The Voyageurs baseball program enters but year three of its existence, but founder Jean-Gilles Larocque is more than a little excited to see what the U18 squad he is managing can bring to the table in 2019.
"Last year, we had more individual talent, but this year, we have seen more success as a team," noted the local high school educator, referencing the fall exhibition campaign that would see his crew travel to colleges south of the border.
"I see our number one to number nine hitters, and maybe even one to fifteen, as being somewhat interchangeable. That's been part of the success that we have had, in the fall, to be honest with you."
This team is not likely to blow your socks off with raw athleticism. Top of the rotation starter Joe Guzzo exemplifies exactly what Larocque is discussing. "Joe is our guy who logged a lot of innings last year, and will log a lot of innings this year," said Larocque.
"He's the guy who catches you off-guard with his stuff. He's low 80's, from the left side, but he puts in a lot of work and he's a competitor. He probably maxed out his pitch count in 14 of his 15 games last year, because he battles so hard."
Larocque is more than comfortable providing a comment or two about the vast majority of his roster:
Zack Reid, from Newfoundland, took on a leadership role last year on the team and is a great team guy
Tanner Morrison will be graduating this year, played 2B, is kind of a leadoff, two-hole guy who comes up with key hits pretty regularly
Burke Houle, from North Bay, was a pleasant surprise - a corner guy and pitcher, he stepped in during the fall as a catcher and jumped right in - he still needs a little bit of work on his receiving and blocking and stuff like that, but pitchers got comfortable with him in the fall
Cam Docking is a 3-4, middle of the order guy - we're facing 90 MPH and he's pulling the ball, which is nice to see
Caleb Cain-Plante is moving up from 16U and we are looking forward to him doing some good things - he doesn't have to come in here and be "the guy", just be a piece of the puzzle
Chris Benoit recently committed to Laurentian - he pitched a little bit for us two years ago, a little more last year, and a decent amount in the fall - he throws kind of three quarter, which gets him a lot of ground balls
With graduation moving along the likes of Parker Savard, Brett Melanson and Rilley Dub�, Larocque and company used the fall schedule to do a little experimenting. "We wanted to see where the players are at, get a feel for the U16s, where they fit in, where do we see them playing," he said.
"Some players played different positions than what they may have been used to. It's not about wins and losses. That's sometimes hard on the kids, but I think they have bought in now. Assessment is much more valuable."
Earning a promotion to the Elite Baseball League of Ontario U18 Premier Division after their inaugural season, the Voyageurs posted a record of 6-9 in year two, looking to move up another notch or two this summer.
"If we do a good job in the off-season with our pitching, we're going to be able to compete on a consistent basis," said Larocque. "Throughout the fall, against any of the college teams that we played, we were able to hit. Middle of the pack is realistic."
The 2019 edition of the U18 Voyageurs includes Ben McLaughlin, Braeden Dub�, Burke Houle, Caleb Cain-Plante, Cameron Docking, Carter Magee, Christopher Benoit, Fraser Trivett, Joe Guzzo, Joshua Macneil, Justin Vaillancourt, Liam Socransky, Logan Mcknight, Matt Obradovich, Tanner Morrison and Zack Reid.