Under-18 Royals split weekend road games in Unity and Lloydminster

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Bronson Paetsch, seen here during a game at Andy Zwack Field earlier this season, was a key performer for the Prince Albert Royals this weekend.

The start of the Prince Albert Under-18 Royals ten-game road swing was an absolute roller coaster.

In the first of two contests for the Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League AA division squad on Saturday, the Royals fell behind early and lost a lopsided 23-7 affair to the 12-4-1 Unity Cardinals.

Their rematch later that day was a much tighter affair, but the Cardinals completed the sweep with a 13-12 victory.

“We were just coming off a game (against the Saskatoon Athletics at Andy Zwack Field last Tuesday) where we struck out 18 times and all of sudden we found ourselves down 10-0 in the first inning to Unity,” Royals coach Geoff Gay said.

“We had to be realistic about what our goals were for the day, which included seeing our bats come back to life. We saw that at the end of our first game and we played a lot better in the second half of our doubleheader to give ourselves a chance in the last at bat to try and get a split against Unity.”

The Royals would get back into the win column on Sunday with a 12-4 victory over the host Lloydminster Twins.

“We didn’t have a lot of energy at first but then when Josh LaClaire hit a 375-foot home run in the top of the third, that seemed to light a spark under the guys and that set us on our way,” Gay said.

The final game of the weekend was an incredibly dramatic affair as the Royals scored five unanswered runs in the top of the seventh inning to pick up a 12-8 triumph over the 4-13-1 Twins.

“To start off the game we had a really strong pitching performance from Bronson Paetsch (where he struck out six batters in four and a third innings of work) that got us going in the right direction,” Gay said. “However, they (Lloydminster) fought their way back into the game to take an 8-7 lead into the top of the seventh.

“In that inning, Cody Morash and Nathan Gay found their way on base and Ben Lefebvre was able to come up with a big two-out hit to put us in the lead. That just seemed to spark the team once again and that allowed us to get some insurance runs.”

Paetsch led the offence during the weekend as he had a trio of singles and doubles on his way to driving home 11 runs.

In addition to his home run, LaClaire had two doubles and a trifecta of triples during his nine-RBI weekend.

Paetsch also struck out nine batters in a pair of appearances, while Lefebvre and LaClaire sat aside five players each.

The Royals, who are now in fifth place in the league standings with an 11-6-1 record, will resume their road swing on Saturday as they’ll visit the 5-9 White Butte Broncos in Balgonie.

“The thing we’ve learned over the years is that it doesn’t matter what anyone’s record is in this league,” Gay said. “If you aren’t completely on your game, you have a chance of losing, so you have to be ready to go in all aspects once you take to the field.”

Prior to their trip to Balgonie, the Under-18 Royals will face their Under-15 counterparts in an exhibition game at Andy Zwack Field on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.