The West Kootenay U13 Orioles baseball team swung into their baseball season with authority this month.
The U13 Orioles opened the Spokane Indians Youth Baseball League (SIYBL) with two wins and a tie before capturing second place at the Slug Fest Baseball Tournament in Cranbrook last weekend.
“We played some pretty high-level baseball,” said Orioles coach Dave Colquhoun. “The teams, Calgary and Lethbridge, are pretty highly-ranked teams.”
West Kootenay powered through the round robin of the Slug Fest, and took out the Calgary Jr. Dinos in the semifinal, before falling to Lethbridge, 13-6 in the final.
“We came up short in the final. The team that we played mostly consisted of the Alberta provincial team (champions) last year that lost in the Canadians to go to the (Little League) World Series. They were a solid, solid team.”
The Orioles held their own, leading 5-4 after three innings, but the Alberta team exploded for nine runs in the final innings to win the Slug Fest title.
“At the end of the game he (the Lethbridge coach) thanked me, he said, ‘Thanks, you guys always give us a hell of a game.'”
Coached by Colquhoun, Chris Kissock, Matt Larmour, Steve Forte and Brett McLaren, the team is roundly West-Kootenay represented with players from Trail, Nelson, Castlegar, and Grand Forks filling out the squad.
2017 marks the first year a U13 West Kootenay team has played in the SIYBL and despite a lineup of just 11 players, the Orioles made an immediate impression.
The U13 Os pounded the Impact Baseball Club 13-1 in its first SIYBL game July 1 with Kelton Forte throwing three strong innings to earn the win and Brayden DeWitt closing out the final two frames before the game was called due to the 10-run mercy rule.
The Orioles then rallied in the sixth inning to earn a point in a 7-7 tie with the Wildcats, then rolled over Spokane U13 Expos 6-1 the next day.
West Kootenay currently leads the 10-team league, although the Couer d’Alene Lumbermen and the Academy Angels are also undefeated and tied with the Os.
A unique aspect of the U13 SIYBL league is that it bridges a looming gap between Little League to single and double-A youth baseball. Instead of making a jump from Little League’s 45-foot mound (from home plate) and 60-foot basepaths, to full-size parks (60-foot mound, and 90-foot basepaths), the SIYBL plays on fields with 54-foot mounds and 70-80-foot basepaths.
“The idea of the this 13-year-old league with the modified bases and pitching mounds is awesome for the kids,” said Colquhoun. “It’s too big a jump, and I’ve been saying for years that we should do this, but there has never really been an option other than the coast and maybe Kelowna.”
The downside, however, is that the West Kootenay doesn’t have a field that measures up, so the Orioles won’t be hosting any league games this season. Next year, however, local officials will try to modify a Haley Park infield to the required dimensions and give the U13 Orioles a home-field advantage.
“The game is way better,” added Colquhoun. “The pitchers can throw strikes, and when the pitchers can throw strikes, the batters can hit, and when the batters can hit, the fielders can field. It’s quicker, it’s better baseball.”
The Orioles are back in action this weekend when they take on the 2-1 Braves in a doubleheader at Mountainside Middle School in Spokane on Sunday.