Two Cowichan Valley ballplayers will be in on the action when the midget AAA Nanaimo Buccaneers represent B.C. at the national championships later this month.
Gus Wilson and Nick Yu have spent this season with the Nanaimo entry in the BC Minor Baseball College Prep League, featuring the top midget AAA teams from across the province. The Bucs won the right to represent B.C. at nationals by winning the qualifying tournament in White Rock last month.
“It was one of the best feelings in the world,” Wilson said. “The thought [that they could win] was in the back of our minds from the beginning of the year. We’ve been putting in a lot of work, and it was due to pay off.”
The Bucs went 2-1 in pool play at the qualifier to reach the tournament semifinals, where they beat White Rock 8-2.
“We got the bats going a bit,” Nanaimo manager Jordan Blundell said, We weren’t on cruise control, though. [White Rock] is a pretty good program, so anything can happen.”
Nanaimo beat the Parksville Royals 5-0 in a game that Blundell admitted was closer than the score would suggest. He gave full credit for the win to pitcher Jayden Marsh.
“At the end of the day, I guess he decided they weren’t going to get anything off him,” Blundell said.
Wilson played the majority of the tournament at second base and had several key hits for his team. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles in the final.
“He isn’t the biggest kid, but he plays big,” Blundell said. “He gets big hits and he plays the game the right way.”
Yu got most of his playing time in right field, and helped the Bucs get through the round robin. He had three stolen bases in the semifinal, but Blundell pulled him out of the final with a lingering hamstring injury.
“He’s one of the fastest players on the field when he plays,” the manager said. “It’s fun to watch him run the bases.”
To win the tournament, the Buccaneers just had to play their game and let the pieces fall into place.
“We knew all the teams were beatable,” Yu said. “We just had to go in and do what we do.”
Wilson has played in Nanaimo for the last four or five years, while Yu has been a Buccaneer for the last two seasons. Both say it’s worth it to travel to Nanaimo almost daily for practices, and hope that playing at the College Prep level leads to scholarship opportunities.
Wilson and Yu attended Cowichan Secondary School for Grade 11 last year. Yu will continue to study at Cow High this year, while Wilson is heading to Dover Bay in Nanaimo to take part in the school’s baseball academy.
Before school resumes, however, they will head to nationals in Sherbrooke, Quebec on Aug. 18-21, where the Bucs’ sights are set on gold.
“We understand that there are talented baseball players everywhere, but we’re not going there to lose,” Blundell said. “Traditionally, B.C. is one of the top teams in Canada, so other teams are gunning to take out B.C.”