Coming off of a competitive 2021 season, the Ontario Nationals head into the off-season with high hopes for 2022.
After a covid-shortened 2020 campaign, the return of a normal CPBL season was one of the biggest high points for the President of the Nationals, Jeremy Jayaweera. He stated, “playing in a regular CPBL schedule after everything we have all been through was crucial for our players.”
“I think each team held their own and showed that the Nationals are capable of playing at the highest level each day. The most important highlight of the year was to see all of our 2021 grads continue their careers; overall that is the biggest driving factor on why we all do what we do.”
The 2021 graduate class finished their season strong, going 6-3 in 18u league play before heading off to their respective colleges.
Meanwhile, the Nats’ 17u, 15u, and 14u teams all competed in the playoffs this past season. With their 17u team going 19-10, and as they transition up to 18u, with five players committed to schools so far, Jayaweera has high expectations of the group.
He noted, the 18u club, which Chris Iltshishin will lead, “has a lot of veterans with unfinished business. Our pitching staff at the 18u level is a very strong group and will look to lead the way come time for the CPBL season. We hope to challenge for a championship before our grads head off to school.”
Views from the first weekend with our 2021-2022 rosters. Can’t wait for more! pic.twitter.com/nhLceCoRLW
— Ontario Nationals (@NatsOnt) September 13, 2021
Meanwhile, Jayaweera echoed a similar message for the new crop of players that will compete in the 17u loop. “With the core group still together, we have added some very key pieces all around that will definitely come in and challenge our opponents….Once they find their groove, it will be hard for any opponent to keep runs off the board.”
The incoming 16u club slotted in the final spot in the 15u championship bracket; however, after a slow finish, Jayaweera expects them to bounce back well in 2022. “Coming up from 15u, this team went through some growing pains late in the season but still found a way to make the championship bracket.”
“This team has what it takes defensively and offensively to compete at the 16u level. Overall, we believe the pitching staff will lead this team from day one.”
The Nats’ two 14u teams from the past season will both move up to the 15u level, with Mark Johnston and Matt Berger at the helm. Jayaweera expects both clubs to contend for a title after strong 14u years.
Meanwhile at the 14u level, Jayaweera likes what he’s seen thus far from his new group. “The expectations for this group will be learning to play the right way each game. As we know at the 14u level anything can happen at any given time; hoping our players come out with energy and compete every time they step on the field.”
Had a great morning playing @WCCCBaseball. Thank you to Coach Draghi and the team for the game today.
Tomorrow we make our final stop in Buffalo, NY to take on @GriffsBaseball pic.twitter.com/R5AtwxAVg9
— Ontario Nationals (@NatsOnt) October 2, 2021
The Nats wrapped up their 2021 season with a memorable fall trip which Jayaweera described as “more than we could ask for.”
“Understanding why those players are at the next level was the most beneficial for our players. It’s easy to compete one day and not the next; but our players proved and showed our staff they are capable at playing at the next level because of the effort they came out with each night,” stated Jayaweera.
“It’s also an eye opening experience on what college baseball looks like, late nights, bus rides and your teammates. With everything happening in the world with COVID and rules; I believe our organization not only pulled it off, but gave each athlete on the trip something they will never forget. It’s not everyday you get to play under the lights at Foley Field.”
With a positive 2021 season in the books, the Nationals look to pick up where they left off when the 2022 campaign kicks off in the spring.