Under-18 Royals split regular season finale with Athletics

Daily Herald File Photo Josh LaClaire, seen here pitching for the Prince Albert Under-18 Royals earlier this season, had a five-RBI performance this weekend against the Saskatoon Athletics.

Playoff opponent still to be determined

The final weekend of the 2021 Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League AA regular season brought some added confidence to the Prince Albert Under-18 Royals.

After suffering lopsided losses to the Saskatoon Athletics at Andy Zwack Field earlier in the year, the Royals earned a measure of revenge on Saturday afternoon with a 15-14 win in Saskatoon.

“The biggest difference this time around was that we got our offence going against Saskatoon’s pitching, which wasn’t the case when we played them here,” Royals head coach Geoff Gay said.

“We faced some adversity in the later innings as they took the lead, but we responded well despite being down a couple of runs.”

The Athletics would have the final say though as they cruised to an 11-1 triumph over the Royals later in the day.

“We got off to a bad start where we allowed seven runs (in the first inning) and when you are up against a pitcher like Kael Flynn, who leads the league in strikeouts, that’s a tough position to be in,” Gay said.

“We were able to get more hits and make more contact on his pitches than we did in our previous game against him though, so we were able to take a positive out of that loss.”

Josh LaClaire led the way on offence for the Royals on Saturday with five runs batted in, while Jack Mortimer and Brady Robin both brought three runners home.

Ben Lefebvre and Bronson Paetsch paced the Royals pitching, as they combined to strike out nine batters in 9 and 2/3 innings.

“We got contributions from all over the lineup once again,” Gay said.

“Our depth really has been our strength throughout the season. There’s six or seven pitchers we can rely on at any time and you never know which player is going to come through for us at the plate.”

With a 15-8-1 record in league play, the Royals were in first place in the SPBL’s North Division and had the fourth best mark in the overall standings following this weekend’s games.

“We’ve really improved a lot as the year has gone on,” Gay said.

“What’s impressed me the most is how our team has responded to adversity, especially when we are in tough situations or when we are in a four-game weekend. It’s a big difference compared to where we were last year.”

The Royals know that they will be playing in next week’s North Division playoffs, but their exact opponent is still to be determined.

“The (Unity) Cardinals and the Athletics still have a couple of games left to play before the regular season ends on Wednesday,” Gay said. “After those games are done, we should have an idea of where things stand.”

The North semifinal will be held on Aug. 3, with the north final taking place on Aug. 5 and the league championship set for Aug. 7.

The Royals will also be competing in the Tier I Under-18 provincials, which will be held in Unity from Aug. 13-15.

That tournament will also feature the Estevan Brewers, Weyburn Beavers, Regina Blue Jays, the North East Expos of Hudson Bay, the Athletics and the host Cardinals.