Building for the future

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald The Prince Albert Under-18 Royals are much more spread out as they watch the action this season as they follow the COVID-19 regulations that have been put in place by Baseball Sask.

U18 Royals working through challenges in an unusual season

With the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the start of the 2020 Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League’s Midget AA season until July, the Prince Albert Under-18 Royals have taken advantage of a campaign that would have normally wrapped up by now.

“Everyone was pretty keen on getting back out on the field and playing again as we waited everything out,” Royals coach Geoff Gay said.

“Our commitment level sometimes starts to wane a little bit as we get later into the summer, but that hasn’t been the case this years. We have a bunch of great young guys on the team who are eager to learn.”

Following a hard-fought 8-6 loss to the 3-4-1 Saskatoon Athletics at Andy Zwack Field on Thursday night, the Royals have a 2-10 record to sit in a tie for eighth place in the standings with the Regina Blue Jays as they battle for a playoff spot.

Although they are currently mired in a nine-game losing skid, Gay is pleased with the progress that the squad has made.

“We’re fighting some injuries right so we have a few of our affiliated players up on the roster and gaining some valuable experience,” said Gay, who is joined on the coaching staff by Darrin Rask. “Our bats are struggling a little bit at the moment, but I really liked our pitching (Nic Nye and Lukas Robin) and our compete level in this game.

“Looking forward, we have two third-year players (Logan Fontaine and Griffen Norton-Tibbs) that will be graduating, but we have nine guys that are coming back. We’re trying to correct as many mistakes as we can right now as we look towards 2021.”

In addition to the late start to the season, there have been a few other changes that the Royals have had to adapt to over the summer.

“We have to spread everyone one out by six feet, so there’s only a couple of guys in the dugout and everyone else is spread out away from the dugout,” Gay said. “There’s also a new rule where each team has to handle their own baseballs when they are on defence. That took a little bit to get used to…but the guys are used to it now.

“Our schedule is completely different as well. We would previously travel to every town in the league, but this year we only made one trip south and that was a day trip to Lumsden.”

The Royals will return to action on Wednesday evening for a 6:30 p.m. matchup against the 9-0 Saskatoon Blue Jays at Andy Zwack Field.