While the sounds of bats cracking and fans cheering has mostly been absent from ball diamonds this summer, one Kelowna baseball team is still making some noise.
The Kelowna Sun Devils U18 Prep Team has six players from their current roster making the jump to college baseball in the fall, the most of any team in the program’s history.
Kelowna’s top minor team has been on a run of success over the last few seasons. After back-to-back league championships in 2019, the program graduated from Midget AAA to the U18 College Prep level – the highest level of minor Baseball that B.C. has to offer.
In the team’s first season under the College Prep umbrella, the Sun Devils finished third in the league standings and earned a trip to the final four where they would eventually come up short.
Sun Devils head coach Derek McPherson said he was proud of his group, noting the jump is no easy step.
“In terms of success in our first year last year, we were pretty happy with our results,” said McPherson.
“It’s a big jump going from Midget AAA to College Prep, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to make those adjustments, but overall the first year was great and we were poised to be very good again this year as we were senior-heavy, but unfortunately we didn’t get that chance.”
McPherson said his six players on scholarships are truly his best players, making a real difference game in and game-out while setting an example for their teammates.
Among those players are twins Adam and Brady Renneberg. The two have earned themselves top-end scholarships at Mineral Area College in Missouri and are the most promising to continue their careers beyond the college level, according to McPherson.
Adam is a catcher who can also pitch. He recently added increased physical strength to his resume, going from 135 pounds a few years ago to 205 pounds and six-foot-five-inches tall today.
McPherson describes Adam as a big-physical presence with a number of tools in the shed.
He’s a tremendous worker who has big-league calibre pop-time behind home plate. He’s 90 m.p.h. off the mound and hits from the left side with an ability to spray the ball all over the field.
“His baseball IQ is off the charts,” said McPherson. “He’s a tremendous talent and he’s got a real bright future ahead of him as long as he stays healthy and continues to work the way he does.”
And Brady isn’t too shabby, either. He plays third base and also pitches.
Much like his brother Adam, he has a large build and hits from the left side. He hit in the middle of the lineup for the Sun Devils last season and did not disappoint, batting for average as well as power.
“The twins you always compare one to the other, but I think the upside for Brady, offensively he may have the ability to be the best hitter out of the six,” said McPherson.
“He’s the guy we’ve relied upon for big innings on the mound as well. He was our ace.”
Perhaps the most interesting journey of any college-bound Sun Devils player is Logan Keating.
The athletic centerfielder previously quit baseball to pursue his first love of hockey, playing for the Kelowna Chiefs Junior B Hockey Club in 2019 before returning to baseball.
“I was going to go play for the (BCHL’s Penticton Vees) this year, but I didn’t want to risk getting hurt and then not being able to go to school and play a sport,” said Keating. “Plus, nothing in hockey was guaranteed and the offer to play (college baseball) was on the table.”
Keating will suit up for Three Rivers College in Missouri next season. He describes himself as a defence-oriented player who takes pride in being a good teammate.
He also possesses explosive speed and can hit for power.
Last, but certainly not least, are another two key members of the Sun Devils roster who have received scholarships to continue their baseball aspirations.
Logan Bligh is heading off to play for Rainy River Community College in Minnesota after graduating in 2019 and taking a year off.
McPherson describes Bligh as a pitcher who has made great strides in his development since coming into the fold. He only pitched four innings in his Grade 11 year before becoming a valuable starting pitcher in 2019.
“He throws a really good curveball,” said McPherson. He’s got that curveball in the bag. He gets a lot of outs.”
Caleb Noa has committed to the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge. McPherson played for the Prairie Baseball Academy in 2000 and has a strong connection to the school, noting he sees Noa as a great fit in the organization.“He’s a great teammate and a great kid.”
The Kelowna Sun Devils and the U18 Prep League hope to play a 16-game schedule, beginning Aug. 8 over a five-week span.