By Cole Parkinson
While they may be known as the boys of summer, the baseball season is in its second wind as the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets have begun their fall season.
With school officially back in session, 11 veteran and 11 newcomer Jets players are back in town.
To welcome back the students in Vauxhall, the Jets faced off against the Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) out of Lethbridge in their annual Spirit Week matchup where the PBA took the win in an 8-7 final.
Both teams didn’t have much time to recoup as they faced off again this weekend for four games in Lethbridge.
“For the opening weekend, we were pretty happy, overall with the effort on multiple fronts. I like our group, we have a lot of new faces and overall they played hard as a group against older, more experienced players. Coming away with two wins and two losses, at the end of the day it isn’t all about wins and losses, it’s about developing each day. Certainly, we’re happy about the amount of progress in a short amount of time,” said Jets head coach Les McTavish.
The first game on Saturday afternoon went the PBA’s way once again with a final of 12-7. The Jets sent Evan O’Toole to the hill for the start where he went two innings allowing four hits, three runs and a strikeout in his first start of the year. Thomas Little, Chase Florendine and Nick Gravel made appearances in relief while offensively they were led by Josh Malainey who hit a pair of doubles, John Vulcano who went 2-3 with three RBI and Logan Domanski who also went 2-3.
Game 2 saw the Jets bounce back with a 13-4 victory that saw starter Levi Abbott go three innings of two-run ball and three strikeouts. Ben Adams and Adam Macko came in from the bullpen and were highly effective in their appearances as Adams struck out the side twice in two innings while Macko did the same in his inning of work. Vulcano had another great game at the dish where he hit two triples which were good for five RBI while Malainey also had two hits and an RBI.
While Saturday featured a couple high scoring affairs, Sunday was a different story as the games were a lot tighter.
The Jets would go on to lose the first game of the day by a score of 4-2 but rebounded nicely for the second game taking it 6-4.
“Both sides were knocking the ball around (on Saturday), we just walked too many guys on Saturday. To PBA’s credit, they swung the bats really well,” added McTavish. “We had some younger guys throwing Sunday and they pitched great, they really did. They didn’t walk many guys, we challenged them in the strike zone and good things happen when you throw strikes.”
Game 1 featured Carlin Dick going three innings in the start with three hits, one run and three strikeouts. Maddox Mateychuk was next out of the pen going two innings with three walks and zero hits while Justin Adamoski finished it off with an inning of work. Malainey continued his strong start at the plate going 2 for 3.
As it was on Saturday, the Jets avenged the loss with a 6-4 win and it saw Reece Keller go four innings of one-hit ball, five K’s and zero walks. Tyler Boudreaux gave the Jets two innings allowing three hits, an earned run and one strikeout while Matt Wiggins earned the save.
With the opening weekend under their belt, the coaching staff is eager to see what they have with their 11 new recruits.
“You’re excited to see who they are and what they’re all about. It changes day to day and week to week. They grow and mature and go through peaks and valleys. It’s exciting to see how the kids progress and it’s something I look forward to every fall,” said McTavish.
The transition to the Jets Program isn’t an easy one either.
The coaching staff expects there to be a few bumps to kick things off with the new players as many are not used to being on the field every single day.
“The biggest thing is for them to look after their bodies and how to go about baseball business on a daily basis. A lot of kids come from programs where they practice a couple days a week and a couple games, where now we go six or seven days a week. It’s a big adjustment to do that and not overdo it but not under do it. Our biggest thing is to get them to go out compete and get better every day and discipline themselves to get better every day. To not take any days off and to have a goal each day and get out and get after it,” he explained. “We talk a lot about believing the process and understanding the process, a part of that is knowing where you want to go to figure out how you’re going to get there.”
With the even split of 11 veteran players and 11 new recruits, the veteran players are expected to show the new players the ropes of what it means to be a Vauxhall Jet.
“Leadership and being able to show the guys, not vocally, but physically to go about their business properly and really getting after it on the field with a good attitude. We always rely on our veterans to do that and we’re really happy with the group so far,” said McTavish.
While most of the players have only been back in town for a few weeks, many of them are already preparing to head out.
Fifteen Jets will be off to Toronto for the T12 tournament held at the Rogers Centre while another three will be participating in the Alberta Top 40 tournaments, both starting this week.
The T12 features 160 amateur players born in Canada, with college eligibility, the chance to showcase their talents to many pro and college scouts.
The Alberta Top 40 is a training weekend used for identifying the top talent baseball players aged 14-16 in Alberta.
“Both tournaments are great and it’s a goal that a lot of players have in mind and they’ve been able to fulfill it. It’s exciting and adds to their exposure. It’s not just about results when you go to these events, it’s about getting better and there is a lot you can learn. The Top 40 has a whole bunch off of different things up and above even the baseball part so that’s exciting. The guys going to the T12, it’s not every day you get to play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. I know they’re excited and I’m sure they will cherish it,” said McTavish of the two tournaments.
Next home action for the Jets comes in October when they face off against the Badlands Academy Badgers (Oyen) on Oct. 6.
Game time is still to be determined.
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