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Jets finish off Vegas schedule

Posted on April 11, 2024 by Taber Times

By Cole Parkinson
Taber Times

The Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets have returned to Alberta after a busy Las Vegas schedule. After wrapping up their first tournament, the Jets were right back on the field in Vegas for the 2024 Bishop Gorman Invitational from April 3-6. 

“Overall it was good. We certainly played a lot of really good baseball, we played some average baseball, and we had some flashes in that pan so that’s what you want in the early part of the year,” explained Les McTavish, head coach of the Jets. “We realized that we got a lot of work to do but at the same time, I think we also realized that we certainly have the talent and the ability to have a really successful season, so yeah overall we were happy with the whole event and the whole trip.”

Game 1 saw the Jets take on Cottonwood High School. The Jets came out firing as they were able to blank the team 8-0. Sheamus Ryan was dominant on the mound as the pitcher went six innings, giving up three hits and one walk while striking out eight. Aaron Fuzesy pitched the last inning of the game. The team’s bats were on fire as Luke Wheatley went 2-3 with a double, home run, and two RBI while Eric Reiling went 3-4 with an RBI, and Cedric Leblanc went 2-3 with a pair of RBI. Easton Kitura, Callum Thomson, Stevyn Andrachick, and Ben Simmons all contributed with a hit. 

Game 2 saw the Jets take on a tough Faith Lutheran team from Vegas. Errors and walks were a problem for VAB as they dropped the game 12-7. Rory MacDonald went two and a third innings with six punchouts and Jacob Burgess pitched an inning and a third with two strikeouts and zero earned runs in relief. 

In the third game of the tournament, the Jets faced off against the American Fork Varsity Caveman. It wasn’t the Jets game as the Cavemen crushed to a 7-0 win. 

Looking for a return to the win column, the Jets finished off the tournament on April 6 with two games. First up was a 3-2 loss to Legend from Colorado before posting an 8-3 win against Liberty from Nevada. The day saw Hudson Kozicki pitch two clean innings, while Patrick MacInnis pitched four innings, Fuzesy posted a save with two and a third innings pitched and Boulanger had four innings with a win. Offence came from Wheatley who went 6-7 on the day with a home run and a double, Andrachick went 3-4 with a pair of doubles, Reiling was 3-6, and Karsen Haney went 2-5.

And while the baseball side of things was successful, the coaches were even happier with how the team handled the entire trip off the field. 

“Most importantly, I was really happy and proud with how the players handled themselves off the field. Thirteen days in Vegas is a long time and the kids handled themselves really well and had a lot of compliments from hotels and restaurants and people that we were around — complimenting us on how the players acted so proud of them for that.”

The Jets now prepare for the rest of their spring schedule and games will come fast and furious until the end of the season. Looking back at the Vegas trip, the coaches and players have a lot of data they’re coming home with that they’re hopeful will contribute to a successful spring.

“We talked about it yesterday as a group, we went through a whole bunch more, kind of deep dive into the deep analytic side of the stats and some of the things that we did,” said McTavish. “I think overall, we’ve got to do a better job on the offensive side of just having quality at-bats and a quality at-bat doesn’t mean a base hit. A quality at-bat means you are working counts late, getting to two strikes, fouling a bunch of balls off. A quality at-bat is hitting the ball hard, whether it results in a base hit or not, you don’t really have control over that. A quality at-bat is maybe not moving your feet and taking a hit by pitch when you need to, so that would be our biggest thing on the offensive side. Top to bottom having good quality at-bats and making it challenging for a pitcher so that over the course of a ball game, every guy that they face is not going to roll over and give them an easy out.”

On the pitching end, the coaches are preaching about working ahead in the count and throwing strike one. 

“On the pitching side, I think we’ve got to continue to work on getting ahead on 0-0 counts. We found some interesting stats that when we threw a first-pitch strike over the course of 11 games, it only resulted in a walk six per cent of the time and only resulted in a hit 22 per cent of the time. So if we went 0-1 on hitters, it completely flipped the narrative on things. Those things are important, we did pitch the ball well top to bottom, and if we look at the numbers as a collective. I think we all agree on our end that if we can continue to pound the strike zone early in counts to get the count in our favour, good things seem to happen.”

Next up for VAB is a doubleheader in Okotoks against the Dawgs on April 13. On April 14, the two teams are scheduled to come to Jets Stadium for a doubleheader though frost conditions at the field may not allow the teams to play. If that happens, all four games will be in Okotoks as they have a turf field. If Sunday’s games do go in Vauxhall, first pitch is set for 12 p.m.

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