Based in Smithers, there is no way Scott Groves can get his Team B.C. Under 19 men’s team together for weekly fastball practices.
Have glove, must travel is the theme for the provincial selects as they prepare for the nationals, Aug. 12-19 in Napanee, Ont.
They gathered in Vernon for a doubleheader Saturday at Alexis Park Stadium, falling 8-1 and 10-8 to the Okanagan House of Floors Installers, a Masters men’s team out of the Kelowna league dotted mainly with Vernon players.
Rich Haldane, a flamethrower who pitches for Great Britain at the world championships and often is a hired gun for teams all over the U.S., tossed a two-hitter in Game 1.
“Rich and the rest of his team were all top-notch and pretty skilled,” said Groves. “Rich wasn’t trying to be tricky. He was throwing close to the strike zone. That was our first set of games before the nationals and the kids enjoyed the day.”
Groves went with his only 19-year-old pitcher, son Logan Groves, in the opener. He gave the ball to 16-year-old Ethan Lans of Chase in Game 2. Lan’s father, Mark, used to play for the M&K Ready-Mix Steelers in the now-defunct Vernon Major Men’s Fastball League and played against his son Saturday.
“Ethan is a rock star, just phenomenal,” said Groves. “For 16, he’s solid and throws all kind of stuff. He pitches a lot for native and men’s teams in tournaments.”
Groves held two identification camps in Vancouver and also uncovered five players from the Lower Mainland, two from Sooke, two from Smithers and one from Ashcroft. The roster will change on an annual basis.
“Our whole objective is to build a U23 team for the 2021 Canada Games in Niagara Falls. To build a team that’s going to be competitive, they have to be together for a few years and have the same core.”
Haldane hit a solo home run, while Ryan Schneider came out of retirement and smacked a three-run shot to spark the Installers in the opener. Murray Caton went yard in the second tilt, while John Pagnotta went 2-for-3.
Dale Ortman took the mound for the Installers in Game 2, giving up a dinger to 17-year-old Tanner Roberts of Vancouver.
Barry Lachuk, Chad Rideout, Dave Munk, Barry Dennis, Darren Fidler and John Coffey rounded out the Installers’ lineup as they prepare for the North America Fastball Associaton championships in Carson City Nev. in mid-September.
“Hopefully these games can spur on more fastpitch in our great city and the surrounding area for years to come,” said Caton, a third baseman.
Groves will take a roster of 13 to Napanee, located 45 minutes west of Kingston.