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High School / Elite Programs

Webber Academy – A Dream

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It’s a vision that goes back, and back, and back, but will never be gone.

Dr. Neil Webber’s baseball roots go back to his early days of being an Alberta farm boy. He loved the sport, at an early age, and enjoyed playing with other farm boys from the Endiang area, north of Hanna. From his childhood, along with his experiences as an educator and grandfather, originated the dream of a baseball academy. His idea of an academy created more excitement with others as well and today we have an institution that has changed the Calgary baseball landscape, as well as the Alberta baseball scene.

Founder Dr. Neil Webber (left) welcomes Wildcats head coach Chris Reitsma to the program back in September of 2021 

The focus of the Webber Academy and the Wildcats baseball program is to grow the grow the game of baseball and extend as many opportunities to young athletes as possible. At the high school level, Webber’s program is offering a College Prep program, which is a 12-month program designed to help prepare/develop players to move on to the collegiate level. The goal is to move kids’ skill levels along so that they can have better chance at fulfilling their baseball dreams/goals. Webber Academy hopes to give the players immediate feedback, and, hopefully, move their skill sets along faster.

Webber Academy believes that having the player for the entire year will be a big advantage to players and the coaching staff. All activities/practices will try to fit the Webber Academy stated goal of developing “high achieving students, but always respecting others.”

Webber Academy also hopes to run extensive camps with younger players and it is hoped that all Calgary baseball programs will benefit from the camps. It is anticipated that the camps will grow the numbers of kids playing baseball in Calgary, and the rest of Alberta. At the younger age levels, the desire is to not be in competition with other associations, but an additional program to help supplement their present program. The idea is to start small, and success should come easier, and at a higher level, while competing as an older baseball participant.

Webber Academy is also building an Athletic Park in Springbank. The facility, which will be open in the spring of 2022, will have two full-sized fields, with artificial playing surfaces. The complex will also contain a trio of outdoor batting cages, a bullpen training centre, stadium seating with a press box, and one field will include lights. Soon, two additional fields, a soccer pitch, and a state of the art indoor training facility will be completed. The indoor facility (50,000 square feet) will include four batting cages, a full-sized infield, a bullpen area, a weight room, a couple of classrooms, and a restaurant/lounge with a patio overlooking the fields and mountains. A patio, and the entire complex, includes majestic view of the Canadian Rockies.

The hope is that Webber Academy Athletic Park will become a destination location for the Calgary baseball enthusiasts, as well as the Alberta, and the entire Canadian baseball community.

High School / Elite Programs

Tartans ride pitching to first LKSSAA baseball title

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Wallaceburg Tartans starter Logan Klompstra pitches in the first inning of the LKSSAA baseball championship game against the Great Lakes Wolfpack at Andy Johnston Field at Kinsmen Park in Wallaceburg, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. The Tartans won 5-2. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

By Mark Malone, Chatham Daily News

The Wallaceburg (ON) Tartans were well-armed to make history this season.

A pitching staff led by Grade 12 hurlers Logan Klompstra and Keegan Huber allowed only nine runs in seven games as the Tartans captured their first LKSSAA baseball championship.

That duo combined on a one-hitter in a 5-2 win over the Great Lakes Wolfpack in Thursday’s final at Andy Johnston Field at Kinsmen Park.

“Our pitching has been phenomenal all year (and) carried us through, obviously,” coach Linda Nethery said.

But the Tartans are much more than a two-man team, she added.

They went undefeated while outscoring opponents by a combined 53-9.

“Sometimes you have a sprinkling of really good guys and then not so much after that, but we had a solid team of ball players that all had played high level ball,” Nethery said.

Some won a Baseball Ontario ‘B’ championship this year with the Port Lambton 15U Pirates.

“Obviously you hope for the best, but I think we all had high expectations for the season,” Nethery said.

Brayden Kraayenbrink hit an RBI double and Chase Sites hit an RBI single in the LKSSAA final. Huber and Connor McCallum also had one RBI apiece.

The Tartans were held to four hits, but they drew nine walks.

“We had some timely hits, for sure,” Nethery said. “A couple of walks, good patience at bat and then we had a couple pretty key hits.”

Klompstra gave up two unearned runs in five no-hit innings and Huber pitched the final two frames. Each struck out three.

Now the Tartans wait to learn if they’ll resume playing in the spring when OFSAA holds its baseball championship. LKSSAA won’t announce until March if its teams will be allowed to compete at the OFSAA spring events.

“If they can get through SWOSSAA, they have a shot at making a run at OFSAA,” Wolfpack coach Brian Coleman said.

The Wolfpack won OFSAA gold in 2018 and returned to the tournament in 2019.

“Hats off to Wallaceburg,” Coleman said. “… They were probably my favourite team to play this year. They were good ball players, they were classy, the coaches were awesome. It was actually a really good game.”

 

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BC Premier Baseball League

Thunder Roar! UBC Captures first ever BC Junior Premier Baseball Championship

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UBC's Ryan Kennedy celebrates the first score of the game against Whalley in the final game Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Full BCJPBL Championship Wrap-Up

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart

August 30, 2021, Surrey, BC – The UBC Thunder captured their first ever BC Junior Premier Baseball League championship on Sunday afternoon, defeating the host Whalley Chiefs 10-1 on a beautiful day at Whalley Athletic Park in Surrey.

UBC’s Lucas Huynh reacts and flips his bat after walking against the Chiefs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The Thunder broke open a tense, scoreless tie by scoring eight runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and cruised from there, using a solid defence and great pitching to keep Whalley batters at bay and to shut down any potential threats before they got started.

UBC’s Levi Soper delivers a pitch in the final game against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Lucas Soper got the start in the final and while he was not 100% perfect, his defence picked him up early, including a perfect throw to the plate to nail a Chiefs baserunner trying to score and he got some clutch outs himself that kept the game scoreless into the fourth.

UBC catcher Rico Domingo puts the tag on the Chiefs Eric Burshtynski on this play at the plate early in Sunday’s final (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The Thunder used some solid defence against the Chiefs early to keep the game knotted at 0-0 into the fourth inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

When he faltered later in the game, reliever Jaron Palaschuk stepped in to get out of an initial jam and then went the rest of the way to get the final out and begin the celebration.

UBC’s Jaron Palaschuk (left) is congratulated by Freddie Sale after getting UBC out of a jam late in the final against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The Thunder, who finished the regular season with one of the best records in the BCJPBL (21-15), had a bit of a scare en route to the finals, winning a pair of close and tense games in the round robin portion of their tournament Friday, including a 3-1 win over the White Rock Tritons and then holding on to defeat a pesky Victoria Eagles team 3-2.

UBC’s Ryan Kennedy catches North Shore’s Cam McLeod in a rundown in the semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

That was enough to earn them a first place seed and a re-match with White Rock on Saturday in the ultimate play-in game in their pool. White Rock, who had beaten the Eagles 12-9 Friday, earned the re-match by beating the Eagles again Saturday, this time by a close 5-3 score.

The Twins Cam McLeod slides safely into second ahead of the throw to UBC’s Ryan Hsu during the semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

In the play-in game, the Thunder dominated, cruising to a fast 7-0 win and moving them into Sunday’s semi-finals against the North Shore Twins. The Twins earned their way into the semis thanks to a pair of nail-biting round robin wins over the Victoria Mariners (5-4) and the Chiefs (7-6).

They would not have the same luck against the Thunder however, as UBC would score runs in each of the first four innings and cruise to a relatively easy, 13-hit 7-4 win.

Twins left fielder Declan Barry makes a valiant effort for this hit in the semis against UBC (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Relatively easy because starter Freddie Sale went the distance and kept the Twins at bay, allowing the four runs on just seven hits while striking out three.

UBC’s Freddie Sale had a complete game win over North Shore in the semi-finals Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

For the Chiefs, their route to the finals, was straightforward because as hosts, they had a bye to the semi-finals. They did play spoilers early though, defeating the always strong Langley Blaze 6-4 on Friday – a loss that combined with the Blaze’s 4-3 loss to the Mariners knocked them out of contention – before dropping the 7-6 decision to the Twins and an 8-3 decision to the Mariners.

Whalley’s Parkor Sarai (33) and Dio Gama (34) head around the bases en route to scoring on a triple from Ryan Holford in the first semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The Chief’s Ryan Holford strokes a two-RBI triple in the semi-final against the Pirates (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

In the semis, the Chiefs met up with the surprising Mid-Island Pirates (16-20 in the regular season), who in perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament, defeated the (26-8) Coquitlam Reds 3-0 Saturday night in the deciding game of the Pool B round robin to earn their way into the final four.

Whalley reliever Marcus Siemens was solid in relief against the Pirates in the first semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

 

Whalley second baseman Lleyton Anselmo reacts after scoring against the Pirates on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

It appeared in Sunday’s highly emotional semi-final that the Pirates magic would continue, as they held a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning, however the Chiefs would stage an amazing comeback, scoring six runs in the top of the inning and then blanking the Pirates in the bottom half, to escape with the 8-4 win.

The Pirates had plenty to celebrate for most of the game Sunday as they took a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

The Pirates Trevor Foley does his best Freddie Mercury impression after a double against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

In the finals, UBC’s Soper and the Chief’s Dowon Kim went toe-to-toe through the first few innings, both teams helping their pitchers out with solid defence, until Kim seemed to run out of gas in the bottom of the fourth, an inning that just seemed would never end, as the Thunder kept finding ways to score.

Whalley second baseman Lleyton Anselmo looks for the call after putting the tag on the Pirate’s Graham Stephen on this play at second in the first semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Whalley would finally break the goose-egg with a run in the fifth inning, but it would not be enough as the Thunder would add another in each of the fifth and sixth innings to close out the 10-1 win.

The Chief’s Kai Scheck was a key hitting cog for the Chiefs in their route to Sunday’s final (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Like the Premier league finals held over the August long weekend, Sunday’s Junior finals, put as normal a finish on the season as it could, given the delayed start of the season because of COVID and early travel restrictions that saw many teams only play one opponent over the first eight games of the year.

UBC’s Lucas Huynh celebrates a hit by catcher Rico Domingo during the final against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

However, the bottom line is that for all players involved, many of whom have not had the chance to play meaningful games for a season and a half, just being back on the field, playing a game they love, was reward enough. This was evidenced by one Thunder player overhead on the bench just prior to the completion of the finals, “I’m so pumped! We’ve waited two years for this boys!”

The UBC Thunder celebrate their win as Whalley’s Kai Scheck (25) and Head Coach David Hadlow (64) walk off the field (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

Congratulations to the UBC Thunder on their 2021 Junior title and season. And congratulations to the Chiefs, Pirates and Twins on their playoff runs, as well as to all teams in the BCJPBL for making the best of the 2021 season.

The 2021 BC Junior Premier League Champions UBC Thunder (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)

All photos from the Junior Premier Semi-Finals and Final, plus a couple of round robin games on Saturday will eventually find their way to Christian J. Stewart’s web site at https://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/jpbl2021

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Baseball BC

Catching up with Marika Lyszczyk, former Whalley player making baseball history

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Former Whalley Chiefs baseball player Marika Lyszczyk in Sportsnet’s “Top Of Her Game” video, parts of which were filmed on the diamond at Whalley Athletic Park. (Youtube photo)

Arm surgery rehab awaits the Delta resident, the first female catcher to play NCAA men’s baseball

By Tom Zillich -Surrey News Leader

Evidence suggests there’s no stopping Marika Lyszczyk, but surgery has slowed her down a bit.

This month the former Whalley Chiefs baseball player is resting at home in Tsawwassen following rotator cuff repairs in her throwing arm.

“They thought it was my bicep that was a problem, but it was actually my rotator cuff,” Lyszczyk said with a sigh.

“Right now I’m in total immobilization, I can’t move my shoulder. It’s not very fun sleeping.”

With rehab looming, this fall the 20-year-old catcher plans a return trip to New Hampshire’s Rivier University, whose Division 3 team last year made her the first female catcher to play NCAA men’s baseball. It was historic stuff, and Lyszczyk can’t wait to play ball there again.

“I’ll rehab down there and get back into the swing of things,” she said confidently, in a phone conversation.

“I’m itching to get back, because one of the hardest things for me is to not train,” she added with a laugh.

(Story continues below a seven-minute Sportsnet video: “Marika Lyszczyk Breaking Gender Barriers In NCAA Baseball”)

Earlier this summer, despite lingering soreness in her arm, Lyszczyk travelled to Long Island, NY, to play for the Sag Harbor Whalers of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.

It’s the latest stop in a baseball journey that involved her playing four seasons with the Whalley Chiefs, during her high school years, as the first girl to see action in the B.C. Premier Baseball League (PBL).

“It was such an opportunity there, and such a huge foundation for moving forward in my baseball career,” Lyszczyk said of her days with the Chiefs. “The league is great, with some really good players, and it was such a good experience for me, before going to college.”

Her time at Rivier University in 2020 lasted a brief nine or 10 weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a move back home to Delta.

A year later, a summer in the Hamptons was a thrill for Lyszczyk.

“It was great being there – it’s so beautiful, and the community is great,” she raved. “You hear about it with all the celebrities being there, and the people were so amazing. It was a great chance to go there and play with some pretty high-level guys playing D1, D2, so it definitely was a challenge for me.”

Her original summer plan was to also attend Baseball Canada’s women’s national team showcase in Quebec (along with Surrey prospects Stacy Fournier and Claire Eccles), but for Lyszczyk, arm surgery took priority.

“Last year I had some arm pain and I thought it’d go away,” she recalled. “I’ve thrown a lot in my lifetime, practising sometimes five, six days a week, and my arm has been sore, but not like that. I was hoping to take a few months off and it’d be fine, but I finally got a MRI to realize that something was wrong and that I’d need surgery.

“So I played summer ball and it was more like pain control for me, and I was proud of myself for getting through the summer. But it did hold me back in some areas and I knew I needed to get it fixed when I got back home.

“Generally when you go through a rehab like this,” she added, “people tend to come back stronger, and there’s lots of guys who come back from, like, Tommy John Surgery and they end up throwing two miles an hour faster, things like that. It’s pretty cool to see how rehab has changed in that way, and I’m hopeful that I’ll come back even stronger than I was before.”

She hopes the procedure will ultimately allow her to play more baseball in the future.

“I always say that I want to play baseball as long as I can, as long as the opportunities are there for me, and that’s another reason why it was so crucial that I got my arm fixed now, so hopefully I can have a longer playing career,” Lyszczyk explained.

“And once my playing days are over I hope to do on-field commentating and stay in the game afterward, because I couldn’t imagine my life without baseball.”

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