The South West Ball League is playing the first games of the season this week.
The Virden Oilers, Reston Rockets and the revived Elkhorn Expos will all be in action this spring and summer. The Elkhorn Expos begin the season on May 24 in Hamiota. The Rockets’ first contest takes place when they visit the Oak River Dodgers on May 24. The Oilers’ season opener is against the Expos in Elkhorn on May 26.
The Rockets’ first home game is May 26 against the Deloriane Royals. The Reston crew is looking to succeed this season and grab a playoff berth. The Rockets last competed in the SWBL postseason in 2019.
“We are excited to get going and get back into the playoffs after a few seasons removed from being in the top four,” player/organizer John Patmore said. “It is going to be a busy season so it will be all hands on deck every game to give ourselves the best chance to be successful.”
The Rockets are expected to return such players as John Patmore, Billy Patmore, Nolan Jago, and Jesse Skelton. The Patmore brothers tied for the team lead last year with 11 runs batted in. John Patmore led the squad with 33 innings pitched, while Skelton was second with 12. Jago batted .429 with a team-best 14 singles.
The Reston team does have some turnover. Derrus Gray, who led the squad in 2022 with a .438 batting average, will not be back as he is focusing this summer on coaching youth baseball. As well, Elkhorn products Brady Frattinger, Jayce Soder, and Foxx McColl will be suiting up for their hometown Expos this season.
The Rockets will be bolstered by the return of Branden Ripley and Tanner Jago, who missed the last couple of seasons due to playing pro hockey overseas. The squad has also picked up some players from Souris (Zac Janz, Myles Sobry, and Tristan Couling) and Hartney (Aiden Jasper, Reagan Bertholet, and Reiden Bodin).
“Our strengths are in our offence and our versatility,” John Patmore said. “We are able to swing the bats with anyone in the league, and with a few additions this year we will only improve on that. We have a lot of strong athletes who can play multiple positions, which will help us fill holes while we rely on many pitchers who also play positions.”