A pandemic threatened to pre-empt the 18-and-under B.C. Baseball College Prep League season and smoke from wildfires burning across the province sparked spotty scheduling.
But damned if they didn't play ball — and the Kamloops RiverDogs played ball well.
The Dogs posted a 12-8 record in regular-season play to qualify for the provincial championship tournament, which will run from Friday to Sunday in Burnaby.
"We're kind of playing with house money," RiverDogs' head coach Frank Ingram said. "It was a little bit wonky. You're overcoming the COVID and the next half was the smoke, right?"
The season was split into halves, with Kamloops sticking to Interior opponents and no overnight trips in Half 1 and more travel permitted in Half 2.
Austin Coyle, Matt Coxon, Lochlan Scholefield and Jared Sucro are the Dogs' third-year graduating players and were part of the 2016 peewee AAA outfit that won two provincial titles to reach the Baseball Canada Nationals in London, Ont.
The 2020 Prep League season was wiped out amid the COVID-19 crisis.
"All those seniors play other school sports and they've had those cancelled, too," said Ingram, who is technical director for the Kamloops Minor Baseball Association. "Anything we can play is a bonus.
"The major thing was to get everyone at-bats and defensive innings because they haven't played in two years."
Kamloops is slotted into Pool B at provincials, along with North Fraser (17-7), Cloverdale (12-10) and Trail (12-12).
Chilliwack (16-6), Central Okanagan Minor Baseball Association (13-11) of Kelowna, Vancouver Island (20-4) and Ridge Meadows (12-12) are in Pool B.
The top two seeds from each pool will advance to the semifinal round.
"We had no expectations of what the season was going to be, so we just went with it," Ingram said.
"We finished over .500, played some good baseball and everyone got better."
ON THE ROSTER
The 2021 RiverDogs: Coyle, Coxon, Scholefield, Sucro, David Browning, Dylan Dekker, Gabriel Wingerak, Hayden Dolley, Levi Toye, Matthew MacDonald, Zack Denis, Parker Robertson, Rollin Sanderson, Manny Recchi, Ryan Petrie and Tyler Dhaliwal.