Sports

Young Chiefs ready to play

Kyle McComb, one of several veterans to leave the Whalley Chiefs in the offseason, can’t reach a throw to second base during a game against the Victoria Eagles last season. A younger Chiefs team begins the B.C. Premier Baseball League season Saturday. - FILE PHOTO / THE LEADER
Kyle McComb, one of several veterans to leave the Whalley Chiefs in the offseason, can’t reach a throw to second base during a game against the Victoria Eagles last season. A younger Chiefs team begins the B.C. Premier Baseball League season Saturday.
— image credit: FILE PHOTO / THE LEADER

It wasn’t the preferred option, but player movement has forced the Whalley Chiefs to become a younger group for the coming B.C. Premier Baseball League season.

With several players in their graduating season opting to leave the elite under-18 team during this past offseason, five players from junior programs have been moved up to the senior team.

“Six players with one more year of eligibility left us for greener pastures,” said Chiefs general manager Paul Hargreaves. “The first thing you will notice is we have a lot of younger players. Losing six guys hurt us. But we’re rebuilding and we have some good, young talent.”

Catcher Colton Wright and outfielder Jacob Robazza are the lone returnees. But they aren’t the only players with PBL experience on the Whalley roster.

Pitchers Trevor Henits and Max Williams were added to the Chiefs lineup after both were cut by the North Shore Twins in January.

Jordan Dray is the top prospect in the infield, which has four newcomers.

“He is arguably one of the top two Bantam (under-16) players in B.C.,” said Hargreaves, adding several other players have come over from B.C. Minor baseball organizations to join the Chiefs, including infielder Lucas Soper and catcher Spencer Rankin.

“This is the best group of B.C. Minor kids we have had since 2005,” Hargreaves added. “They are all good kids.

“Our strength is we’ll be able to hit the ball, we’re not so sure about our pitching.”

It isn’t that the Chiefs don’t have pitchers. It’s just that the Whalley team has only one player who will play exclusively as a pitcher. Others who will pitch will also be position players as well.

“We only have 18 players on the roster, so we can’t have a lot of pitching-only players.”

The Chiefs begin their 48-game regular season Saturday against the Cannons with a double header at home at Whalley Stadium. The first game is scheduled for noon.

Following league play, the top eight teams advance to the first round of the  playoffs in late July. Four best-of-three quarterfinal series will produce four finalists for a championship tournament hosted by the Chiefs at Whalley Stadium. If the Chiefs aren’t one of the final four teams, they will be added as the fifth team for the round robin competition.

“North Shore (Twins), Langley (Blaze), Vancouver (Cannons) and probably the Victoria Mariners are the odds-on favorites to reach the final four,” said Hargreaves. “We should make the playoffs, and we will compete against the top teams.”

John Parker will be the team’s manager this season, with Randy Elrick and Mike Addy serving as assistant coaches.

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