With a mix of established veterans and promising rookies on the roster, the North Delta Blue Jays can expect to be in the BC Premier Baseball League playoffs for a second consecutive season.
The Blue Jays have eight players returning from last year’s team, which went 21-23 (win-loss) to place seventh in the elite 12-team U18 league. Another four have moved up from the Junior Blue Jays team which won a provincial championship in the 2014 season.
The Blue Jays wrapped up their preseason schedule last weekend by participating in the Best of the West tournament in Kamloops, a 10-team competition featuring teams from across B.C. and Alberta. North Delta topped the Vauxhall Academy of Alberta 8-1 in their first game, but then lost three straight by scores of 3-2 to the Okotoks (Alberta) Dawgs, the Selects and the White Rock Tritons.
“Our defense was solid, our pitching was solid and our hitting was okay,” said Jays head coach Gerry White. “We still have a few things to work on.”
White said the North Delta outfield will be “very strong” this season, with returnees Logan Newman, William Quito and Matt Poirier earning the starting roles.
Behind the plate, Noah Or and Dryden Dion will share the catching duties. Or played with the Jays last season, hitting .286, while Dion had a .356 batting average with the Junior Jays.
Veterans Tyler Hoefer, Alex Davis and Poirier will be the three starting pitchers. Hoefer was second on the team in earned run average (1.99) and strikeouts (59) a year ago. Davis will also be a threat at the plate, having hit .375 last season.
Second baseman Mackenzie Marquis will be one of the team leaders in 2016.
“We will be counting heavily on him,” said White of the Ladner resident who led the PBL in batting last season with a .400 average.
Playing the other half of the middle infield will be rookie Cole Evans, a New Zealand native playing his first season of baseball. Playing softball last year, Evans was named the Most Valuable Player at the U17, U19 and senior men’s national tournaments last season.
“It’s his first go at baseball, and he looks very good,” said White. “He’s very athletic and he’s made the adjustment hitting. He’s going to be a key guy for us.”
The Jays will start their season in Kelowna this weekend, playing four games over two days (Saturday/Sunday) against the Okanagan Athletics. The Athletics placed fifth in the PBL last season with a 24-20 record.
North Delta;’s home opener will be Tuesday night against the Abbotsford Cardinals.