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 ran from Friday to Monday in Burnaby.
Kamloops recorded a 1-2 record in round-robin play to fall short of the semifinal round.
“We gave it our all,” said Lochlan Scholefield, one of four graduating RiverDogs.
The Vancouver Island Mariners thumped the Cloverdale Nationals 11-1 in the gold-medal game on Monday to claim the provincial championship title.
The 2020 Prep League season was wiped out amid the COVID-19 crisis and the 2021 campaign was often in jeopardy.
“We were 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?”
Added Scholefield: “We kind of just played it by ear and hoped for the best a season was going to happen. It wasn’t guaranteed, at all.”
Scholefield, Austin Coyle, Matt Coxon 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.
“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.”
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.
“It was short but sweet,” Scholefield said. “We were able to get a bunch of travelling in, play against other teams and had a good time on the field.”
Kamloops was 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) were in Pool B.
The Dogs split their games on Friday, besting Cloverdale 5-1 and falling 9-2 to North Fraser.
Rain washed out Saturday action. Trail posted a 9-5 victory over Kamloops on Sunday to end the Dogs’ tournament.
“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.”
The graduates were robbed of their Grade 11 Prep League season, but Scholefield is just thankful his buddies were able to play ball in 2021.
“It wasn’t necessarily the outcome we wanted, but it was nice, nonetheless, to be together, especially for me since it was my last season in Kamloops minor baseball,” he said.
“It’s kind of sad, but at the same time it’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.”
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.