Lefties pitcher Dillon Dibrell throws in the first inning in the first game of a doubleheader against Kamloops in 2022 at Port Angeles Civic Field. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Lefties pitcher Dillon Dibrell throws in the first inning in the first game of a doubleheader against Kamloops in 2022 at Port Angeles Civic Field. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

WEST COAST BASEBALL: Lefties season begins Friday

First home game at Civic Field on June 9

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Lefties return to action this weekend for their sixth West Coast League wooden bat baseball season with a 57-game schedule, including games at Civic Field on the Fourth of July holiday.

The Lefties begin play with a six-game road trip and hold their home opener June 9 against a team that has never come to Port Angeles before, the Springfield (Ore.) Drifters. They will have 30 home games total.

One change this year is the Lefties will be playing fewer exhibition games against teams. For the first time in a while, there won’t be any games against the Northwest Honkers, but the Lefties do host a three-game series in July against the Pacific International League’s Redmond Dudes.

Team owner Matt Acker said one reason for fewer exhibition games is the schedule is fuller now with a bunch of new teams added to the WCL. The league is now up to 16 teams.

The WCL features college stars on summer break looking to get attention from Major League scouts and looking to get used to hitting with a wooden bat as opposed to aluminium bats used in college.

Acker said the team will feature a lot of players from Hawaii, Texas, California and the northeastern part of the U.S. In fact, there will be five Hawaii Pacific players and one from Hawaii-Hilo.

Returning from last year’s squad was one of the most popular Lefties, BY Choi of the New Mexico Military Institute. Choi hit .281 with four home runs and eight doubles for the Lefties last year. Choi absolutely tore the cover off the ball for NMMI this year, hitting .448 with 15 home runs, 11 triples, 20 doubles and 80 RBIs in only 201 at-bats. His slugging percentage was .881.

Devean Alvarez, another player from Riverside City College, returns this year. Last year, he hit .242 for the Lefties.

Acker said players to watch are catcher Sam Adams from Stephen F. Austin University, pitcher Nelson Smith from Arkansas-Little Rock, pitcher Drew Standen from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Chris Massa from Long Island University, CJ Lewis, a pitcher from Jackson State, among others.

“I’m really excited about this team. This is a great roster,” Acker said. “We are in as good of a position right now on paper as we’ve ever been.”

One change this year is, like Major League Baseball, there will be a pitch clock, so fans can expect games to be a bit shorter.

A big highlight to the schedule will be a July 4 game against the Wenatchee Apple Sox that will begin at 7:15 p.m. The Victoria HarbourCats visit Port Angeles June 12-14 and there are six-game homestands from June 20-25 (Nanaimo and Kelowna), July 4-9 (Wenatchee and Redmond) and July 14-20 (Bend and Kamloops). The season finishes up with a three-game home series with Bellingham Aug. 4-6. Playoffs begin on Aug. 7. The Lefties not only host a game on July 4, they will be playing in Nanaimo on July 1 for Canada Day.

The Lefties’ longest road trip will be Aug. 1-3 to Edmonton, Alberta.

One change this year for the Lefties is the team will have a group of interns working as trainers, team managers and broadcasters. The games will be broadcast on Facebook Live and the West Coast League app, called WCL Live.

These interns include Maisie Zahn, athletic trainer; Chance Parenteau, analytics intern; Evan Schmeizer, broadcasting intern; Jerika D’Acquisto (Washington State), sports management and broadcasting; and Evan Bates (Central Washington), sports management.

“This is the most talented group we’ve ever had as far as video production and broadcasting,” Acker said. Jacob Thrush will be the assistant general manager.

A lot of players won’t be available until likely mid or late June because a number of schools are still playing postseason baseball. In fact, the Lefties manager this season, Carlos Ramirez, can’t quite join the team yet because the junior college team he coaches, Weatherford out of Dallas, is in the Juco Division I World Series. For the time being, Acker will be running practices and filling in as coach, but Ramirez will be expected to take over as soon as possible.

With players missing in college postseason, fans can expect to see a few local players help fill in during some early season games and possibly late-season games. One of those for sure is Kole Acker, a senior pitcher for the Port Angeles Roughriders who has committed to Mount Hood Community College.

And as always, the team is very much in need of more host families for players. Families get free season tickets and get an end-of-season barbecue. The team feeds the players on road trips and after home games. If people want to help host a player or two, they can contact Bree Sheaffer at 570-541-0219 or email bree@leftiesbaseball.com.

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