The North Shore Twins knew that they would be good this year, but weren’t necessarily expecting to be this good, this fast.
The B.C. Premier Baseball League team is off to a hot start this season, moving to second place in the league with a 10-3 record following a weekend series against the talented Mid Island Pirates that saw the Twins win three of four games. The fast start comes for a team that is loaded with young players who are in their first year with the senior Twins.
“It is a very young team,” said general manager Rick Elstone. “This team will be around next year, so that’s encouraging. They are young. When I was doing up the roster I looked at their graduation years and I kept thinking ‘is this a mistake?’ because so many of them are Grade 11s.”
They are young, but there is ample evidence that they are talented as well. Many of them played on the junior Twins last year, a team that romped through the Junior Premier League on their way to winning the provincial title. The 2018 junior Twins went an astounding 45-3 in regular season play before winning all five of their playoff games to claim the B.C. title.
“They were so dominant last year,” said Elstone. “I don’t think any other junior team has ever coasted through a season like that. … We were expecting success [this season]. I don’t know if we were expecting this much success given that they are young, and there is a difference when you step up to the big team. The throwers they’ll see are different than in juniors.”
There are, however, a few veteran senior players who are leading the way. Carson Graham Grade 12 student Adam Maier has been a monster on the mound and in the batter’s box early in the season.
Working as the team’s ace starter, he leads the league with 33 strikeouts in 20 innings and has yet to give up an earned run while earning three wins, including two complete games. At the plate Maier is second in the league with 13 runs batted in and tied for second with five stolen bases.
Fellow senior Joseph Sinclair has been strong on the mound as well, striking out 30 batters in 19.2 innings while posting a 2-0 record with a 2.74 ERA in four starts. Grade 11 pitcher Liam Bates completes the team’s top trio, racking up a 3-0 record with a 2.36 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 19 innings.
The Twins have also received strong hitting throughout their lineup, with players such as Sam Van Shellenberg, Gareth Wintjes, Lucas Yang, Ben Columbus, Mac Gatzke, Griffin Palfrey and junior call-up Jake Vrlak all joining Maier near the top of the league leader board for OPS (on-base plus slugging).
There has also been a slight change in the coaching ranks, as former head coach Brooks McNiven has a new baby at home and has moved back to the pitching coach position, with Parker Kynoch stepping in as a first-time head coach. The team, however, hasn’t missed a beat as they look to improve upon last year’s results that saw the Twins finish third in the league before taking a quick exit in the championship tournament with two straight losses.
If their performance so far is any indication, the young Twins should be right there again this year when playoff time rolls around, said Elstone.
“I’m heartened by their performance so far,” he said. “I think they’re going to be good. We’re always better at the end.”
The Twins will face a tough test Thursday when the first-place Coquitlam Reds come to town for a 6:30 p.m. start at Parkgate Park.