The Vauxhall Vikings baseball team hit the diamond last night for their home opener, and hopes are high for the team to be a tough contender in the Southern Alberta High School Baseball League in 2015.
“We’ve been going indoors since the second week of February,” said head coach Rob Virginillo. “We’ve only lost a couple of players from last year, so we’re hoping to repeat — or we think we have a good chance of winning a championship again. It’s been pretty exciting that way. It’s been weird with the weather, you get outside one day, and then you don’t get outside for two weeks. It’s been difficult trying to get a full team practice.”
Virginillo noted that while confidence shouldn’t be considered a drawback, players need to be aware that the season won’t be a cakewalk for the Vikings.
“We’ve got a good core of guys coming back from last year, and some young guys that didn’t play a whole bunch last year, but are going to have a big role this year. So we’re pretty excited about the season. I hoping our weakness won’t be overconfidence. I don’t think it will be, but the guys know they’re good, they’ve all played a lot of ball, a lot of them play for the Spurs, so they’re feeling confident right now. I think we’ve had one of the most talented teams we’ve ever had, we’ll just see if we can actually get together as a full team — which hopefully won’t be an issue — but not having a lot of full team practices, I’m still fairly confident.”
The Vikings are hosting this year’s SAHSBL final tournament on May 28-30, and will be looking to take it all.
“A big thing for us, we’re hosting the final tournament at the end of May. It would be nice to win on our own diamond, which hasn’t happened in a long time. We always seem to win elsewhere,” said Virginillo.
The team’s pitching staff will be a work in transition for the initial weeks of the high school season.
“We had one of our starting pitchers go down to an injury, so that was kind of blow to us, but it’s not as bad as it first seemed, so he should be back. Everyone has to contribute — we’re not going to rely on any one or two players, just because we do play three games a week, we have to have enough arms, but we will have three or four big guys that we rely heavily upon, but those guys are position players, too, so you can’t overuse them, especially early in the year. So there will be a lot of guys throwing this first couple of weeks just to see who can actually go two or three innings,” said Virginillo.
Strength for the team will be flowing from the bats, according to Virginillo, rather than an overly strong emphasis on defensive play.
“I think out strength should be offensively, because of returning players, and we hit the ball well last year. We should be strong offensively, and at our level, that’s usually what comes first, because we don’t throw as long, and we don’t haver as much time for arm-to-arm catch up. So I think hitting-wise, we should be stronger.”
Competition in the league will be tough, but front running contenders could be Medicine Hat.
“This year, every game is a league game. I think it’s going to come from Medicine Hat. They have two high schools, and then there’s also Eagle Butte, which is just outside Medicine Hat. We’ve played them for exhibition, and they’ve always been that tier higher than us. I think those are probably going to be stronger teams. It seems like the turn has kind of happened — Milk River was really strong for a number of years, but they’ve lost all their players. Taber is down right now. Brooks should be pretty good, too, but I think Medicine Hat High always seems to have a strong team. But at our level, anybody can beat anybody, it just depends on the game,” said Virginillo.
The Vikings play Maple Creek on April 18, W.R. Myers on April 22, and Foremost on April 25.