It’s been a busy few weeks for the White Rock Tritons, as both the senior and junior teams’ premier-league seasons have come to an end, while yet another coaching shuffle was announced for next season.
As well, the senior squad is still preparing for national championships, set for Fort McMurray later this month, though they’ll be competing in that tournament with a slightly different roster than they’re used to.
While the senior Tritons’ season came to an end a few weeks ago after the team missed qualifying for the playoffs, the under-16 junior squad only saw its season end last Thursday, after the team lost its best-of-three, first-round playoff series 2-1 to the Okanagan Athletics.
The two teams squared off in a doubleheader last Wednesday at South Surrey Athletic Park, with the A’s shutting out the Tritons 3-0 in Game 1, before White Rock rallied back in the nightcap to win 12-4.
In Game 1, Tritons’ batters could not solve Okanagan starting pitcher Logan Reynolds, who allowed just five hits while striking out three over seven innings. Logan MacNeil got the start for White Rock, striking out six while allowing nine hits.
MacNeil kept the Athletics’ offence at bay for much of the night, only allowing single runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings.
Though the Tritons’ offence struggled in the first game, it was red hot in the rematch, as the team combined for 12 runs on 14 hits. The runs came in bunches, as well, with the South Surrey-White Rock side scoring three runs in four different innings – the first, second, fourth and sixth.
Taeo Maisonville and Darious Opdam Bak led the way with four and three hits, respectively.
Josh Fluet earned the win, striking out two over five innings, before giving way to reliever Kieran Ritchie, who pitched the final two innings.
Game 3 was an offensive slugfest from start to finish – eight runs were scored in the seventh between both teams – with the Athletics prevailing in the end, 12-10.
The Tritons trailed the third game early, after Okanagan scored three in the first frame and two more in the third, but a five-run fifth inning from White Rock knotted the score at 7-7 after four innings. Neither team managed to plate a run over the next two innings, until scoring in the seventh.
Last week, prior to the start of the U16 playoffs, the Tritons announced that this year’s junior coach, Kyle Dhanani, would move back up next season to take the helm of the senior squad, which he coached in 2017. Replacing him as the head coach with the U16s will be Chad Stang, who spent this past season as a hitting and outfield coach with all three Tritons’ teams – prep, junior and senior.
Dhanani said he was excited to get back with the senior team; he was originally set to coach them this season until a last-minute vacancy opened up with the juniors, and he was moved there to fill the spot.
“I did it to help the organization, and also it gave Mike (Hughes) a chance to be a head coach at the senior level, because he’d been (an assistant coach) for about seven years,” Dhanani said.
Hughes will not coach with the Tritons next year, choosing to step down due to work and personal commitments.
“I’ve just coached baseball the last 13 years – nine in the PBL – and it’s just time to take a step back,” he told Peace Arch News. “Between doing that 30 hours a week and working full-time 40 hours a week, it’s just a lot on my plate.
“I figured I’d take a year off. I’m sure I’ll stay in involved in some capacity – somewhere doing something – but I’m just not going to be an everyday guy… I guess I’ll try and find a hobby or something.”
Though they missed the playoffs in his one season at the helm, Hughes said the squad has a chance to redeem itself at national midget championships. The tournament – which will feature the best U18 squads from across the country – begins Aug. 16.
“We had higher expectations that we didn’t achieve this season… we had higher hopes for this team, for sure – but being able to go to nationals is a nice silver lining for us – we still have something to play for,” he said.
The team will be without a handful of senior players in Fort McMurray, however, due to new college commitments – infielder/catcher Marshall Luiz, outfielder Jackson Hogg and pitcher Jacob Mahon. As well, Grade 11 pitcher Lukas Frers will be in Portland taking part in a scouting showcase event, and fellow pitcher Connor Schneider is injured.
In their place, the Tritons – who will wear Team BC uniforms, as opposed to their usual teal-and-black threads – have recruited three players from rival PBL teams, as well as former White Rock-South Surrey Baseball Association member Matt Wilkinson, who now plays for the Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Academy in Alberta.
Victoria Mariners pitcher Aidan Heintz and centre-fielder Andy Weir will join the Tritons for nationals, while North Delta Blue Jays pitcher/first baseman Caleb Cassie has also come aboard.
In Wilkinson – a pitcher who is committed to the University of Washington Huskies for 2020 – the Tritons will see the return of the player who starred for the city at the 2015 Little League World Series, where he once struck out 16 batters in a single game.
“It’ll be a bit of an interesting dynamic (with the new players) but we have three or four practices before we go so we’ll have time to acclimatize ourselves to each other, and get back into game situations and get ready to go,” Hughes said.