Seven days from now, twenty-six players, Coach Hubka, Coach MacDonald and Coach J-Lo will hop on the Carefree Express and start the 1200 km journey to Las Vegas to open up the 2019 spring baseball season. For a fresh-faced, young and talented group of players it is the most exciting time of the year. Lethbridge has been locked in a cold spell for the last week, and nothing motivates a ball player more than the opportunity to leave snow-drenched Southern Alberta for the green grass, bright lights and mild weather of Las Vegas! It has been nine long months since PBA failed to win their 8th National Championship in a row. This is PBA’s chance at redemption, and after a winter dedicated to hard work the boys are ready to take back their perch atop the CCBC in 2019!
Before diving into the details of the 2019 Varsity team it is important to mention how PBA develops players in their program. This year’s Varsity team has only five players who were not part of the program in 2018. The rest either played on the Varsity or Junior Varsity teams in 2018. In total seventeen of the twenty-five players on the main roster have spent a season on the JV team in the last two years. The coaching staff takes pride in being able to develop Junior Varsity players into impact players on the Varsity team. Because PBA is the only two-year program in the CCBC, it is essential that we have players in the program ready to take over starting spots, year in and year out.
On the infield in 2019, Coach Hubka will be returning five players from 2018. Topping the list is 1B Kevin Floyd who hit .408 with 19 RBI’s in 18 CCBC games last season. Floyd will be a key run producer in the middle of the lineup when the boys open up play next week. Returning with Floyd on the infield are Torrin Vaselenak, Tyler Arnold, Lukas Ankermann and two-way player Ethan Kano-McGregor. Vaselenak moved from being primarily a 3B before last season, to a very reliable option at 2B. Tyler Arnold was Coach Hubka’s go to guy at 3B last year, and will be one of the leaders counted upon this season. Both Ankermann and McGregor can play SS and 2B which allows the coaching staff plenty of options, especially when McGregor takes his turn on the bump each weekend. There will be plenty of first year Varsity players ready for their opportunity to contribute when it comes in 2019. Logan Galloway, Craig MacDonald, Levi Pellet and Ryan Gaab all played Junior Varsity last season and are eager to show they belong at the next level. This group of infielders is a great mix of youth and experience, and it will be exciting to see how they compete this season.
In the outfield it is a much different story. Only Jayden Buxton is returning from last season’s squad, and with an outfield full of sophomores in 2018, Buxton did not get a whole lot of playing time. Buxton will be relied upon to lead a very athletic and talented group of freshman outfielders. Ross St. Jean and Josh Prediger played on the Junior Varsity team last year and will join Zach Olson, Aaron Gardner and Marc Chappelle tracking down balls in 2019. Olson has the potential to be a big power bat in the middle of Coach Hubka’s lineup, and Chappelle is one of the fastest players to ever lace up the cleats at Lloyd Nolan Yard. There will be plenty of opportunity for these guys to lock down a starting outfield spot, before the CCBC schedule gets underway in late March.
Behind the dish in 2019 PBA will field Andrew Doyle and Cooper Finch. Both catchers played on the Junior Varsity team last season and will be thrown “into the fire” starting next week. Catching is one of the most demanding jobs on the field, and these two are ready to show that they are ready for the challenge. These young men are among the hardest working players in our program and understand that the catcher needs to be the “quarterback of the defense”. Doyle and Finch have been busting their butts with the pitching staff, learning their strengths and weaknesses, and how to get the best out of each pitcher. Obviously it is nice to get an offensive contribution from the catching position, but for at least the start of the 2019 season Coach Hubka will be looking for solid defense, and a leader who can control the pace of the game.
Lastly, we must talk about the pitching staff. Looking at the roster it may be a little deceiving seeing only eight pitchers listed. Joining those eight pitchers will be three players who are considered two-way players: Kevin Floyd, Ethan Kano-McGregor and Ryan Gaab. All three of our two-way players should make significant contributions on the mound in 2019. McGregor will most likely be a starter in 2019, Floyd and Gaab should do most of their work out of the bullpen. Coach Hubka will only be returning Kyle Poapst and Graham Forrester from the 2018 staff. Poapst pitched for the Lethbridge Bulls last summer, and has looked outstanding so far indoors this winter. The six pitchers joining them are very exciting. Cameron Thickson, from Winnipeg, MB looks to slot into a starting spot. The former Canadian Junior National team member, brings an electric fastball with plus offspeed and is continuing to improve each day. Cal Tecklenburg was an infielder on last year’s Junior Varsity team, but showed the coaching staff enough off the mound to warrant turning him into just a pitcher. Cal will be relied upon as a starter, and out of the bullpen in high leverage situations. Nathan Reiter, Nathan Fulcher and Rylan Zens will join the Varsity staff after spending a season with the JV program. These three players are absolute “towers”. Reiter and Zens are listed at 6’5” and Fulcher 6’3”. If they can consistently pound the strike zone there is no reason they cannot be effective on this year’s pitching staff.
Young, athletic, talented and inexperienced are the four words that would describe the 2019 version of this team best. All of the hard-work from the fall, both on the field and the weight room will be unveiled next week. The boys are ready, the coaches are ready, now it is time to get out there and play!
Make sure to check back next week for updates and live stats!
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