Spring has sprung!
Local teams and athletes are champing at the bit to get the spring collegiate season going with the eight-team Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC).
Several of the Alberta and B.C.-based teams have already headed south to play in tune-up games ahead of opening weekend on March 24-26.
With the first pitch of the 2023 season approaching, the CCBC has been publishing a series of team previews on its website, and they have generously agreed to have us publish them on our site here.
Edmonton Collegiate is coming off their first season in the CCBC. Finishing 11-19 in the regular season, which placed them fifth in the league, along with two wins in the CCWS. Coach Lanferman was very pleased with the effort his team put out last season. “After an inaugural season that saw us prove a lot of people wrong, we’re looking to continue building this program into a contending presence.”
If Coach Lanferman and the River Hawks wish to build off last season they will need to rely on their strong veteran group. One of the leaders that Lanferman refers to is junior outfielder R.J. Bourget, who is considered to be one of the most talented players on Edmonton‘s roster. Bourget received First Team All-Conference honors in 2022 after having a slash line of .355/.452/.521 while having 13 stolen bases, 4 triples, and driving in 21 runs in 30 games for the Hawks. Leading the charge on the mound for the Hawks will be junior Liam Fox. After a solid 2022 in which he threw 49 innings, striking out 53 and walking only 15. They look for him to take another step forward for this staff. Running the infield for the 2023 River Hawks is sophomore Brayden Michetti. He is coming off a great freshman season in which he hit .317 with a .439 on base percentage and received Second Team All-Conference honors. “We’re looking forward to making noise this upcoming season, we’ve got a great group of hard working guys,” says Michetti.
To go along with the group of vets, Coach Lanferman thinks highly of his freshman class. One player is Brendan Wabick, who will be tasked with starting pitching duties early in his collegiate career. He had a strong summer season where he was a high school affiliate in the West Coast League and continued that into the fall season. Wabick is in a position to help his team in his first year. Looking to make a statement on the offensive side of the ball, freshman infielder Brayden Morris will also make his mark on this 2023 CCBC season. Coach Lanferman states he can be a game changer on defense or in the batter’s box and is a very exciting player to watch. You can expect to see him in the River Hawk lineup regularly. Another exciting newcomer for Edmonton this season is two-way David Browning. Described as “the ultimate competitor with a fire to win,” Browning will find a way to impact the Hawks game either on the mound or at the plate.
The Hawks are excited about the season and have reason to be. Veteran pitcher Alex Andres says, “We have a talented young core of players led by hardworking veterans that are trying to build off a successful season last year that saw our team have limited numbers.” Reece Devlin mentioned how the second half of last season was strong and hopes they can build off that at the start of the season. “We bounced back strong after a slow start to the season last year, we’ll be more prepared this year looking to continue to prove people wrong.”
The campaign starts on March 25 as the Hawks will travel to Chilliwack to face the University of Fraser Valley Cascades.
The Dinos program took a huge step forward in 2022, having its winningest season (24 wins, 17 in conference) and highest CCBC regular season finish (3rd) in program history, all coming in Coach Williams’ first year at the helm. With having only 6 grads from last year’s team, the Dinos returned 23 players from last year’s varsity team, including 8 of the starting 9 from their CCBC conference championship games. The Dinos will be led by a senior class that includes Pitchers Callum Matheson and Braden Runions-Kahler, outfielder Kalli Einarson, infielders Marcus Coderre, Anthony Kelly, and Nathan Damiani, and catcher Zach Delaquis. The Dinos squad will be leaning heavily on their senior core to help them towards their first CCBC championship in program history.
A new season means new weapons in which the Dinos hope will have an immediate role for the squad. Bauer Sewell is a transfer infielder from the University of Jamestown who should be an impact player at the top of the lineup, as well as be a force on the base paths and defensively in the middle infield.
Jacob Carlson is a true freshman outfielder from Stillwater, Minnesota, and will be leaned upon to come up with the big hits for the Dinos this year. Jacob looks to become a consistent fixture in the outfield for the years to come.
Brett Potter is a red-shirt freshman, hailing from Cranbrook, BC. The first baseman has made incredible strides over the last year and a half, winning JV player of the year last year. Look for Brett to be an elite defender at first base, and show flashes of gap-to-gap power.
The Dinos owe much of last year’s success to their competitive roster. Returning to the squad this year is Ethan Webster the true sophomore is coming off a second-team all star selection, in which he went 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA, over 41.1 IP in his true freshman year. Webster also led the Dinos in strikeouts, with 40, to only 8 BB’s. He is expected to lead the Dinos on the mound this spring.
Eric Wirun, a covid sophomore, had a phenomenal spring in 2022. He fell a few plate appearances short of qualifying due to an injury which forced him to miss 8 games. Despite the injury, Eric had a .412/.524/.529 slash line, giving him a 1.053 OPS, and only struck out an incredible 3 times over his 63 PA.
Cale Yuzdepski, who is technically a sophomore due to a red shirt and a covid year, was voted the Dinos’ MVP for his performance last spring. Cale played 28 of the 32 games at SS – an incredible 222 innings, only making 7 errors on the season. Cale also led the team in plate appearances, and reached base at a .397 clip. In the CCBC conference tournament, Cale went 2-for-4 with a double, and 5 BB’s, good for a CCBC playoff-leading 1.528 OPS.
Prairie Baseball Academy was a dominant team in 2022, to say the least. They led the CCBC in almost all offensive categories, scoring 307 runs, having 389 hits and a team average of .340, just to name a few.
In 2023 they will be led by returners Nick Gravel, who was named Co-MVP of the league hitting .442 with 4 home runs and Carter Claerhout who hit .356 with 7 home runs and 45 RBI’s in 2022. These two will look to lead the way offensively for the Dawgs.
On the mound, PBA will be led by returners Max Benton and Aiden Newton. In just under 33 innings, Benton had 35 strikeouts and an impressive 3.31 era. Newton appeared in 7 games throwing 34 innings and adding 31 strikeouts along with a 5.03 era. These two arms will look to continue to build off a strong 2022 season and lead the Dawgs to a CCBC championship.
Along with the strong lineup of returners, PBA will also look for their freshman class to play a big role for the team this season. Shortstop Koby Smith of Sundre, Alberta and Catcher Kendal Burns from Freetown, PEI will look to contribute early in the year both on the defensive and offensive side of the ball. Pitcher Dawson Schultz will look to throw big innings for the Dawgs.
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PBA will again be fighting for a National Championship. The infield and outfield will be one of the strongest defensive teams they have had in a while. Offensively, the team will not hit for as much power but 1 through 9 will be competitive. With the sophomore group returning and the impact freshman recruited, this team is built for success.
OKANAGAN COLLEGE COYOTES
The Okanagan College Coyotes are coming off a record-breaking season, capped by their second Canadian College World Series Championship. In 2022, the Coyotes finished the regular season with a record of 25-5 – establishing a new wins record – and they were perfect through the championship with a 4-0 record. They were led by a deep pitching core, which led the CCBC in every pitching category, and a steady offense throughout the season.
In 2023, the Coyotes will look to have the same impact from their pitching staff. While their starting rotation will be new, their depth from last year remains. Senior Sean Dunn will look to build off his 2022 season, where he threw 23 innings with a 3.13 ERA. Sophomores Corey Lawson, Gavin Wuschke and Koal Erixon will all look to have bigger roles in their second season with the Coyotes after being a part of the 2022 bullpen. Lawson was named Reliever of the Year in 2022 after posting a 0.49 ERA in 18.1 innings. Wuschke, who saw limited time last year, has proven to be a front-end starter for the Coyotes and will look to have a big 2023. Erixon has shown great development from his freshman season, in which he threw 14.1 innings while striking out 15 with a 4.39 ERA.
On the offensive side, the majority of last year’s lineup will return. Senior Nolan King will look to lead the group and build upon a great 2022 season, where he hit .379 with 22 RBI and 13 stolen bases. Senior Ryan Dousett will look to be the table setter at the top of the lineup, just as he did last season. Dousett hit .363 with 15 RBI, 30 runs and 13 swiped bags. Both King and Dousett were first-team, all-conference in 2022. Senior catcher Caleb Lumbard will seek to lead both on the offensive side and the defensive side. Last year he was voted to the second-team, all-conference for his tremendous defensive play behind the dish.
There will be new faces throughout the Coyotes roster to watch for, as well. Infielder Marcus Andrews will look to contribute with his great defensive play and plus speed. Two-way RHP/OF Ryan Powers has shown great potential on both sides of the ball, and fellow two-way RHP/INF Lyndon Sinclair will also look to help the Coyotes atop the mound and in the infield.
The Coyotes will look to replicate last year’s tremendous run and try for back-to-back championships. They have been voted as the pre-season No. 1 squad by the CCBC coaches. With a deep pitching staff and a dynamic offense they will look to prove everyone right.
UNIVERSITY OF FRASER VALLEY CASCADES
The Fraser Valley Cascades are coming off a 2022 season where they had an 11-19 record, placing them in 5th after the regular season. In the Canadian College World Series they went 2-2, beating the U of C Dinos and PBA Dawgs. They would ultimately lose to Okanagan College, and then be eliminated by the PBA Dawgs.
This season they will be looking upon their offense to propel themselves towards a successful run. Returning first baseman Ty Hall will be one of those players as he’s looking to build upon a season where he hit .256 with an on-base percentage of .360. Look for him to take a step in the right direction this season. Junior Dylan Merritt is coming off of a solid offensive season where he had a .282 average with eight extra base hits and 12 RBI. He will be relied upon as a leader in the top of this order. Middle infielder Jack Ray will also be heavily leaned on in the lineup for his veteran presence, as he had a .320 on-base percentage and 14 hits through 64 at bats.
UFV is hoping for an instant impact from their freshman pitchers. Keaton Fyke will be one of those young players. In high school he played in the British Columbia Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) for the Whalley Chiefs as one of their better pitchers with a 3.08 ERA. The other freshman pitcher, Mason Chien, will also be part of the young pitching core. Chien, a hard throwing right-handed pitcher, previously playing in the BCPBL for the Langley Blaze. A freshman hoping to make his mark on the offensive side is Jared Hall, an outfielder from Chilliwack, B.C.
Coach Kyle Lotzkar is optimistic for his team this year: “We are extremely excited for the upcoming 2023 season. We were very fortunate to have a lot of warm weather this fall and played a tonne of games. We will look to rebound from a disappointing 2022 season with a more mature core group of position players and a young, but strong, pitching staff. My staff and I are confident that we have made the necessary adjustments to return to being one of the top teams in the league.”
With this mature offensive core, alongside their young rotation, they are looking to establish themselves as a team not to be overlooked, making a solid run through the upcoming season.
THOMPSON RIVERS UNIVERSITY WOLFPACK
The Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack are coming off a season where they struggled offensively, which led to them having a 10-18 regular season record, sitting in seventh place after the regular season. In the Canadian College World Series, they suffered two straight loses to the PBA Dawgs and Edmonton Collegiate Riverhawks.
Infielder Carter Spence will be looking to build upon a solid 2022 season and help lead the offense this season. Spence hit .277 with 28 hits in 101 at bats, while driving in eight runs and walking 27 times.
While the offense seeks to improve, it will be the Wolfpack’s pitching that will look to lead them this 2023 season. Pitchers Kolby Lukinchuk, and Zac Robinson will be looked upon as leaders of the pitching staff. Last season, Lukinchuk posted a 4.50 ERA with a 2-3 record, striking out 41 batters in 50 innings. Robinson was an inning eater in 2022, pitching 51 innings and having a 2-4 record. Both Lukinchuk and Robinson will be relied upon heavily to go deep into ball games.
TRU is hoping to see an impact from their freshmen in 2023. Sam Jordan, a right-handed pitcher from Victoria, British Columbia, will be looked upon to improve the Wolfpack’s record from 2022. Freshman Grady Fiske, who plays in center field and hails from Regina, Saskatchewan, will hope to improve the offense this season. Another freshman to look out for is Manny Recchi, a hometown player from Kamloops, B.C. who is both a pitcher and center fielder.
With the additions to the team, TRU will hope to shock teams this season. Their young group of freshmen along with newcomers should show improvements for 2023.
VANCOUVER ISLAND UNIVERSITY MARINERS
After a positive 2022 season in which the VIU Mariners finished 14-13 and 4th overall in the CCBC standings, the Mariners are looking to make a statement in 2023 and continue to climb the leader board.
In order to do so VIU will need to rely heavily on a few key returners.
On the mound Jake Nikirk will look to lead the charge. In 2022, Nikirk had an impressive 1.47 ERA over 24.1 innings, adding 19 strikeouts and only four walks. Nikirk earned Second Team All-Conference honours for his efforts.
Leading the Mariners in the infield, will be shortstop James Joyce. As a freshman Joyce led the Mariners offence in batting average (.368), home runs (five), and stolen bases (17). In order for VIU to be successful they will need Joyce to continue his dominance at the plate. Along with an impressive bat, Joyce enjoyed success in the infield – he carried an impressive .934 fielding percentage over 209.2 innings. Joyce was also named First Team All-Conference.
Rounding out the returners for the Mariners is Trent Lawson. Lawson will look to lead the Mariners both on and off the field. In 2022, Lawson slugged .348 with two home runs. Most notably, Trent hit a walk-off homer in the CCBC Championship with the season on the line. Lawson will be continued to be relied on in the big moments in 2023. Trent also earned Second Team All-Conference honours.
While the Mariners have a strong core of veterans, they will also look to some fresh faces to add to their hope at a CCBC Championship in 2023. Transfer pitcher Caleb Battye will look to eat up innings on the mound and shutdown opposing hitters. Nanaimo native Alex McLauchlan will hope to play a role in the infield for the Mariners and add to a competitive 2023 season for VIU. Adding to the outfield will be Jackson Taylor, who will seek to help the Mariners on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball.
VICTORIA COLLEGIATE GOLDEN TIDE
In their first season in the CCBC the Victoria Golden Tide struggled, finishing with a 8-17 record in 2022. At times, however, the Tide showed flashes of their potential and ability to compete with any team in the CCBC.
Coming into the 2023 season an older and more experienced Golden Tide team will look to make a splash and compete for the CCBC Championship. The Tide will need to rely on a few key players to lead them towards a winning season.
At the plate Parker Harris will look to build off a season which saw him hit .222 and 11 RBI in 13 games. Jordan Bond slashed .262 along with three doubles last year. Bond will look to take another step forward and be a leader on the offensive side of the ball. Leading the Golden Tide in hitting last season, Brandon Green had an impressive .345 batting average. Green will be relied on to spark the offensive for the Tide in 2023.
Victoria will have a few new faces added to the squad this season. Lee Grey is a right-handed hitter who will look to take advantage of the opportunities he is given in his first season with the Golden Tide.
Darius Opdam Bak is a right-handed pitcher who will look to attack the zone and keep hitters off balance. He will look to pitch important innings for the Tide. Another fresh arm for Victoria is Kevin Morgan. In his first season on the island, Morgan will be looked upon to help the Tide in any role he is given. Continuing the trend of new arms, the Tide look forward to utilizing Ethan Merk, who will look to attack hitters and dominate the strike zone.