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Oilers open SWBL season, say goodbye to player/managers

After a long time where it looked like a season would not happen, the Virden Oilers are pleased to be back on the diamond. The local senior club opened their South West Baseball League season by winning their pair of games last week.
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Virden Oilers Riley Hole is up to bat. After having their 2021 season delayed due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, play has begun for the Virden Oilers in the South West Baseball League. At their home opener, July 23 they defeat the Reston Rockets 5 to 4 in extra innings before a good crowd of hometown fans. Braeden Lewis drove in the winning run. The Oilers picked up their second win at home on Tuesday, beating the Rivers Comets 4 to 3, and stand with a 3-0 record.

After a long time where it looked like a season would not happen, the Virden Oilers are pleased to be back on the diamond.

The local senior club opened their South West Baseball League season by winning their pair of games last week. Each of the league’s nine teams will play an eight-game regular season. There are no playoffs and the Elkhorn Expos and Souris Cardinals are not participating this season. Virden player/manager Jeff Peel said his team is pleased to be playing.

“Just happy for the opportunity to get to play … We were not really thinking it was going to happen. … It’s nice to get back to a little bit of normalcy, getting back on the ball field.”

The Oilers are pleased to be back together.

“The baseball team kind of becomes your summer family and you’re used to hanging out with those guys in the summer,” Peel said. “You might not be able to see them as much in the winter months. It’s one of those things that you look forward to.

“This group of guys is just a very nice, driven and passionate group that really enjoys coming to the diamond and having fun and trying to put some wins together,” he said. “It has been a blast getting back together with them.”

 

Saying Goodbye to Des & Brett

The Oilers return most of their squad from last season. However, veteran player/managers Des Koop and Brett Braybrook have stepped away from the club. Koop was long an important player for Virden with his prowess on the mound, while Braybrook was a stalwart patrolling centerfield for many years. The duo also had a huge impact on the baseball community with their work to revive the Virden Oilers as well as their coaching at various levels. Peel said those are huge losses.

“Des and Brett have done so much work for the organization. They got it in such a good place,” he said. “Not only the organization as a senior team but also the diamond. … Making sure it stays at a quality that can be played on. That knowledge, passion and love for the game and the game specifically in Virden is something you cannot trade in.”

For more check out these past stories on:

Brett Braybrook: https://www.empireadvance.ca/sports/local-sports/swbl-baseball-1.23839680

Des Koop: https://www.empireadvance.ca/sports/local-sports/des-koop-key-to-oilers-swbl-success-1.23313274

 

The Team

The Oilers have what Peel called a “well-rounded group.” Players can man different positions and the pitching staff is deep.

“It’s not a matter of one guy dominating,” Peel said. “It’s everybody chipping in. It kind of helps if one guy is having a bad go, everyone else might be going – or vice-versa. It’s nice to have that well-rounded team.

“It’s also nice to not be worried about putting guys in. You’re confident in their ability if you’re doing a defensive replacement or if they’re running or batting. It’s nice to be able to not even question if they’re going to be able to do it. Everybody is working really hard to be at a nice level that they can contribute in their own way. It’s a nice group that works well together.”

 

Veteran Players

Veteran lineup below with some of Peel’s thoughts.

First baseman Riley Hole: “He’s a really smart baseball player, can really get things done that way. He’s always thinking. He goes on nice hot streaks when he’s batting.”

Second baseman Keifer Johnston: “He’s a really calm, really cool defender who bats well. He knows the game just as well as anybody on our team.”

Shortstop Dustin Ashamand Third baseman Clarke Whelpton: Peel described them as “baseball lifers.” “It’s great to have those guys around and be mentors.”

Catcher Brady Potter: See feature on Potter from last season: https://www.empireadvance.ca/news/local-news/swbl-spotlight-potter-backstops-oilers-to-opening-weekend-split-1.24167532

Rightfielder Tanner Lewis and leftfielder Braeden Lewis: See below for info in Braeden and check out this story about the Lewis brothers from last season: https://www.empireadvance.ca/news/local-news/lewis-brothers-form-bonds-compete-for-oilers-1.24182051

Centerfielder Toby Troughton: “Quick and a really good batter.”

 

Pitching Staff

The pitching staff will feature Peel and fellow standout Curtis Plett. Both have proven over the years they are aces in the SWBL. Peel will also play various positions on the diamond, while Plett will be utilized at times in the infield.

As well, a number of other players can also pitch. These include Braeden Lewis, Whelpton, Johnston, Ryan Lewis, Jace Freeman, and Dreyson Potter. Peel said:

“It’s nice to have that depth in pitching, especially in the senior circuit like this because you never know what can happen with injuries, life events, vacations … It’s nice to have the depth and willingness to throw so that we can get through the season and have fresh arms.”

 

Young Guns

The Oilers have a group of younger players this season.

“I really like how our team has embraced having the young kids, giving them the opportunity to play, and showing them the ropes here and there,” Peel said.

The player/manager has been impressed with the youngsters’ confidence. The young guys are listed below with a few comments from Peel:

Ryan Lewis:“He’s showing confidence. He’s showing patience. He’s mature above his years as far as baseball goes.”

Jace Freeman: Freeman threw an inning of relief in the win over Deloraine. He struck out two and allowed a hit.

“It looked like he had been pitching in the league for years. I can remember being a 15-year-old starting in the South West League and I was so nervous, and he looked as cool as a cucumber.”

Leif Wilson: Talented player committed to Neutral Hills Baseball Academy in Consort, Alta. for next school year.

Braeden Lewis: Returning player but just 18. Played junior hockey for the Virden Oil Capitals and Swift Current Broncos last winter.

Dreyson Potter: The younger brother of teammate Brady. He spent some time with the team last season.

 

Oilers Last Week & Next

The Oilers opened their season in style with a 13-2 road victory over Deloraine on July 20. Toby Troughton, Brady Potter, and Tanner Lewis each had two runs batted in. Peel earned the win on the mound as he struck out nine and allowed six hits over six innings. The Oilers beat Reston, 5-4, at home on July 23.

Virden was to host Rivers on July 27 and play in Hamiota on Aug. 6.

 

Reston Rockets

The Reston Rockets opened the SWBL season with a 0-3 record. The team fell 11-8 when it hosted Deloraine on July 15. Rockets hitter Reiden Bodin batted in three runs. John Patmore recorded five strikeouts in two innings for Reston.

The Rockets lost 5-4 to Virden on July 23. Boissevain beat Reston 13-1 on July 15. Jack Kirkup drove in Reston’s run.

The Rockets host Rivers in Friday. The team is in Hamiota on Sunday.