June 16th, 2024

Bulls get a preseason tune up

By Dale Woodard on June 15, 2021.

The Lethbridge Bulls season is right around the corner, but Torrin Vaselenak has already been getting his swings in.

With the Bulls set to open their 2021 Western Canadian Baseball League season after losing the entire 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic, the baseball club hosted the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets in a pair of games Saturday and Sunday at Spitz Stadium, shaking off some rust after nearly two years away from the ball yard.

But thanks to spending the past winter south of the border at University of Arkansas at Monticello, Vaselenak has been able to put in plenty of time at the plate as well as patrolling the infield.

That should bode well for the Coaldale product as the Bulls get set to open their WCBL regular season Friday when they host the Okotoks Dawgs at 7:35 p.m. at Spitz Stadium.

“I think I feel a bit more comfortable than other guys do,” said Vaselenak. “But everyone is going to settle in right away. It won’t be long before we start becoming one team.”

After a 16-14 loss to Vauxhall Saturday before rallying for a 5-4 victory Sunday, the process of becoming a team took a step forward last weekend.

“It was awesome,” said Vaselenak. “Canada has been shut down for a while now, so lots of these guys haven’t been able to play a real game in two years, almost. It’s a little different down in the States. We’ve been able to get in a season. But it’s nice to get out here.”

It was also nice to get in a season down in Arkansas.

“It was nice we were playing,” said Vaselenak. “It was unfortunate for a lot of people that go to school in Canada couldn’t play, so we were grateful for that. We made it to the semifinals in the conference tournament, so it was an alright season.”

Back on the Canadian side of the border, Vaselenak and the Bulls lost a wild 16-14 game Saturday in which they rallied late to take a one-run lead before Vauxhall snubbed the comeback bid in their half of the ninth.

One Sunday, a Vauxhall throwing error from third opened the door for a two-run Bulls eighth to tie the game at 4-4 before Lethbridge posted the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a passed ball.

“It was kind of to be expected how it went,” said Bulls head coach Chance Wheatley of the pair of exhibition games. “There were quite a few mistakes, but I thought after the first few innings (Saturday) we really settled in quite well and (Sunday) was a lot better. We’ll just keep improving from here.

“Lots of these guys haven’t played a real game in two years. It’s just them getting at-bats and settling in. The at-bats got a lot better as the game went on and the score kind of showed that.”

With the two exhibition games in the books, Wheatley likes what he’s seeing on defence.

“We have a very athletic infield. Guys have very good hands and I’m excited to see that. It’s always a big thing to have a good infield.”

With the Dawgs up next for the season opener Friday, Wheatley said the team will continue to address the pitching.

“Just pounding the zone a little bit more. We fell behind to a lot of hitters and we weren’t able to get to our off-speed. Guys tried to throw their off-speed in a hitter’s count and we just kept falling behind too much.”

The Bulls will have the coming week to continue to tweak some of the finer points before opening against the Dawgs on Friday.

“It’s super-exciting,” said Vaselenak. “We’ll probably be practising every day up until then. Hopefully more fans are allowed into the stadium and hopefully that brings the atmosphere up for everyone. So we’re excited for it.”

See Wednesday’s Herald for Vauxhall’s take on the weekend.

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