel will be competing for top spot in the league at season’s end, showed that they have the talent to compete with the big guns this season.
Veteran Chris Lata will be counted on by the Mariners for some power out of the number four slot in the order and so far he has not disappointed with nine RBIs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Time will tell if the Mariners early 2016 success will translate into a solid season and a trip back to the playoffs and Manager Chewpoy is quick to point out that he makes no big evaluations of his club until at least 20 games in, but it has been clear sailing so far for the team and it appears that they are back on track to challenge once again for the BCPBL title in 2016.
Mariners left fielder Ryley Abbott makes a great effort for this line drive in game two Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Schedule Notables: The Mariners are home for four straight next Saturday and Sunday when they host the Coquitlam Reds and North Delta Blue Jays. The Okanagan A’s, who made the 2015 BCPBL final four, come to Layritz Park the weekend of May 14-15. On Sunday May 29th the Mariners host the always tough Langley Blaze at Henderson. On Thursday June 2, the Mariners and Eagles square off in their first meeting of the year in a special showcase game at Royal Athletic Park as a part of the Victoria HarbourCats opening week activities. The 2015 PBL Champions North Shore Twins come to Layritz Park on Saturday June 25th.