The age 13 and under (13U) West Kootenay Orioles wrapped up their inaugural year in the Spokane Indians Youth Baseball League (SIYBL) last weekend with a strong finish.
West Kootenay won two of their final three games to wind up the team’s first season with a 4-2-2 record in league play, but played close to 20 games with additional exhibition matches and a tournament in Cranbrook.
“I was extremely happy with the team,” said Orioles coach David Colquhoun. “The kids worked hard, they were fun, they had good attitudes, it was a great experience.”
In the Orioles first match, Kelton Forte pitched his team to a 9-6 win over the Edge Baseball Club, with the West Kootenay combining great pitching and timely hitting for the win.
Game 2 was another battle against the Wildcats in which West Kootenay fell 6-5 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh inning. Jesco Knelson pitched the entire game and kept it close, backed by good defence and execution on the base paths.
The 13U Orioles faced a six-foot-two side-arm pitcher that slung a gem for the Wildcats, and also hit the game-winning RBI in the seventh for the walk off.
The Orioles final game came against the Spokane Impact. Pitcher Brayden DeWitt was lights-out through seven innings, giving up just one hit for the complete-game 13-2 victory.
Despite the one lopsided victory, SIYBL proved a strong training ground for the 13U Orioles, and a competitive transition league for the players coming straight out of Little League baseball.
“We were right in the mix, so that’s who we should be playing against,” said Colquhoun. “The competition was well suited to our skill level.”
Unfortunately, the Os won’t play in the SIYB playoffs this year, but hope to be a full-fledged participant for next season, with a home park in which to host games as well.
“We’re looking at hopefully hosting a tournament, and turning one of the parks up at Haley into a field where we can invite some teams up.”
The dimensions of the youth baseball diamond are bigger than Andy Bilesky’s Little League Park but smaller than Butler. The SIYBL bridges that gap and keeps players involved and active, and prepares the 13Us for the jump to American Legion ‘A’ and ‘AA’ baseball.
And keeping the players engaged is more important than ever for Colquhoun, after the ‘AA’ Orioles took a year off due to low numbers.
“I think we needed to make some decisions this year that probably affected this year, but it’ll help for the next one,” said Colquhoun. “This 13-year-old team is something we need to keep going, it keeps the interest up for kids coming up from Little League, because they lose interest when they go to that big park, it’s just not that fun.”
The addition of the 13U team will also help fill out the rosters on the single- and double-A teams, says Colquhoun. Trail will have a strong contingent of single-A players moving up to double-A next year, and – with a competitive year under their belts – a healthy group of new 14-year-old Orioles will be ready to fly over to the big nest at Butler and play single-A in Washington State American Legion Baseball.