The White Rock Tritons are tired of losing.
And, really, who can blame them after how the last few BC Premier Baseball League seasons have gone?
The Tritons – playing out of South Surrey Athletic Park – have not made the playoffs since 2009, and have faced their fair share of adversity since. In 2010, the U18 club struggled to field a team on a weekly basis, and were forced to forfeit a few games due to using ineligible players – which led to former coach Brent Swanson calling the league “an absolute joke” before resigning his post.
In the seasons since, with head coach Russ Smithson at the helm, they’ve been more stable, but still struggled.
Last year, they finished 12th in the 13-team league with a record of 13-35.
But all that is in the past, Smithson said – and that’s where they’d like it to stay.
“We are ready to leave the park happy again,” he said earlier this week, a few days before his squad was set to head to Kelowna, where they’ll open the season with four games against the rival Okanagan Athletics.
“It’s been tough the last few years, and we’re tired of it. I think this year we’re going to be a lot better, definitely.”
Smithson’s confidence in his team stems from its veteran core – White Rock’s roster features 10 Grade 12s – as well as a restocked pitching staff.
This year’s team has eight capable pitchers, led by returnees Scott Doucet – who had a team-best 7-5 win-loss record on the mound last season – and Jake Gill.
“Those guys are our two aces. And (Gill) has been throwing really hard,” Smithson said.
Last year, the team had just five regular pitchers, Smithson added, which made things difficult, especially when the schedule got busy. With so few options, the coach often had no choice but to leave a struggling or tired hurler out on the mound.
This year, however, he’ll have more choice.
“We finally have pitching, so this year, we can go all out,” he said. “We have some lefties, some righties, some guys who throw hard, some soft… it allows us to get creative during games now.
“If we want to play a matchup and use four pitchers in one game, we can do that and still be OK (for a game the next day).”
Elsewhere on the diamond, the Tritons will have a handful of returning players back in the fold, including infielder Daniel Cassino, who led last year’s Tritons in stolen bases, catcher Dylan Yeager and outfielder James Pavelick.
The latter two players have been red-hot at the plate during the preseason, Smithson said.
“I’ve never seen those guys work this hard before,” he said.
And though they have to start the season on the road – which isn’t anything new for a team whose early-season schedule is often road-game heavy – Smithson is banking on some momentum from spring training carrying over into the regular season.
The Tritons spent part of spring break last month in Arizona, where they played a number of games against other top competition, including a few against college squads.
“It went really well,” the coach said. “We played a lot in a week.”
After their four-game trip, the team returns to the Lower Mainland for contests Tuesday – in Langley against the Blaze – and Thursday, at home for two against the Vancouver Cannons.
In all, they’ll play nine games in the first nine days of the season.
“That’s like 20 per cent of our season in the first week, so getting off to a really good start is even more important than usual,” Smithson said. “But we’re excited to get out there and play.”