Blaze ready for season’s challenges
The Langley Blaze have always prided themselves on playing a long and arduous schedule.
For example, every March, the team heads to Arizona for their annual spring training trek where they face local junior colleges and pro minor league teams.
This year’s trip consisted of 29 games in 10 days.
And adding to the degree of difficulty for the U18 Premier baseball program will be playing in a pair of leagues this spring and summer.
Beginning tomorrow (April 11), Langley will once again be among the favourites in the B.C. Premier Baseball League as they kick off their 48-game schedule.
They open with a road game in Abbotsford against the Cardinals and play their home opener at McLeod Park on Tuesday (April 15) versus the White Rock Tritons. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
But adding a little twist to things in 2014 will be the Blaze’s inclusion in the Seattle Premier League.
The SPL will see the Blaze play a 20-game schedule against some of the top high school aged players from Seattle and Washington State. The season begins in June and goes until August.
The PBL regular season wraps up in mid-July.
“We are going to be in tough, but it is going to be some good competition,” said Blaze coach Jamie Bodaly.
“This will elevate the calibre of the teams we will play.”
Playing in the league will give the Langley players even more exposure to the scouts for Division 1 schools in the Pac-12 Conference.
The 2014 edition of the Blaze boasts some impressive depth in the pitching rotation.
“Whereas the last couple of years we haven’t made it out of the playoffs because our arms haven’t been quite as dominant, I think our pitching staff, one through five, are phenomenal,” Bodaly said.
“Good pitching beats good hitting (and) that is why I am excited for this year. Our pitching in the playoffs will really help us.”
Of course, having such depth comes with consequences too.
Three of the team’s five pitchers — Kristjan Storrie, Kyle Ross and Kurtis Horne — have been invited back to Baseball Canada’s junior national team camp this month. Also at the camp are positional players Mitchell Robinson and Luke Horanski.
Ross and Horne are both left-handed pitchers while Storrie is a right-hander.
Ross was 9-1 with a 1.68 earned run average and 32 strikeouts in 62.1 innings in 2013.
Storrie fanned 34 batters in 40 innings and finished 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA.
Horne pitched in 2013 for the Victoria Eagles and went 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA, He had 30 strikeouts in 35 innings.
Horanski and Robinson batted .370 and .369, respectively. Robinson had 33 RBIs and Horanski finished with 30.
All five could potentially make the junior national team and would miss significant chunks of the Blaze season.
Langley should also be better defensively than they have been in years past.
Another player to watch this season include shortstop Kyle McComb, whom Bodaly called the team’s best at the position in the past four or five years.
“Our pitchers are going to love having him at shortstop,” Bodaly said.
As a final tune-up for the season, Langley won the Best of the West tournament in Kamloops over the weekend at Norbrock Stadium. It marked the fifth straight time the team has taken the title.
Connor Chorpita was the tournament’s most valuable player.
The Blaze went undefeated and hammered the Okanagan Athletics 13-0 in the championship final with Storrie allowing just one hit in the game.
Langley also beat Vauxhall Academy 11-3, edged the Edmonton Prospects 6-5 and beat the Parksville Royals 5-1.
They beat Okotoks 9-8 in the semifinals.