The Prince Albert U18 Royals were knocked out of league playoffs on Wednesday, but look to build on that experience heading into provincials.
The Royals fell 11-1 to the Saskatoon Athletics, ending their league championship hopes, but coach Geoff Gay said there are plenty of positives.
“Despite the lopsided score, one of the encouraging parts of our playoff game was that our defence made some pretty strong plays throughout the game,” Gay said during a phone interview on Thursday. “We’ll build off that going into provincials.”
Wednesday’s contest marked the fifth time the two teams had played each, and the fourth time they faced league strikeout leader Kael Flynn, who took the mound for the A’s.
The two teams split a double header to close out the regular season, with PA winning the first game 15-14 and Saskatoon taking the second 11-1.
Ben Lefebvre lead the way for the Royals with two hits on Wednesday, and Bronson Paetsch had the club’s lone RBI, but as with previous outings against Flynn, the Royals had difficulty generating offence.
“It was really a similar story,” Gay said. “He’s the league leader in strikeouts and we just couldn’t get our bats going against their pitching.”
The Royals are still in contention for a provincial title. They’re one of eight teams scheduled to take the field in Unity when the U18 AA Tier 1 tournament begins on Aug. 13.
Gay said he likes the team’s chances in the tournament, where depth becomes more important than having one or two top players.
“We’re built for a tournament such as this,” he said. “The league playoffs are a little tougher. It’s one and done. The provincial playoffs, though, you have several opportunities and you’ll get to see a lot more pitching from the various teams. The stronger depth you have, the better chance you have at winning.”
The Royals will face the Regina White Sox in their opening game in Pool B at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 13. They’ll follow up with games against the Weyburn Brewers and Regina Blue Jays on Aug. 14, with tie-breakers, semi-finals and the gold medal game scheduled for Aug. 15.
“All three teams are in our league, and we’ve played one of the teams already this year and had some good success,” Gay said. “We think we’ll be competitive in our pool. If we come to play, we should do well.”
Pool A consists of the Saskatoon Athletics, Estevan Brewers, North East Expos and Unity Cardinals.