Lefties Roberto Nunez III returns safely to first base last summer at Civic Field in Port Angeles. Nunez, who hit .330 for Port Angeles last season, will return this year along with 9 other players. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)

Lefties Roberto Nunez III returns safely to first base last summer at Civic Field in Port Angeles. Nunez, who hit .330 for Port Angeles last season, will return this year along with 9 other players. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)

WEST COAST LEAGUE BASEBALL: Port Angeles Lefties bring back a lot of familiar faces

Players coming from Japan, Korea and Saipan

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles Lefties fans will see a lot of familiar faces this West Coast League baseball season as the team is bringing back more returning players than ever before.

The Lefties season starts at 6:35 p.m. today with a nonleague home opener against the Redmond Dudes, a Pacific International League team. School kids get free admission tonight and Thursday night for the two-game series against the Dudes.

The Lefties play in the wooden bat West Coast League that features some of the best college players in the country. Major League players such as Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners, 2020 Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and Baltimore Orioles star Adley Rutschman have all played in the WCL, and numerous WCL players are drafted by MLB teams every year, including Lefties’ alums B.Y. Choi, Sean Roby, Kevin Kendall, Trayson Kubo, Zane Petty, Carter Loewen, Frankie Scalzo and Damiano Palmegiani.

The WCL features teams in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada, Washington and Oregon.

The Lefties bring back a total of 10 players from last year, including their two biggest stars — infielder Roberto Nunez of Embry-Riddle University of Prescott, Ariz., and pitcher Colby Scheuber of Aberdeen. Scheuber pitched last year at Grays Harbor Community College and now pitches for Salem University.

Nunez nearly won the WCL batting title last year. He finished the season by batting .330 and was second in the WCL with 63 hits. He also had 10 stolen bases.

Scheuber, a late addition to the team last summer, is a semi-local product from tiny Ocosta High School, enrollment 160. He put up some spectacular numbers for the Lefties. He finished third in the WCL with an ERA of 2.16 in 50 innings of work.

“That’s been my goal for some time,” said Lefties owner Matt Acker. “One of the formulas for success is having a lot of returning players. They have a connection to the community, they want to be here. It sets a tone.”

Also returning is the Lefties’ version of Shohei Ohtani, Brock Mayer of Point Loma Nazarene University. Mayer pitched and played the field, batting .271 for the season in 59 at-bats and striking out 34 batters in 31 innings pitched.

Other returning players include pitchers Jake Cumming of Nevada. Acker said Cumming can hit 96 mph on his fastball.

Pitchers Cade Stuart (Edmonds CC) and Ryan Wike (University of Jamestown) are also returning. Wike has played parts of a couple of seasons for the Lefties.

Other position players returning include catchers Travis Helm (Central Washington) and Julio Vasquez (Henderson State) and infielder/outfielder Aiden Arriaga of Point Loma Nazarene.

Local products

There are two local products on this year’s team, Kole Acker and John Vaara. Acker, an all-Olympic League side-armer, pitched for the Port Angeles Roughriders and Wilder Baseball Club and pitched for the Lefties.

Vaara, who is 6-foot-9, pitched for the Riders and Wilder. He pitches now for Edmonds CC.

Acker said Vaara has been battling injuries since he played in Port Angeles and this year is finally healthy. He got in to five games this year for Edmonds and had an ERA of 1.80.

Players to watch

Another interesting aspect of this year’s team is its international flavor, with several players from Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea and even the Northern Mariana Islands.

“We’ve got kids from all over the place,” Acker said.

Pitcher Takuma Sato (Mount Hood CC) is from Osaka, Japan. Outfielder Ryoma Imai (Mount Hood) is from Kanagawa, Japan, and infielder Kosei Suzuki is from Saitama, Japan. Insfielder Jumhyuk Kwon is from Gyeonggi Do, Korea.

Acker said a player to watch will be infielder Spencer Dickinson. He is from Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands and attends Oklahoma Baptist.

“He the first player from Saipan [which only has a population of 43,000] to play college baseball. He has a great personality,” Acker said.

Acker said some of the top players on the team that he expects could be drafted by MLB teams include Cumming and Jack Joyce, a pitcher at Mount Hood.

Outfielder Ethan Kodama of the University of Californa, Berkeley, is also getting attention from scouts. Jack Kleveno plays at a Div. I Utah, and Colin Spear is another Div. I player from Nevada.

Nunez is also bringing a couple of from Embry-Riddle [an aeronautical school in Arizona and Florida] — pitchers Parker Cadacio and Eric Schumann.

Staff

There is a new coaching staff this year with head coach Donald Brais taking over. He is an assistant coach at Chaffey College, which has been the source of several Lefties players over the past few years, including pitcher Joshua Verkuilen this season.

Brais is joined by pitching coach Tanner Knapp, who pitched for the Kelowna Falcons of the WCL and is now the pitching coach at California State University, San Bernardino, again the source of many Lefties players over the years.

The assistant coach is Adrian Alvarez Jr., the head coach of Webb Schools of California.

Also, Lefties games will be streamed live again on Facebook Live with Thomas Johnson of the University of Southern California doing the announcing.

Changes coming

Many of the improvements to the stadium this year were to the locker room and other parts of Civic Field, Acker said. “We did a lot of stuff that people won’t necessarily see.”

However, big changes are coming in 2025. The Lefties will be installing a video board at Civic and new seating. The West Coast League is also adding a team in Salem, Ore., in 2025.

Schedule

Acker said one change this year is the Lefties were able to schedule more nonleague games this summer. Mondays are an off day. Weekday and Saturday games will generally be 6:30 p.m. unless there is a special event scheduled, and Sunday games will be 1:30 p.m.

These first two games against the Dudes are nonleague contests. The Lefties then go on the road for their WCL opener Friday against the Wenatchee AppleSox.

The AppleSox come to Port Angeles for the Lefties’ league opener on Tuesday for a three game series. The Lefties will then play a new opponent, the Seattle Gumbaroos, another member of the PIL, from June 7-9.

The Lefties have a long homestand from June 18-25 and Ridgefield, Kelowna and the Dudes, then have three home stands in July, including a July 4 home game against Nanaimo.

The Lefties are home from July 3-7 (Nanaimo and Bellingham) and July 12-16, 18 (Kamloops, Nanaimo, the Seattle Fish Sticks and Redmond Dudes).

The Lefties finally host their cross-strait rivals, the Victoria HarbourCats, on July 22-24 and host another new opponent, the Everett Merchants of the PIL, on July 25.

The Lefties also have a long home stand to finish the season in August, playing the Edmonton Riverhawks and Cowlitz Black Bears from Aug. 2-8.

The Lefties’ longest road trips will be from June 11-17 to Walla Walla and Corvallis, June 26 to July 2 in Victoria and Edmonton and July 26 to Aug. 1 in Kelowna and Nanaimo.

KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS Lefties shortstop Aiden Arriaga steps on the bag at second before the throw to first for a double play against Edmondton last summer at Civic Field in Port Angeles. Arriaga returns to the Lefties this season.

KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS Lefties shortstop Aiden Arriaga steps on the bag at second before the throw to first for a double play against Edmondton last summer at Civic Field in Port Angeles. Arriaga returns to the Lefties this season.

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