Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
March 23, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Eagles and Victoria Mariners began the 2017 BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) Pre-Season Thursday night, facing each other in the opening game of the Victoria Eagles Icebreaker Tournament being played Friday through Sunday on Joe Stephenson Field at Lambrick Park in Victoria.
The tournament, which originated in 2014 with a simple visit from the Calgary Blues to play a few games against the Eagles organisation, has expanded over the last four years, to a full blown, 14-game tournament this year that now involves two Calgary teams, the Premier Eagles, Junior Premier Eagles, Midget AAA Eagles, the Premier Mariners, the Mid-Island (formerly Nanaimo) Pirates and the Parksville Royals (see full schedule at end of article).
The tournament offers all the teams a chance to get some of the winter cobwebs out of their system and face some decent competition before their respective regular seasons begin, which in the case of the BCPBL teams involved, happens over the April 1-2 weekend.
In Thursday night’s cross-town rivalry, there were very few cobwebs in evidence, as the Eagles would score a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, to pull out a surprisingly well-played 4-2 win over the Mariners.
The teams took a scoreless tie into the fourth inning, as starting pitchers Noah Doorschot (Eagles) and Liam Kruse (Mariners) both held the upper hand over their opposing batters in the early frames.
The Mariners, on the strength of an RBI-double from Caleb Piechnik and an RBI-single from Jon Gale, struck first in the top of the fourth to take a 2-0 lead, but then saw the Eagles respond with a pair in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by an RBI double from Andy Weir.
The 2-2 score would hold that way until the bottom of the sixth, when the Eagles would use another hit by Weir off former Eagle Jacob Potter to scratch their way to another pair of runs to take the 4-2 lead. Eagles reliever Jacob Butler, who came on to pitch in the fifth inning, then closed out the win in the top of the seventh.
Speaking of the Mariner’s Potter, he is one of five 2016 Victoria Eagles that have made their way over to the Mariners for 2017, trading in the maroon and black for the blue and teal of the Henderson Park squad. Other Eagles making the switch include pitcher/outfielder Fynn Chester, infielder Dan Rockwell, and infielder Luke Seginowich. Assistant Coach Jay Longpre also makes the move to the Mariners this season, joining Head Coach Mike Chewpoy, pitching coach Randy Holt and Assistant Coach Brad Weinmeyer.
The addition of those four players bolsters what already was a strong Mariner’s squad, one that finished with a 30-14 record in 2016 and features the likes of Junior National team standout Jason Willow and key 2016 regulars Jesse Simpson, Liam Kruse, Piechnik, Chris Niketas, Zeke Holt and Dawson Neal.
On the mound, the addition of Chester (the Eagles number one starter in 2016), Potter and to some degree Seginowich, who may see some spot starts over the course of the season, gives the Mariners a depth in pitching that they have not seen in many years.
The Mariners also hope that the offence Chester, Seginowich and Rockwell can provide will fill in for what has been lost with the graduation of Chris Lata, Nick Seginowich (Luke’s older brother), Jesse Mycock and Tyler Schindel. Veterans Piechnik and Niketas will also be looked at to provide some key offence at the plate over the course of the season.
For the Eagles, who are coming off a somewhat disappointing 21-23 season in 2016, their win Thursday night could provide a spark for what many are considering an underdog team for 2017.
The loss of Chester, Potter, Rockwell and Seginowich certainly dealt a big blow to the Eagles, but new Head Coach Charlie Strandlund, a former player with the pro Victoria Seals and an Assistant Coach with the Victoria HarbourCats in 2014, feels that those vacancies now provide an opportunity for some of the younger players to step up and fill some key roles.
“It’s exciting to be here,” said Strandlund prior to Thursday’s game. “The players we have this year are all young and hungry and there will be some who now have the opportunity to step up and take charge and battle for those spots vacated by the four that moved over. We’ll be working hard every day to get better and develop our players with the goal of making the playoffs and going from there.”
Despite being young and losing key veterans Tyler Duncan, Kobe Morris, Martin Eckard, Kieran Waters, Jayden Wakeham, Stephan Wade and Lenn Nakatsuka to graduation, the Eagles are returning a solid core of players from 2016 including both Doorshcot and Butler, who looked good on the mound Thursday, as well as infielders Nate Postle, Cole Mayhew, Aden Richardson and Parker Swinton, catcher Cam Devlin, outfielder Colton O’Brien and pitcher Brody Stark.
Making the jump from Junior Premier to full Premier this season are pitchers Matt Collett, Hayden Wilcox, Aidyn Hart and Michael Musselwhite, and outfielders Andy Weir and Trey Sjerven. 2016 AAA pitcher Quinten Davidoff and infielder Shutu Araki, who looked good at shortstop Thursday, make the jump to the big squad for 2017, along with 2016 Bantam Premier pitcher Leo Jansch.
The young Eagles will have some great tutelage under Strandlund and long time Eagles coach Anthony Pluta who steps into an Assistant Coach role this season along with Trevor Strandlund, but will also get the benefit of learning from two former Eagles, Sam Stevenson and Tony Ebbs-Canavan, who have returned to Lambrick Park to give back to the team they won the BCPBL Championship with in 2013.
The Eagle’s Icebreaker Tournament continues Friday and Saturday with games at 9:30, 12 Noon, 2:30, 5:00 and 7:30, while Sunday sees games at 9:30, 12 Noon, 2:30 and 5:00. All games are at Lambrick Park. The full schedule is below.
Friday March 24th
9:30 am – Calgary 2 vs Junior Premier Eagles
12 Noon – Calgary 2 vs AAA Eagles
2:30 pm – AAA Eagles vs Calgary 1
5:00 pm – Premier Mariners vs Calgary 1
7:30 pm – Premier Mariners vs Premier Eagles
Saturday March 25th
9:30 am – Premier Eagles vs AAA Eagles
12 Noon – Premier Pirates vs Calgary 1
2:30 pm – Premier Pirates vs Calgary 2
5:00 pm – Junior Premier Eagles vs Calgary 2
7:30 pm – Calgary 1 vs Premier Eagles
Sunday March 26th
9:30 am – Calgary 2 vs AAA Eagles
12 Noon – Parksville Royals vs Calgary 1
2:30 pm – Parksville Royals vs Premier Eagles