The Vincent Massey Vikings think they have enough talent to challenge for another Prairie West High School Baseball League championship and they can’t wait to see how good they can be this season.
Due to cold weather and poor field conditions, the Vikings have been forced to practise indoors as they prepare to defend their title. Their drills have been performed at game speed, according to head coach Faron Asham, but the players have been counting down the days to opening pitch this week.
"We haven’t been outside yet, which is a huge issue," said Asham, whose team’s opening game slated for Wednesday in Birtle versus the Falcons is up in the air due to flooding in the Westman town.
"We’re hoping to hit the ground running when we can actually get on to the ground."
The Vikings lost only three players after they defeated the Dauphin Clippers 8-0 in last year’s final, but graduates Dustin Asham, Ty Webber and Jordan Kaspick played big roles on the team and left some question marks regarding Massey’s returning pitching staff and catchers.
However, James Shearer, an all-star last season with the Crocus Plainsmen, and Jordan Robertson transfered to Massey this season to solidify those spots.
Their additions have Asham excited to see how far his team can go in the league and potentially at provincials, which will be held in Brandon from May 29-31.
"We’re very, very excited about our chances this season," Asham said. "As always, we’re cautiously optimistic.
"We don’t want to set ourselves up for failure but we are liking what we’re seeing, we’re just hoping the weather co-operates a bit better so we can actually see if our expectations are going to be met."
The Vikings hosted provincials last season and were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Steinbach.
Once again, the Prairie West season will feature 12 teams, although Birtle has rejoined the league while the Elkhorn Bulldogs have left. Also fielding teams this year are the Crocus Plainsmen, Deloraine Colts, Boissevain Broncos, Killarney Raiders, Virden Golden Bears, Neepawa Tigers, Russell’s Major Pratt Trojans, Hamiota Huskies, Reston Tigers and Dauphin.
The season is short, with teams having seven-game schedules, with matchups set for Wednesdays starting tomorrow, as well as double-headers on Sundays. The regular season is slated to end on May 15, and will be followed by league playoffs and provincials.