SEASON PREVIEW: Cascades baseball club ready to launch inaugural CCBC campaign

The Cascades baseball team (pictured above, circa fall 2016) launches its inaugural season this weekend.

The University of the Fraser Valley baseball club is poised for its Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) debut, but rain in the forecast means they’ll have to wait one more week.

The Cascades were set to host doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack at their home field, Fairfield Island Park in Chilliwack, but due to inclement weather in the forecast, the games will be postponed and rescheduled. The Cascades baseball team’s complete schedule can be found here:

After playing an exhibition schedule in 2016, the Cascades are full members of the CCBC this year and will play a 32-game regular-season slate followed by the league championship tournament May 9-12 in Kelowna.

Other teams in the CCBC include the University of Calgary Dinos (Calgary, Alta.), Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs (Lethbridge, Alta.), Okanagan College Coyotes (Kelowna, B.C.) and Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners (Nanaimo, B.C.). Prairie Baseball Academy has won the last six league championships.

Though the Cascades are newcomers to the league, head coach Shawn Corness is optimistic they’ll be contenders right out of the gate. The team recently returned from a spring training jaunt to Tucson, Ariz. which saw them post a 7-2 record against a series of NCAA Div. 2, NAIA and junior college programs.

“The Arizona trip really showed us a lot – it showed us we’re ready to compete,” Corness said. “A lot of teams might not think we are since we’re so new, but we got really lucky with recruiting and brought in some good kids who can really compete at this level.

“Our whole goal is to take each weekend and develop and improve and go through that process, and then be ready to go into that last weekend and compete for a championship.”

Vernon, B.C. product Dylan Emmons will get the start for the Cascades in their inaugural game. Other key members of the starting pitching staff include Jake Gill and Evan Peterson, who Corness has pencilled in to start the second and third games of the weekend, respectively. Closer Brennan Hegel leads the bullpen brigade.

Outfielder Dan Rogers had a strong showing in Tucson, and he’ll lead off the Cascades’ batting order. Much of the team’s power comes from the left side, courtesy outfielder Trevor Brammer, first baseman Riley Jepson and Hegel, who will see a lot of time at third base in addition to his relief pitching duties. The UFV club will rely heavily on the versatile Liam Campbell, who can play second base, third base or catcher, and Ryan Green will handle the starting catcher duties; he’s a “great leader who does a great job of managing the pitching staff,” Corness said.

The Cascades went 10-6 in exhibition action last fall, and beyond their solid record in Arizona, it was the way they won games that has Corness excited. The team showed great resiliency, making several late-inning comebacks including an eight-run rally against Itasca College (a junior college from Minnesota) in the final inning to erase a 13-6 deficit.

“The one thing I’d say about this group is, they’ve become a family very quickly,” Corness said. “They work hard for each other, and they have a lot of confidence going in.”

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