Jay Taylor and the Kelowna Sun Devils will open the B.C. 18U AAA baseball season this weekend at Edith Gay Park. -Image: Contributed

Jay Taylor and the Kelowna Sun Devils will open the B.C. 18U AAA baseball season this weekend at Edith Gay Park. -Image: Contributed

Sun Devils primed for new season

Kelowna’s 18U AAA baseball team will host the provincial championship in late July.

The Kelowna Sun Devils made considerable strides in each of their first two seasons on B.C. Baseball’s 18U AAA circuit.

With a strong blend of experience, youth and raw enthusiasm, head coach Rob Law is looking for the program to take another big step forward in 2017.

The Sun Devils will kick off the new regular season this weekend at home with a pair of doubleheaders at Edith Gay Park.

On Saturday, Kelowna will battle Cloverdale at 1 and 4 p.m., followed by a twin bill against South Fraser on Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

After posting an 11-30-1 record in their inaugural season of 2015, the Sun Devils upped the ante last season, going 22-18 and placing fifth overall at provincials.

In 2017, the Sun Devils will take aim at a B.C. title on home soil, when they host the provincial championship July 27 to 30 at Edith Gay.

Based on potential and character, Law said this year’s edition of the Devils should be the best yet.

“We’ll have a fast, hardworking team,” said Law. “It’s a young, gutsy talented group of kids with a lot of potential. I can’t wait to get started and see what they can do.”

Since that first training camp in 2015 when just 16 players attended—all of whom made the team—the Sun Devils’ program has experienced steady growth.

Twenty-eight players attended camp this spring, with 18 making up a balanced final roster—six Grade 12s, six Grade 11s and six Grade 10 players.

“It’s a program on the rise,” Law said. “This year, it’s a great mix of seniors and raw talent. Overall, we’ll be young but it’s a matter of those kids just playing lots and gaining some confidence.

“They’re going to be a group that’s gets dirty and puts its nose to the grindstone.”

The evolution of the program has also resulted in more attention for Kelowna players from college scouts on both sides of the border.

Pitcher Jay Taylor has already committed to College of Sequoias in California, while a handful of other Sun Devils are on the radar of U.S. and Canadian schools.

The club will also feature a female pitcher for the second straight season. Kensington Renneberg, who became the first female ever to win a game at the midget AAA level last season, will join the University of Alberta women’s baseball program next season.

The Sun Devils will play 38 regular season games in 2017, competing as one of seven teams in the B.C 18U AAA league.

The Central Okanagan Minor Baseball Association is also fielding a bantam (15U) AAA program this season for the first time. The Sun Devils bantam team, coached by Jon Przybyl, will open its season this weekend on the coast against Delta and Nanaimo.