Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners pitcher Connor Russell throws a strike during the fourth inning of a pre-season game against the Okanagan Coyotes last Thursday afternoon at Serauxmen Stadium.

Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners pitcher Connor Russell throws a strike during the fourth inning of a pre-season game against the Okanagan Coyotes last Thursday afternoon at Serauxmen Stadium.

VIBI sorts things out for spring

The M’s travel to Kamloops this week for the start of the Canadian College Baseball Conference schedule.

Spring training took the VIBI Mariners around the Pacific Northwest. They played tough U.S. college teams. They played four games in one day. They played one night until almost dawn.

“They’ve battled,” said Jordan Blundell, Vancouver Island Baseball Institute manager. “They’re a tough group and that’s what we are here, we’re a tough group on the Island.”

So the Mariners should be ready for whatever the regular season is about to bring. The M’s travel to Kamloops this week for the start of the Canadian College Baseball Conference schedule, facing the host Thompson Rivers University WolfPack on Friday (March 21) and then the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs on Saturday.

The baseball fundamentals are still coming around at this time of year, but some facets of the game seem to be coming along.

“Part of what the spring is about is getting some guys on the field that are fighting for the last job or two, to try to get playing time and see where they stack up against themselves and their teammates,” Blundell said.

One area the Mariners feel they’ve improved this season is defensively.

“You’ll make an amazing play here and there, but if we can take care of the baseball and make the plays we’re supposed to, that will help everything,” the manager said.

VIBI ace Connor Russell, a 6-foot-4 righty, is back to lead a workmanlike pitching staff.

“The core starting four in our rotation will take us a long way,” Russell said. “We have four good arms that we’re hoping to run out there every weekend and give us a chance to win.”

He said pitchers have had a little trouble finding the zone this spring, but he thinks that will come.

“Once we establish first-pitch strike and are throwing strikes throughout the game we’re going to be a lot more effective,” Russell said.

As for the offence, Blundell said his hitters still show some inconsistency but that’s understandable at this time of year as coaches try to get lots of different guys at-bats.

“It’s tough to be consistent with new guys hitting in front and behind you,” the manager said. “You find a way to give them the best chance to work together.”

Dallas Monk, VIBI infielder, said he thinks the offence is coming along pretty well.

“A lot of hard hit balls,” he said. “We’re hitting balls harder earlier than we have, so that’s a really good sign.”

The Mariners perennially put themselves in contention for a conference championship and look forward to starting to work toward that goal again in 2014.

“We’ve played fairly good baseball for the most part and we’re excited to move forward with this group,” Blundell said.

GAME ON … The VIBI Mariners begin the Canadian College Baseball Conference season this Friday (March 21) and Saturday with games against Thompson Rivers University and Prairie Baseball Academy in Kamloops … VIBI’s home opener is March 29, when the TRU WolfPack visits Serauxmen Stadium for games at noon and 2:30 p.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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