Minor baseball is coming to the Peach City in a big way this weekend.
In addition to the opening day ceremonies Sunday at the McNicoll Park field featuring many of the South Okanagan Minor Baseball Association’s 20 teams and 300-plus players Sunday, it also marks the return of the U18 AAA baseball for the first time in six years.
The Tigers, who have already played eight games on the road so far this season, will have a doubleheader Saturday against the Chilliwack Cougars starting at 1 p.m. and a doubleheader Sunday against the Kelowna Sun Devils beginning at noon.
Both games are at the Carmi Elementary School field.
Penticton triple-A prospects had been forced to go elsewhere to compete at a higher level.
Last season seven Penticton kids played on a Kelowna team, one of whose coaches, Aqil Samuel, is also from Penticton and is one of the coaches of the new local team.
“This has kind of been a learning experience going on the highway and playing in West Kelowna, but now that we’ve done it we understand what it takes to compete at that level and understand what it takes to run that program. Now it’s time to bring it back here,” Samuel said. “So if you look at our team, we developed these kids all the way up from mosquito. Let’s bring them back.
“In the last three years, we’ve got five medals at the provincials and the peewee group is probably the strongest we’ve seen in years. So, as opposed to having them go to Kelowna, we’d love to have them stay here.”
The squad got off to a rocky start in their first two games, dropping a doubleheader to the Fraser Nationals 11-1 and a closer 4-3 decision.
However, since then they haven’t looked back, putting together a six-game, unbeaten streak heading into their home opener.
That included a 14-11 extra-inning win over the Cloverdale Spurs with Marlo Spence starting on the mound and Khy Cutler picking up the win in relief.
Aj Reiter and Matt Olsen each had a pair of hits and two RBIs in the game.
“Khy Cutler picked up the win by slamming the door in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings and allowed his offence to score three in the top of the ninth for the first win of the season,” said Samuel.
The second game against Cloverdale Seth Kennedy started and picked up the win in a 13-2 Penticton decision.
Opening day activities for the other teams will get underway at 11 a.m. at McNicoll field.
It will start off with the national anthem followed by the first pitch of the season by a league official. There will also be a home run derby and base-running games with bouncy castles and face painting for the younger kids.
Also Saturday, the Penticton peewee AA/AAA team will be playing a doubleheader at the Edmonton Avenue field. The club finished second in the province last year.
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