2011 NSSBL Preview
The Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League is set to kick off Friday night, as the Sydney Sooners travel to Truro to meet the Bearcats.
The 2011 season has the makings to be the most competitive in recent memory. The teams perennially at the top remain strong, but rest of the league has made some interesting moves that could tighten things up at the top of the standings.
Here’s a look at each of the clubs for this upcoming season, along with a few of the highlights from last year.
Dartmouth Moosehead Dry
2010 League Champs (19-8)
Head Coach: Darren Doucette
Assistant: Bobby Gillis
The retirement of Bailey leaves a huge void for the Dry to fill. He was arguably the best pitcher in Canadian amateur baseball over the past decade. Steve Nelson (8-0) and Craig Langille
(5-2) will be counted on to replace a lot of Bailey’s innings, while Jeff Reeves is healthy once again after battling arm problems last season.
One to keep your eye this year for the Dry is 16-year-old Anthony McKinley, who attends the Vauxhall Baseball Academy in Alberta.
The offense will be driven by the Big Three – Joel Irvine, league MVP and batting champ (.393), Greg West, playoff MVP (.324), and Darren Doucette, league HR (10) and RBI (40) leader.
Still a strong threat to defend their championship.
Halifax Pelham Molson Canadians
2nd place (17-10)
Coaches: Mark Pelham, Mark Haverstock, Ryan Veinot
With the departure of coach Jim Pelham the Canadians have a very different look and will look to a veteran coaching trio to lead the team back to the top of the league.
Lefty Barrett Bellefontaine (6-2) and rightly Mark Haverstock (5-3) will anchor the pitching staff along with Steve Ivey. Former Dartmouth Juniors LHP Reggie Snow, will add some much needed innings.
Veterans Adam Lucas (.343), Ryan Veniot (.323), and Mark Pelham (.319) will supply the offensive thump with support from CF Paul Davie, 3B Josh Pelham, and 1B Sean Peverill.
The squad is deep behind the plate with Shawn Walsh, Brandon Devlin, and ex-Dry, Randy Stewart.
3rd place (12-16)
Head Coach: Jim (Rico) McEachern
Assistant: Beau Chiasson
The Sooners took a giant leap forward last season, going from just three wins in 2009 to 12 last season. The Cape Breton squad cannot afford to take a step back, with almost every player returning and some top juniors moving up.
The offense will be led by Beau Chiasson, league MVP runner-up, who hit .379 last year, and C Matt Denney, who had a breakout season posting a .354 avg. Veterans SS Jason Snow, 3B Cory Christie, and P/OF Paul Doucette will be looked upon to add offensive depth.
Coming off a junior provincial title, Coach McEachern is excited about the young players joining the club this season. Those to watch for are Jonny MacLeod (P/OF), Greg MacKinnon (2B), Matt Oliver (SS), R.J. Barrett (P), Jonathan Boutilier (C), and Anthony Ianetti (P).
On the mound the Sooners will look to Justin Brewer, Kenny Long, Doucette, and Nick Shaw (2010 ERA leader) to provide the bulk of the innings. Aussie Tyler Anderson has returned to Australia and will be missed.
4th place (11-17)
Head Coaches: Ian Mosher, Chris Salsman
The Wildcats are hoping a number of players returning from hiatus will help vault them toward a league title.
Kevin Benjamin, who hit .402 in 2008, is returning after three years away. Ex-Pro Trevor Wamback is coming back after one year off. But the biggest addition may be former Truro Bearcat and three-time batting champ Kevin Matheson, who did not play in the 2010 season.
These additions will improve the offensive depth that was led by veterans Curtis Falls (.374), Ian Lockhart (.341), and brother Mike Lockhart (.341).
While the combination of veterans and some proven league vets will be significant, there is a great anticipation surrounding a couple of college players. Joel Holland (University of Calgary) and Dartmouth native Codey Shrider (Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria) will provide some new blood to the Wildcat squad.
The additions to the Wildcats could have them poised for a breakout season.
5th place (10-18)
The loss of the great Craig Higgins and stars Kevin Matheson, Jason Hoyt, and Billy MacKenzie was too much fr the Bearcats to absorb last year and the record showed it.
Coming into the 2011 season there is plenty of optimism. Billy MacKenzie is back (.352 in 2009 & .420 in 2008). Guy Pellerine had a phenomenal offensive year last season hitting .383 with 7 homers, while veterans J.P. Wood (.325) and Joe MacPherson will hopefully add some thump to the lineup.
Also returning are Randy Delaney from the University of Maine, Darson Murphy, and the Davis brothers, Jason and Matt. On the hill, Truro will see Craig Field, Matt Black, Jason Smith, John Chapman, and lefty Brandon Mullaly returning.
Excitement abounds with a number of new hurlers joining the team: RHP Jacob Moffat via the Prairie Baseball Academy and Dalhousie, and LHP Shane Dupuis, teammate of Delaney at the University of Maine. Two righties, Daniel Bates and Wesley Mosher, join the Cats from the defunct Truro Intermediates and the Stellarton Albions respectively.
Also of interest is the return of 46-year-old Greg Marquis, a former Dry great, who won league MVP honours in 1991, and has already stroked a home run in a preseason action.
From the Sidelines: The league is partnering with Rawling’s once again to bring back Rawling’s Minor Ball Week, to be held June 29 to July 5.
The Dry will represent the league at this year’s senior nationals in Chatham, N.B. Aug. 25-28, while the Halifax Pelham Canadians have also been invited by Baseball Canada.