It didn’t take long for the Kelowna Sun Devils to become a force in B.C. midget baseball.
Now, in just its fourth season of existence, the defending provincial championship program is taking another big step forward.
The Sun Devils will field not one, but two teams in the B.C. 18U AAA Baseball League in 2018.
The parent Kelowna Sun Devils’ squad will be joined by the COMBA (Central Okanagan Minor Baseball Association) Sun Devils in the 13-team provincial circuit.
Following the Sun Devils provincial championship win last July, interest in minor baseball rose considerably in Kelowna.
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Twenty-eight players came out for Sun Devils fall ball in 2017, with 42 players showing up out for tryouts with the 2018 club.
The response from players in Kelowna prompted head coach Rob Law and his staff to form two teams.
“If we had only one team, we would have had to cut 22 players, and we didn’t want to do that,” said Law. “We’re finding out there are a lot of kids who want to play elite level ball. Some of them will get opportunities to go on to college.
“It’s hard to keep kids at the U16 to U18 level,” he added, “so we think this is another solid option to keep them playing the game.”
The Kelowna team—coached by Law, Jeff Bligh, Curt Moberg and Derek Renneberg—heads into 2018 with 18 players on the roster. The COMBA Sun Devils, coached by Chris Kennedy, Cory Ducharme and Matt Nye, will carry 16 players into the season.
If all goes as planned, this will also mark the Kelowna Sun Devils’ final season playing at the B.C. midget AAA league.
The Sun Devils will soon be applying for a move into the 18U AAA College Prep Division in the fall.
“It’s exciting and the next logical step for us,” Law said. “It would be a chance for the kids to play elite level ball and be seen by a lot of scouts from Canadian colleges and universities.”
As for this year’s squad, the Kelowna Sun Devils will be led into battle by returning veterans Jordan Laidlaw and Tyson Lamb.
“We have high expectations again this year,” Law said. “We’ve added some Grade 12s and we’ve got a really good group of six Grade 10 players coming in. I think we could be scary this year.”
Kelowna will open the new campaign Sunday, April 15 in Penticton. The following weekend, the Sun Devils will raise the 2017 B.C. championship banner at Edith Gay Park when they host the North Island Cubs.
The COMBA team will play its first ever 18U AAA game April 15 in Vernon.
Meanwhile, the Kelowna Sun Devils are one of three finalists for the City of Kelowna’s Bryan Couling Memorial Athletic Team of the Year Award. The awards will be handed out April 26 during the 43rd annual Civic and Community Awards Gala.
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