The Saskatoon Berries played their first home game on Tuesday


“The support the city showed and just the atmosphere on the whole field was great today,” said Berries head coach Joe Carnahan.

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With a decisive blow on Tuesday at 7 p.m. sharp, the era of the Saskatoon Berries officially began in the home game at NexGen Patch in Cairns Field.

In front of a sold-out stadium of 2,200 fans, Saskatoon product Ryan Olchoway witnessed him throw out the first pitch – an exciting moment for both Saskatoon and him.

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“Ever since I found out I'd be playing in the first home game, I've been looking forward to this moment,” said Olchoway, who played on a slightly older version of the same field for three years in high school.

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“I was nervous, excited, I had all kinds of emotions. Being a kid from Saskatoon, playing on this field five or six years ago and now being back playing summer ball is a cool experience.”

Other Saskatoon products who also started for the Berries in their hometown included right fielder Payton McHarg, designated hitter Cory Wouters and left fielder Nolan Sparks. Carnduff's Carter Beck also started in center field, while Dundurn's Oakland Flodell came in as a relief runner.

Unfortunately, the Regina Red Sox spoiled Saskatoon fans' first home game, winning the Western Canadian Baseball League game 8-4. Despite the result, players and coaches were thrilled with the crowd at the first college baseball game in Saskatoon since the Yellow Jackets last played 10 years ago.

“The support that the city showed and just the atmosphere on the whole field today was great,” said Berries head coach Joe Carnahan.

“The boys had a lot of fun and enjoyed themselves. Of course I would have liked a better result in the end. But in terms of the atmosphere and the energy in the stands, it was great.”

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Nolan Sparks, a left fielder and product of Saskatoon, said more than once, “It was amazing” when speaking of the experience of playing in front of a home crowd. “I thought the crowd showed up well and everyone was super excited and into it. It's just a shame we couldn't get a win for the guys, but it was great.”

The Berries are behind early this season and fell to 0-3 after the loss. It was also their third straight loss to their provincial rival Red Sox, having lost 5-4 on Saturday and 3-0 in Regina on Sunday. Carnahan sees room for improvement and patience.

“We just have to be able to hit better, and that was the case toward the end of the game,” said Carnahan, a four-time WCBL Manager of the Year.

“We had a couple of guys that weren't as good in school, so you could say we're lacking a little bit on the fastballs. Our timing is a little bit off. Towards the end of the game, we got a little better at hitting the barrels a little bit better. We've got a good group of guys. We've got a good roster. It's just a matter of putting it all together.”

Olchoway also sees a lot of potential in his environment.

“We have a lot of talent on this team that can do a lot of good things,” said Olchoway, who returned to Saskatoon from the Ottawa University Braves in Kansas. “We have a lot of depth, so anyone can be called up at any time. We have a good chance to go far this year.”

The Berries' next home games are Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. when the Lethbridge Bulls visit NexGen Patch at Cairns Field.

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