The White Rock Tritons face something of an uphill climb if they want to qualify for the BC Premier Baseball League playoffs.
But despite long odds – Tritons head coach Russ Smithson estimates they’d have to win at least eight of their final 11 games – the team is not giving up hope just yet.
The Tritons – who lost Tuesday night, 4-1 to the North Delta Blue Jays – currently sit with a win-loss record of 10-23, and have dropped to 12th out of 13 teams in the BC Premier Baseball League.
However, despite their current position near the bottom of the standings, there is reason for optimism; they’re just five-and-a-half games back of the last playoff spot, currently held by the Victoria Eagles, and they’ve also played more games than many teams in the league, meaning a losing streak by an opponent could boost them up the charts.
“It’s going to take a little bit of work, and a little bit of luck, but we’ll try to get it done,” said Smithson.
Though a team’s inconsistent play could give any coach fits, Smithson said his squad’s streaky performance throughout the 2016 season actually gives them hope that they can turn things around in a hurry and win enough to claw back into a playoff spot.
“We’ve had some real streaks this year. We started 0-6 but then we came back and won five in a row. And a few weekends (in late May) we played some really good teams and split with them,” he said. “So anything can happen. But before we can win two or three in a row, we have to win one in a row.
“We can’t get a streak going until we get over the hump and win that first one.”
White Rock has 10 full games left to play, and on July 3 – when they play the Langley Blaze twice – they’ll play the final innings of a game that began June 1 but was suspended due to torrential rains with the two teams tied 8-8 in extra innings.
“A monsoon came and we had to stop playing, but that game would be a big one for us to win,” Smithson said.
Part of the reason for the team’s struggles of late, Smithson said, was a lack of timely hitting. During a four-game road series against the Okanagan Athletics in late May, for example, the team had the chance to steal a win from the home side, down 3-1 late in the game, with the bases loaded and no outs.
“We popped out to the infield and then went strikeout, strikeout and that was it,” Smithson explained. “It was a tough one. There have been a few frustrating moments lately, but it’s all a learning experience for the guys.”
On Tuesday against the Blue Jays, the offence struggled to give much run support to starting pitcher Saylor Gray. Gray nursed a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning, but North Delta opened the frame with a walk and two hits, and suddenly trailed 3-1.
Quin Hall had the Tritons’ only run batted in, with a two-out single in the third.
This weekend, the team takes a break from the PBL schedule to compete in a tournament in Seattle.
Despite just four wins in the last month, the team isn’t losing confidence in themselves, Smithson said.
In looking for hope, players remaining from last year’s team need only to point to their late-season playoff push last summer. That team struggled mightily out of the gate, winning just three of their first 21 contests, before running the table late in the schedule. They missed the playoffs by just a single game, and were only eliminated from contention on the final day of the season.
“Definitely, we know it can be done after last year,” Smithson said.
“The guys aren’t down and out or anything – they’re ready to play, just like the guys were last year. Last year, we never felt like we couldn’t win, and now, when we go to the ballpark every game, we feel like we can win every time, too.
“It’s just a matter of getting it done.”
Feeling a draft
White Rock Tritons alum Alex Webb is expected to hear his named called in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft this week – for the second year in a row.
Webb, who pitches at UBC, was a 36th-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres last summer, but chose to return to school for his senior year.
Now, after an impressive season on the mound for the Thunderbirds, he has improved his draft stock considerably – most predictions suggest he’ll be chosen Friday, on the draft’s second day, when rounds three through 10 are held.