Voyageurs baseball bonds will connect friends across North America

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There’s no denying that the tie that binds the 2022 Sudbury 18U Voyageurs together is a tight one – probably much stronger than most competitive baseball teams that have taken the Terry Fox Diamonds over the years.

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It’s a bond that one man believes will survive, even if the next leg of their baseball dreams takes them to outposts from West Virginia to South Chicago – or even just around the corner. from the street to the local post. secondary establishment which receives local prospects at the OUA.

It was just part of the conversation as four other team members were credited with confirming their baseball commitments earlier this week at the Baseball Academy, along with Jacob Lariviere (Laurentian Voyageurs), Yanick Loiselle (Prairie State College Pioneers), Braedan Pakkala and Scooter Rienguette (both West Virginia Tech Golden Bears) are all celebrating the news with family and friends.

“We’ve become a very tight-knit group,” Loiselle said as the 19-year-old prepares for Chicago Heights, Ill., about 45 minutes south of Windy City. “We all love what we do; it was just awesome.

It wasn’t always like this for Loiselle, who went through some pretty big changes in her lifestyle in order to pursue that dream.

“When COVID hit I was still overweight,” he said. “Initially, I lost 40 pounds, just for myself. I never really thought about playing college baseball — and if I was going to play, I was just going to stay in town.

“But once I lost weight and got back on the pitch, I had a breakout year next season,” added the starting pitcher who was at the top of his game again on the weekend. -last end, notched for just one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine in a tough 1-0 loss to the Oshawa Legionnaires.

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“That’s when I realized I could probably do it.”

Much like Pakkala and Rienguette, Loiselle has become a true student of the art of throwing, including the fact that change is the only constant when he goes to the mound.

“Against Oshawa, those guys played me last year and the year before that,” he said.

“They all saw me. They saw my fastball, my curveball, my change. So I started incorporating a slider two weeks ago. It’s still a work in progress, but little things like that help.

More than happy to stay home, wearing the same colors he’s proudly sporting this summer, Larivière also needed a change, returning to Sudbury after two summers out of town with the Astros. Ontario to Vaughan. In fact, the local farm ended up playing a huge role in him getting this new opportunity.

“I honestly think it was with the help of my parents, who pushed me through the tough times, taught me to continue to trust the process,” said the 18-year-old who can play in multiple positions, but who is likely to watch one or the other first. or third base as the main option in September. “I started weightlifting (a few years ago) and it caused a big lack of mobility in my game.

“Playing defense was definitely a weak point for me. What really changed things was when I started putting a lot more emphasis on recovery and mobility, staying flexible and hitting the ball hard. I became a better ball player for that reason and now I’m having a good year.

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Truth be told, there will be times when less is more, certainly when it comes to focusing solely on adding strength. That accomplishment is just part of the reason Pakkala caught the eye of West Virginia Tech head coach (and Jean-Gilles Larocque’s friend) Lawrence Nesselrodt, who nabbed Sudbury wide receiver Rilley. Dube this month.

“I knew I had to be more consistent on the mound,” Pakkala said. “My mindset going in was to put the work on my arm, focusing on caring for the arm. I wasn’t really focused on getting bigger and stronger, but more on taking care of the arms and how to move properly, how my body should move as a pitcher.

Given his nature and how much he cares about his current schedule, Pakkala will ride a very tight and interesting line this summer.

“Obviously I always want to help the Vees win,” he noted. “I’m a very competitive guy and I always want to win, but I have to realize there’s a bigger picture at play here.

“Being healthy is something I really need to focus on.”

Thankfully, come fall, Pakkala will have a very familiar roommate by his side in the form of Rienguette as he settles into his home away from home in Beckley, W. Va. It’s certainly not hard to imagine countless conversations about their bounty, with Rienguette offering the following assessment of his shutout of three hits and 11 strikeouts from Oshawa on Saturday.

“They’re first in the league and I shut them down, so that was good,” the pitcher/infielder combo said. “My curve was working well. They had a lot of right-handers, so I could throw the curveball at them and it would be over. They couldn’t touch it that day.

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But as any pitcher well knows, off-speed pitches don’t always enjoy the same degree of letdown, a function of countless variables including temperature and humidity and a host of others under the control of the specific pitcher on the bump.

“I feel like I’m able to adapt,” Rienguette said. “If my curveball isn’t moving as much today as other days, I’ll start it in different places. Changing the grip helps change the action of the break, whether it’s more vertical or horizontal.

Obviously, these guys will have a lot to talk about in the years to come – and being separated by thousands of miles isn’t going to change that anytime soon.

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Garland K. Long