Everett Merchants open their 2012 season Saturday

EVERETT — When Harold Pyatte looks at the roster of his 2012 Everett Merchants, he sees stars. Lots of them.

Of the 23 players listed, nearly half earned first- or second-team all-league honors this spring in the collegiate baseball ranks.

“Our team is basically composed of the top junior-college players in the Northwest along with some (good) four-year college players,” said Pyatte, whose Merchants open their 2012 season Saturday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.

Ryan Sells leads a strong group of returning players who helped the Merchants place second last summer in the Pacific International League.

Sells, who plays third base, the outfield and also pitches, was named the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges MVP season this season. The Everett CC Trojan hit .416 with four home runs and 26 RBI.

Among the other key returnees are outfielder Ty Holm, who led the Merchants in batting last summer with a .429 average; first baseman Sam Parris, who hit .310 and has signed to play next spring at the University of Arizona; infielder Nate Mullins, who batted .355 and belted three home runs; and pitcher Alex Shaffer, who was 1-1 with a 2.25 earned-run average.

Shaffer, a right-hander, pitched this spring at Everett Community College. He gets the start Saturday when the Merchants play the Northwest Honkers in a PIL contest. “He rushes the ball up there at about 90, 91 miles per hour,” Pyatte said of Shaffer.

A notable newcomer is first baseman/designated hitter Bo Folkinga, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s Co-Player of the Year this season at Western Oregon University. Folkinga hit .384 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in leading the Wolves to the NCAA Division II tournament. He was named a third-team NCAA Division II All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

The combination of returnees and newcomers make up “one of the better groups that I’ve had in the last few years,” said Pyatte, who’s entering his 40th season as coach/manager of the Merchants.

The Merchants kick off their season with six consecutive PIL games, the first three at home. The winner of the 10-team PIL qualifies for the National Baseball Congress World Series, scheduled for July 28-Aug. 11 in Wichita, Kan.

The Merchants play their annual Everett Cup game against the minor-league Everett AquaSox on June 13, and “don’t be surprised if we play them really tough this year,” Pyatte said.

Another highlight on the Merchants’ schedule is a nine-game road trip to Alaska. They have games scheduled against the Anchorage Bucs, the Alaska Goldpanners and the Peninsula Oilers. The Merchants’ matchup with the Goldpanners on June 21 will be the “Midnight Sun Game.” The first pitch is scheduled for 10:35 p.m.

“We’ll be challenged,” Pyatte said of the caliber of teams the Merchants will encounter in Alaska. “But I think we’ll be able to hold our own.”

Free clinic

The Merchants players and coaches are holding a free baseball clinic for kids from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Everett Memorial Stadium. For more information, call Pyatte at 425-210-8874.

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