It’s Opening Day in the West Coast League. June 3 features WCL baseball in Bend, Cowlitz, Kelowna, Walla Walla and Wenatchee. The defending champion Elks take on longtime rival Corvallis at Vince Genna. The Black Bears open at David Story Field in Longview, Washington vs. the Kitsap BlueJackets. 2015 finalist Kelowna hosts 2014 WCL champion Bellingham at Elks Stadium. The AppleSox entertain the Yakima Valley Pippins at Paul Thomas Sr. Field. And the Sweets are hosting the Victoria HarbourCats tonight at Borleske Stadium.
A new batch of talented players will soon take the field for West Coast League teams across the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about some of the standout players that will be joining WCL teams for the 2016 season.
Bend Elks: The defending WCL champions will return 12 players who helped Bend capture their first WCL title in franchise history last year. Billy King of Oregon State, who was last year’s WCL postseason MVP, will return for his third summer in Bend. Tommy Lane will also be back with the Elks after an outstanding spring at Marshall University, where he was named First-Team All Conference USA for the Thundering Herd. After joining the team halfway through last season, Washington State’s Derek Chapman is set to be the everyday center fielder for the Elks this year.
Corvallis Knights: A pair of returning left-handed pitchers will anchor the pitching staff for the Knights. Sophomore Cameron Bishop was the Sunday starter for UC Irvine this spring, going 5-5 with a 4.61 ERA. He struck out 79 in 70.1 innings pitched. The other southpaw is also a sophomore, Chase Kaplan of Western Nevada College. Kaplan is a University of Kansas commit. He was an impressive 8-1 over 14 starts this spring. Both will be important contributors to the team’s pitching staff that is expected to have excellent depth this summer.
Cowlitz Black Bears: Utah closer and future Black Bear Dylan Drachler was incredibly impressive during conference action, compiling a 0.77 ERA. His dominance out of the bullpen was a key factor in the Utes winning the Pac-12 and earning an NCAA berth. Last season first baseman Loren Archibald rewrote the record book for the Black Bears, setting the team’s single season marks for home runs, RBI, and games played. The Lower Columbia College product will be back with the Black Bears before transferring to Oklahoma next year to join the Sooners.
Gresham GreyWolves: The newest WCL team will receive an immediate boost to their lineup thanks to a trio of players from California schools. Mark Cardinalli had an excellent junior year at UC Davis, leading the Aggies with a .333 batting average. San Jose State’s Michael Breen, a versatile infielder who hit .299 in 43 starts, will help lead the GreyWolves in their inaugural season. Gresham will also welcome one of the top Division III newcomers, Konnor Zickefoose of Chapman University. Zickefoose’s .437 batting average was the highest of any freshman in Division III.
Kitsap BlueJackets: There will be no lack of familiar faces for the BlueJackets in 2016, especially on the mound. The team will return nine pitchers from last year’s staff. In addition to the veteran arms, newcomer Devon DeRaad will provide a powerful bat to the middle of the order for the BlueJackets. DeRaad finished the spring with a staggering 16 home runs, setting the single season record for Occidental College. He led his conference in in batting average, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
Yakima Valley Pippins: Freddy Smith will return to The Orchard in 2016 after having an outstanding spring at Cal State Northridge. Smith started every game and had the top batting average (.314) for the Matadors. Right-hander Gavin Velasquez hit the ground running as a true freshman for Cal State Fullerton, helping the Titans win the Big West Conference. The future Pippin is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA. Before transferring to the University of Arizona, Mitchell Morimoto will first spend his summer with the Pippins. Morimoto hit .430 as a sophomore this spring at Mesa Community College.
Bellingham Bells: BYU catcher Bronson Larson will return to Bellingham after being a WCL All-Star last summer. This spring he hit .301 with eight home runs for BYU. Zach Dixon is set to don a Bells uniform in 2016. The Arizona State southpaw tossed a complete game, three-hit shutout in his first collegiate start at Cal on April 17. The team will also feature a highly touted local prep product. University of Washington commit Austin Sheldon of Bellingham High School was ranked No. 93 on Baseball America’s High School Top 100 Class of 2016 list.
Kelowna Falcons: Max Carter, a 2015 WCL All-Star, will be back in Kelowna this summer. Carter had a .285 batting average and started every game for Cal State Bakersfield this spring as a junior. Lane Lacrone will also return to Kelowna after enjoying a successful spring. Lacrone, who provided excellent defense for the Falcons last year, delivered at the plate this spring finishing with a .330 batting average for Colorado Mesa. Both returners played a crucial role in the Falcons returning to the postseason and reaching the WCL championship series last season.
Victoria HarbourCats: The 2015 HarbourCats Player of the Year will be back in Victoria this summer. Nanaimo native Griffin Andreychuk of Seattle University has the chance to set the team record for most games, hits, runs, and RBI. For the Redhawks this spring Andreychuk had a .293 batting average with 36 RBI. He started all but two games for Seattle U. He will be joined by fellow Nanaimo product and University of Washington commit Josh Burgmann. The right-handed pitcher is projected among the top draft eligible Canadians for this June’s draft.
Walla Walla Sweets: 2015 WCL MVP Hunter Villanueva will return to the circuit this summer as a member of the Sweets. Villanueva had a record-setting campaign with the Kelowna Falcons last year where he led the WCL in batting average and finished in the top ten in home runs (3rd), RBI (6th), runs scored (T-5th), and hits (4th). Walla Walla will also return 2015 WCL All-Star Easton Lucas. The southpaw came straight out of high school and shined for the Sweets last summer. In his freshman season Lucas made 13 starts, the second most for Pepperdine this spring.
Wenatchee AppleSox: Evan Douglas, who finished tied for the third most home runs in the WCL last year, will be back in Wenatchee this summer. Parker Price was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Idaho for the second-consecutive year and will play for the AppleSox before heading to Gonzaga. Alex Gonzales will follow in the footsteps of his older brother Marco Gonzales by playing for the AppleSox out of high school. Marco, who is a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, starred for the AppleSox in 2010. Alex will join Wenatchee before beginning at Colorado Mesa.
ABOUT THE WEST COAST LEAGUE
The West Coast League is the premier summer collegiate baseball league west of the Mississippi. The 12-year-old, 11-team, professionally operated wood-bat league located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest features pro prospects from major conferences across the nation and an unparalleled history out west of great fan and player experiences in addition to the best summer weather in North America. In 2015, 59 players with WCL experience were selected in the MLB June draft, and more than 200 WCL alums appeared in affiliated professional baseball including 25 in the major leagues, such as home-run leader Chris Davis (Baltimore), NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Matt Duffy (San Francisco) and rising star pitchers Matt Andriese (Tampa Bay) and Josh Osich (San Francisco). Overall member attendance exceeded 400,000 in 2015. The 2016 54-game campaign opens tonight.