Under-18 Royals make strong first impression

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Brady Robin slides into third base during the Prince Albert Under-18 Royals season opener against the Unity Cardinals on Saturday afternoon at Andy Zwack Field

The long wait was well worth for it the Prince Albert Under-18 Royals as they kicked off their 2021 Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League AA campaign this weekend.

Following a narrow 4-2 loss and a rain-shortened 10-10 tie with the Unity Cardinals at Andy Zwack Field on Saturday, the Royals would go on to sweep the Lloydminster Twins on Sunday with 7-4 and 15-5 triumphs on their home field.

“Our team defence was really strong, which allowed us to be consistent all weekend,” Royals coach Geoff Gay said. “It took us a while to get our bats going, but the defence really kept us in all four games.”

The focus on fielding has been something the team has been working on since they started their indoor practices earlier this year.

“Our defence and our pitching accuracy were the two things we’ve talked a lot about and I’m really pleased with how the guys responded this weekend,” Gay said. “I think we only had one error in all four games, which is really good for our team.”

The Royals also got key contributions at the plate during their opening four games.

Bronson Paetsch led the way with 10 hits, while Jack Mortimer had a trifecta of triples and an inside-the-park home run on his way to driving in eight runs during the weekend.

“We can have all the practices we want but you need to get into a game situation to get the timing down,” Gay said. “As the weekend progressed, we saw everyone get to a point where they were comfortable at the plate.”

Another key factor to the Royals success was their pitching, as Brady Robin, Ben Lefebvre, Dawson Paterson, Josh LaClaire, Nic Nye and Paetsch threw a combined 27 strikeouts over the course of 26 innings.

“We really like our pitching and I think the depth we have there is going to help us out a lot, especially during four-game weekends like the one we just had,” Gay said.

The Royals have nine players back from last year’s roster, which posted a 3-15 record and lost a 13-5 playoff contest to the North Battleford Beavers.

“I know those returning guys didn’t have the season they wanted last year and they’ve been much more focused already this year and leading the way for our new players,” Gay said.

“We’ve talked a lot already about how we want to be a strong team from top to bottom. You can’t win a game with just one or two guys. You need to have strengths all through the lineup and I think our guys are really taking that to heart.”

The Royals will be back at Andy Zwack Field on Saturday for 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. meetings with the Beavers.

They will then host the Regina White Sox at noon and 3 p.m. Sunday.