The Yorkton Cardinals have embarked on another Western Major Baseball League season, and are 2-1 after three games.
Coach John McVey is “absolutely” satisfied with the team’s first weekend.
“The guys played hard, and are jelling together pretty quickly,” he said.
A fast start is always good because teams in the WMBL are never exactly sure what they have until the players arrive and get out on the field as a unit.
“It’s always a learning curve when you get up here,” said McVey.
McVey said it helps the team has some familiar faces to work with.
Ben Grillo and Kameron Mizzell are two returning players McVey said he expects big offence from.
“Grillo didn’t hit that well up here last year, but he is .310 at school (Emmanuel College),” he said. Mizzell was a solid .260 with the Cards last summer, then hit .360 in college (Talladega College) and was Conference Player of the Year.
McVey said the Cardinals were looking to be a more veteran squad this season.
“It’s one thing we stressed this year,” he said, adding when a player wants to come back and play for the team it says a lot about their dedication.
“Something we didn’t originally recruit for, but then realized, character wins games,” he said, adding the players invited back showed that character.
“Guys left off the roster (most at least) didn’t have good character.”
The Cardinals have three players still to arrive, and once in the fold, McVey is optimistic.
“With the guys coming, if they all play to what we expect them to, we expect to make the playoffs,” he said. “… These are guys who wanted to be here, wanted to play a role. They want to take this team to the playoffs.”
The Cardinals opened the new campaign with a 6-5 win against rival Melville at the Melville’s Pirie Field on Friday.
The Millionaires scored first, putting two on the board in the bottom of the first.
But the Cardinals responded with two of their own in the top of the second to tie the score, then took the lead with two more in the third, and added two in the fifth for a 6-2 lead.
The Mils cut into that lead with a pair of runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh but that was as close as the hosts could get.
Eliot King was the winning pitcher for Yorkton based on two innings of relief for starter Jeff Pool. King allowed five hits and two earned runs, striking out four.
Cole Roark picked up the save tossing a scoreless ninth with no hits and two Ks.
Starter Blake Evetts was tagged with the loss for the Millionaires. He pitched four innings, giving up seven hits and four runs, while striking out five.
Cameron Duncan had three hits from the lead-off position to fire the Cardinal offence, while Stetson McCollin had two runs-batted-in.
While noting the Mils returned only three players from 2013, McVey said “they are the defending champs,” so a win was big to start the season.
McVey said the game showed early Roark should be a factor for the Cards out of the bullpen.
“The guy’s just got shutdown stuff,” said the coach, adding at least to start the season the righty from Southwest Baptist will be the ninth inning man.
“If we can have a designated closer that’s a bonus,” said McVey, who added with Roark’s stuff it could make eight inning games for the Cards many nights.
The Cardinals then headed west for a weekend visit to Saskatoon.
The host Yellow Jackets prevailed Saturday with a 5-4 win.
The Cardinals scored first, plating a single run in the third, only to see the host Yellow Jackets respond with a pair in their half of the inning.
Yorkton would jump back in front with two in the sixth, but Saskatoon would equal that with two in the seventh.
Both teams scored one in the eighth to round out the 5-4 game.
Max Chadsey took the loss on the mound for Yorkton in relief of starter Jamie Whitehead, while Saskatoon’s Dylan Hendricks notched the win.
Chadsey pitched three innings, allowing only one hit, but walking four, and allowing three runs, only one of which was earned.
Yorkton committed four errors in the loss.
“We left it all on the field,” said McVey, who added “it’s never easy traveling in this league.”
McVey said the van ride left the team a “little tired, a little sluggish,” and it showed.
That said, McVey said Hendricks is a WMBL veteran and is likely Saskatoon’s top arm.
“He had dominate stuff, and we fought to a one-run game,” he said, adding that again speaks to the Card’s character.
Yorkton extracted revenge Sunday, swatting the Yellow Jackets 13-5.
Yorkton scored singles in the fourth and fifth innings and added three in the sixth to take a 5-0 lead.
Saskatoon responded with a trio of runs in their half of the sixth to get close.
The teams traded two runs each in the eighth, and then the Cardinals broke out with six in the ninth for the big win.
Clay Rideout had the win for Yorkton. He started the game and went 5.2 innings giving up two hits, and three runs, one of those earned. He walked four and struck out six.
Starter Nick Stobbe was tagged with the loss for the Yellow Jackets, based on five innings of work.
Offensively five Cardinals had two-hit performances, with McCollin tagging three.
McCollin, Cameron Duncan and Derek Marshall all had two RBI nights.
Yorkton was scheduled to play in Weyburn Tuesday but results were not available at press time.
The Cardinals start home action at Jubilee Park Friday with the Millionaires the visitors. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm.
Yorkton heads back on the road Saturday to play Regina, before again hosting the Millionaires at Jubilee on Sunday afternoon at 2:05pm.