Dawson Yates (left) and the Okanagan Athletics will open the 2012 B.C. Premier Baseball League season this weekend in Vancouver with four games against the Cannons.

Dawson Yates (left) and the Okanagan Athletics will open the 2012 B.C. Premier Baseball League season this weekend in Vancouver with four games against the Cannons.

Athletics set higher standard for 2012

Okanagan team looks to ride solid offense to a top-3 finish in B.C. Premier Baseball League

In 2011, the Okanagan Athletics made the B.C. Premier Baseball League playoffs for the first time in the Kelowna-based club’s history, finishing in eighth spot with a 23-25 record.

A year later, with the vast majority of the team returning—and one of the PBL’s best offensive teams on paper—A’s head coach Evan Bailey figures there’s every reason to raise the bar considerably higher in 2012.

“We should be close to being the best offensive team in the league,” said Bailey, in his third season as the Athletics’ field boss.”We’ll have a pretty solid hitting lineup from top to bottom.

“If we can just stay away from injuries and get some decent pitching, we should be a top-3 team this year. I’m excited about the season.”

The A’s launch into the 2012 PBL campaign this weekend as they travel to Vancouver for a pair of doubleheaders with the Cannons.

Okanagan will then settle in at Elks Stadium for a 16-game home stand, beginning April 14 and 15 against the Langley Blaze.

Led by the bats of veterans such as catchers Nathan Ackerman (.315, 21 RBIs in 2011) and Morgan Lofstrom, third baseman Dawson Yates (.299, 20 RBIs), newly-recruited shortstop and national team member Josh Croft, senior Dillon Kakoshke and outfielder/pitcher Nolan Handley, the A’s shouldn’t encounter too many problems scoring runs this season.

It’s how effectively the pitching staff can keep their opponents off the board that may ultimately determine the A’s success this season.

Okanagan staff ace Jake Maters will likely miss the majority of the 2012 season with arm problems, leaving a workmanlike group of hurlers to carry the load.

“We might struggle on the mound a bit this year, it’s a bit of a question mark. We don’t really have what you would consider an ace,” Bailey said. “That being said, we have some quality arms on the pitching staff, some pretty capable guys. Different guys are going to have to step up, we don’t know who it’s going to be from week to week. It’s going to have to be pitching-by-committee for us this season.”

Bailey said the A’s will have plenty of depth coming off the bench for both offensive or defensive purposes. The A’s have several players who can play multiple positions, giving the head coach several hands to play.

“We have tons of guys that can play different roles and positions,” Bailey said. “It’s a really versatile group.”

The A’s have shown steady improvement since Bailey took the helm three seasons ago.

Okanagan won 15 PBL games in 2010, then 23 more—40 including tournaments and exhibition games—in an injury-filled 2011 season.

This season, based on experience and talent, Bailey believes 30 or more regular season victories is a realistic goal.

On top of it all, Bailey can’t imagine a better collection of players to coach.

“This is a really good group of kids, their drive to win is high, and they’re such a tight-knit bunch,” Bailey said. “Not one guy is a problem, there are no cancers on this team.

“We have all the guys in place, it’s an older team, a real fun team to be around.”

The junior Athletics, coached this season by Pablo Ramirez, will open the BCJPBL season April 21 in North Delta against the Blue Jays.




Kelowna Capital News