YAKIMA, WA — After a summer without collegiate baseball in the Yakima Valley, the Pippins are preparing to return to West Coast League play next June.

The 2020 WCL season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the lost season, the league grew to 15 teams for 2021 by adding three new Canadian franchises. The Pippins will host one of those teams, the Kamloops NorthPaws, in the season-opening three-game series at Yakima County Stadium beginning June 4.

“It’s been a frustrating year for everyone, everywhere. We’re looking forward to getting back on the diamond next summer and helping to build a sense of normalcy and community again,” Pippins general manager Jeff Garretson said. “Adding three new teams for 2021 gives us all another reason to be excited about the return of summer collegiate baseball.”

The Pippins will play a 32-game home schedule — up from a planned 30-game schedule for 2020 — and will host nine of the league’s other 14 teams at home. Likewise, Yakima Valley will visit nine teams next summer. The Pippins will round out their home schedule with five nonleague games.

Yakima Valley will host Kamloops, Ridgefield, Corvallis, Walla Walla, Bellingham, Kelowna, Bend, Cowlitz and Wenatchee. The Pippins will travel to each of those teams except Cowlitz, and will travel to Port Angeles instead.

In previous years, each team played nearly every other team in the league. But with expansion, extensive travel time, travel expenses, and available playing dates forced the league’s board of directors to take a different approach to scheduling.

COVID-19 also played a role in development of the league schedule.

“The approach is to still play as many teams as we could with an eye toward limiting long-distance travel and costs and keeping safety for everyone top of mind,” Garretson said. “We want fans to see as many of the league’s great players as we can, while also acknowledging we may need to be flexible with ongoing pandemic-related issues and restrictions that communities may be facing at the time.

“Our No. 1 focus is safety for fans, staff, players and coaches of all teams,” Garretson added. “No one can predict right now what things will look like next spring and summer, but we’ll actively work with local health officials and abide by the local and state guidelines to keep us all safe.” 

For 2021, the Pippins won’t face the other two new teams to the league — the Edmonton Riverhawks and the Nanaimo NightOwls — and also won’t play Victoria or Portland.

Because of the increased number of teams, the league’s playing season will start on June 1 and end Aug. 12 — an addition of three days at the beginning of the summer and four at the end. The league also suspended the All-Star Game for 2021.

Division alignments and the WCL’s playoff format will be announced later, Garretson said.

Season tickets and vouchers are currently on sale at PippinsTickets.com or by calling 509-575-4487, with holiday discounts available through the end of the year. Single-game tickets will go on sale in January.

The Pippins 2021 schedule (home games in bold):

JUNE: 4-6 — vs. Kamloops; 8-10 — at Bellingham; 11-13 — vs. Ridgefield; 15-17 — at Wenatchee; 19-21 — vs. Corvallis; 22-24 — at Ridgefield; 25-27 — vs. Walla Walla29-30 — Cascade Collegiate Showcase.

JULY: 1 — vs. NW Star; 2-4 — at Bend; 5-7 — at Walla Walla; 9-11 — vs. Bellingham13-15 — vs. Kelowna; 16-18 — at Kamloops; 20-22 — vs. Bend; 23-25 — at Kelowna; 27-29 — vs. Cowlitz30-31 — vs. Highline.

AUGUST: 3-5 — at Corvallis; 6-8 — at Port Angeles; 10-12 — vs. Wenatchee.