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St. Albert ballplayers make 2024 Edmonton Riverhawks roster

Club broke West Coast League attendance record last season

A radiance of former St. Albert Cardinals are among the 50-plus collegiate-aged ball players listed on the Edmonton Riverhawks roster heading into the 2024 West Coast League (WCL) season, which gets underway this weekend.

The WCL is a collegiate baseball league with teams located in Alberta, British Columbia, and the states of Oregon and Washington. Collegiate means the league's players currently or will soon play at the university or college level.

The Riverhawks, which are heading into their third season in organization history, have always had some St. Albert talent on the roster, and 2024 will be no different as Brady Kobitowich and Tylor Jans are both returning for their third and final seasons with the team.

RELATED: Minor baseball alumni to play for Riverhawks

Set to join pitchers Kobitowich and Jans at RE/MAX Field in Edmonton for the summer are brothers Andrew and Michael Yusypchuk of Edmonton, who are also both pitchers and played some minor baseball in St. Albert.

The four hurlers will join a Riverhawks team which struggled to string many wins together last season, and hasn't been able to make the playoffs in the team's brief history.

Despite the wins not coming easy, the Riverhawks broke a league record for fan attendance last season with over 100,000 people packing the bleachers in just 27 games.

For Kobitowich, who played all of his minor baseball in St. Albert, the 2024 season is set to be something special regardless of the Riverhawks' success, as the university senior says it will likely be the last season of his baseball career.

“This is going to be, pretty much, the end of my career,” Kobitowich said in an interview. “[Playing for the Riverhawks has] been some of the most fun baseball I've played, just being able to play at home and play in the place that I kind of grew up watching games at.”

“I just thought if I could play one more season to end my career, it'd be a pretty special place to play with all the fans that we get, and being able to play in front of my friends and family one more time.”

Given that this might be his last year of baseball, Kobitowich said he hopes the team will be a bit more competitive than last season as he'd like to bring WCL post-season action to the Hawks' faithful.

“We were one game away in our first year as a team, and then last year we weren't very good, but I hope this year that we're way more competitive and can bring a playoff game home.”

Unfortunately for the Riverhawks, the team will start the season without Kobitowich and last year's starting catcher Tommy Takayoshi. Both play for the Niagara University Purple Eagles in Lewiston, NY, who won their first conference championship on May 25, ending a nearly 40-year stretch of futility dating back to 1986, when the team started competing under the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The Purple Eagles' Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship victory last weekend secured their spot in the 2024 NCAA baseball tournament, which gets underway this weekend with regionals, a double-elimination competition of four teams. The Purple Eagles are set to compete in the Stillwater Regional, which is being hosted by the Oklahoma State University Cowboys in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Besides the Cowboys, the Purple Eagles will also be competing against the University of Florida Gators and the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.

If Kobitowich and Takayoshi win their Regional, they'll move on to what the NCAA calls the “Super Regionals,” which will take place the second weekend of June. Winners of the Super Regionals then compete in the NCAA World Series, scheduled to take place between June 14-24.

“As a team we've been playing awesome,” Kobitowich said of the Purple Eagles. “I've never been on a team that's been so tight and I think it shows with how we've been playing.”

“We're just kind of one unit, and I think our offence just flows together as whenever one person is hitting, everybody gets going and it's the same with our pitching staff too.”

The Gazette was unable to reach either of the Yusypchuk brothers, the younger of whom, Michael, is joining the Riverhawks as an 18-year-old after playing with the Canadian Junior National Team earlier this season with trips to Dunedin, Florida and the Dominican Republic for training.

Come 2025, Michael will be looking to crack the Missouri State University baseball team, which offered him a scholarship when he was just 16 after he was a dominating force on the mound for the 2022 provincial championship-winning U18 AAA St. Albert Cardinals.

Michael's older brother Andrew recently finished his first season of NCAA ball with the Southern Illinois University Salukis, who lost in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship semi-finals on May 25. 

Although Andrew and Michael will join forces for the first time with the Riverhawks, the camaraderie might be short-lived as their respective school teams compete in the MVC.

The Riverhawks kick-off the 2024 season with a six game road trip starting on May 31, after which the team will play their home-opener on Friday, June 7.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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