By Greg Price
The Vauxhall Jets are having a spring season to remember thanks to Mother Nature clearing off the team’s runway with good weather.
“The weather has definitely been a big positive on our side. We’re always really good come the end of April and May. But in March and early April, we usually haven’t been outside a lot,” said Les McTavish, head coach of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets.
Already, the Jets have been able to get in 26 games thanks to the weather co-operating. Putting last year in comparison, the team had participated in only 14 games.
April has seen the Jets accomplish two huge feats in the history of the program. The Jets won the Best of the West tournament in Kamloops, B.C., a tournament the team had not won since 2009.
“It is probably the premier tournament in Western Canada. Since 2009, there had only been one team who ever won it. It was a great experience,” said McTavish.
“The kids played well. The biggest thing is we are able to get outside and prepare properly for that tournament. We pitched well, we hit well, the defence was good. The neat thing about the tournament was we were resilient. We were down and up in games with see-saw battles. The kids were able to work their way through obstacles and failures and not get too high or too low because there was a lot of emotion on multiple fronts.”
One of those obstacles the Jets got through was losing arguably the team’s best player in Nolan Rattai.
He slid into second base in the final and broke his leg severely and tore some ligaments.
“The boys responded after not only losing one of our best players, but one of our captains and the only three-year player that we have,” said McTavish.
Going from that to Las Vegas to compete in the Bishop Gorman Easter Classic, a dominating pitching performance had the Jets beating the hosts in Bishop Gorman High School 5-1.
“At the time they were the number-two (ranked) high school in the United States. They had not lost all season at 19-0 and we ended up beating them,” said McTavish.
“Their shortstop is one of the best players in the United States. The kid they had pitching against us is going to Stanford, their right fielder is going to Stanford, their third baseman is going to San Diego, their shortstop is going to Oregon State. I think they have 11 players going to Division I. We tied them once, we had never beaten them before in eight years.”
The Jets participate in a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. at Jets Stadium. The Jets also have a home doubleheader on Sunday starting at noon against the Great Falls Chargers.
The team’s home Haven Agencies Invitational Tournament goes May 14-May 17 at Jets Stadium.