The Canadian Interuniversity Sports or “USports” baseball season is set to begin on Sunday, September 2nd for OUA teams, and the following Saturday for the CCBA teams.
But the season will kick off with an All-Star Game on September 1st, featuring the most talented and brightest baseball stars from both conferences.
The CIS is the Canadian collegiate baseball association, and features ten teams from Ontario organized in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) conference, and another ten teams from the Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association, which are based at schools in the National Capital and Montreal, as well as the Maritimes.
This year, the U of T Varsity Blues look solid, with the league’s top-rated catcher, Joel Didkowski, playing for his second year behind the platter, and a strong outfield consisting of 1st ranked RF Bullwinkle Roberts, Dave Pickett in center, and Dave Goodchild in left. All three are fantastic defenders with great arms, and seasoned plate discipline.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s Gaels could be a surprise strong finisher in the OUA as well. Cuban international student Victor Velasquez and Vancouver’s Wally Stevens make up half of the strongest rotation in the CIS. Stevens went 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA last season, whiffing 33 batters over 28.1 innings. Velazquez is in his freshman year but is said to have superb movement on his 96 mph fastball, a plus forkball, and is working on his curve and changeup to become a more well-rounded starter. The infield combination of Johnny Mansel, and John Whitehead (both OSA ranked #1 at 2B and 3B respectively), together with SS David Michel, promise to offer a lot of support to the relatively weaker Adrian Meehan at 1B. But overall, the Gaels infield should be one of the best in the conference.
Last year’s CIS champions, the York Lions, are looking considerably mined for talent, after the departure of eight quality players in the 2018 draft. They could squeeze some offense out of 1B Malcolm Gilmour if he develops into the power-hitter he is predicted for, but other than that the Lions look lackluster for 2018.
Over in the CCBA, Acadia Axemen show a lot of promise, especially with potential gap hitting outfield star, Mark Mcrae, a Nanaimo, BC native who is in his second season of CIS baseball. Though he only hit .213 in 2017, he showed signs of speed and great hands in the outfield, and has worked on becoming more disciplined at the plate. Similarly, junior Anthony Racine, a first baseman from L’Annonciation, QC, had an underwhelming 2017 run. But he did show great plate discipline, earning a .375 OBP, and could develop into a top power hitter.
Finally, the Montreal Carabins seem to impress the OSA scouts the most out of the CCBA. Fielding players who are in the top 3 of position rankings at catcher (Herbert Mathews), 1B (Laurence Gagne), and all three outfield spots (Wilfred Spracklin, Matt Callaghan, Price Simms) and a 3rd ranked starting rotation led by Don Gagnon, the “rifles” could wind up CIS champions this season.
The season runs through September and into early October. Playoffs begin October 7.