Beware the Two Tylers.
The TRU WolfPack, all of a sudden on the home stretch of a short Canadian College Baseball Conference schedule, seem to have a well-rounded team, but have been paced by a pair of pitchers — Tyler Hodder of Fort McMurray and Tyler Moskalyk of Thunder Bay.
Moskalyk (4-1) leads the league with 52 strikeouts and a 1.06 ERA, while Hodder (5-0) is tied for tops in the CCBC with five wins, sixth in strikeouts (33) and fifth in ERA (1.65).
TRU (16-5) sits second in league standings, a half-game back of the defending national champions, the Okanagan College Coyotes of Kelowna, who are 17-5.
“We’ve pitched it well, especially with those two guys at the top,” said WolfPack head coach Ray Chadwick, who has been in charge since 2003. “We’ve swung the bats well. Liam [Rihela] is near the top of the league in hitting and RBI. [Adam] Filmon is hitting over .300. [Liam] Shibata, [Malik] James and [Taylor] Van Ham are all close to .300 and, this year, I think we’ve played the best defence as a team since we won it [nationals] back in 2009.”
The Pack have six games remaining on their schedule, with a pair of doubleheaders scheduled for this weekend against the Vancouver Island University Mariners (6-12) in Nanaimo.
Strong results against the Mariners would set up a doubleheader that could decide the regular-season title and have national championship implications.
Okanagan College will be in town on Wednesday, with game times slated for 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Norbrock Stadium.
The national championship is effectively a league championship, as it will feature the CCBC’s seven teams — Okanagan College, TRU, Fraser Valley (11-8) of Abbotsford, Prairie Baseball Academy (7-11) of Lethbridge, Vancouver Island, Edmonton Collegiate (6-11) and University of Calgary (3-14).
Claiming the regular-season crown is great for pride, but it also comes along with a first-round bye at nationals, a double-elimination tournament that will run from May 8 to May 12 at Norbrock.
“It’s a huge advantage,”Chadwick said. “You get to keep an extra arm in the rotation somewhere.”
Connor McKenzie enjoyed a clutch moment against fellow Kamloops Minor Baseball Association product Riley Jepson and the Fraser Valley Cascades last weekend, belting a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Pack to a 10-8 victory.
“It was a pretty good one compared to the rest of the day,” McKenzie told TRU Sports Information. “I went into that at bat 0-for-2. It was nice to get on the board and get us the victory.”
Jepson, who will play NCAA Div-II baseball next season for University of Texas at Tyler, is near the top of the CCBC in a few batting categories.
He is second in batting average (.390), tied for second in homers (five) and sixth in RBI (17) after 19 games.
Okanagan College in 2018 ended PBA’s seven-year run as national champions, edging Jepson and Fraser Valley 10-9 in a dramatic gold-medal game at Norbrock.
The Pack are a decade removed from claiming their most-recent CCBC banner, but have come close in recent years, reaching the final in 2014 and 2017.
Earning the top seed this year wouldn’t hurt their chances of ending the drought.
“Hopefully, we can get on a six-game win streak,” said Chadwick, who led TRU to national titles in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
“Those two games on Wednesday will probably determine the regular-season champion.”