Premier Pirates gain prestige
The Nanaimo Pirates became a powerhouse team in the premier league last season, and now the challenge is to stay there.
The Hub City Paving Pirates start playing for another B.C. Premier Baseball League pennant this Saturday (April 7) with a home doubleheader.
The group could be as good or better than last year’s team. One thing that’s certain is that it’s a more confident bunch.
“That’s kind of been our problem,” said Colby Morgan, Pirates pitcher. “Before last year, we never knew how good we are.”
Now they know and so they aren’t afraid to set lofty goals. A year after going 34-14, this year’s Pirates are targeting 10 losses or fewer.
“After the year we had last year, they know now they should win the majority of their games,” said Doug Rogers, Pirates manager.
The Pirates got in every spring-training contest on the schedule, managing to squeeze in the innings between snowflakes and raindrops. They went 12-5-3 while playing a well-rounded game.
“[We’re] basically building off of last year, with our outstanding year that we had,” said Chris Faber, Pirates first baseman. “We have a lot of returning guys and a lot of the younger guys getting bigger and stronger, so this year is looking even better than last year.”
Here’s a look at the 2012 Nanaimo Pirates:
The Pirates have guys who can throw the ball where they want to and do so with velocity.
In recent seasons the Pirates have gone into the year with No. 1 guys like Steve McKinnon and Kenton Schroter. This season, Rogers said he’s got four guys who could be aces of other pitching staffs.
Rogers wouldn’t confirm an opening-day starter, but said Luke Skingle, Alex Rogers, Justin Clarkson and Morgan are the guys most likely to get innings on Saturday.
“Although they don’t carry the marquee of a McKinnon or a Schroter, we’re as deep as we’ve ever been at pitcher,” said Doug Rogers. “What I’m looking for is someone to take that bulldog attitude like Kenton had and just will himself to win just because he knows he can. And we have that potential; we really do.”
Rookies Bryan Odgers, Nate Odgers and returnees Crosby Rushton and Faber will also see time on the mound.
The manager is toying with the idea of using the hard-throwing Clarkson in a closer’s role.
The pitchers should have the confidence to throw strikes knowing the defence will have their backs.
Behind the plate, veteran Ben Dunbar will get the “lion’s share” of the work, said Doug Rogers, but rookie Braeden Mousseau is ready to be a contributor there, too.
Brady Rogers will be the everyday shortstop. Griffin Andreychuk and Nate Odgers will play second base and Clarkson and Bryan Odgers will share time at the hot corner. Faber or Brendan McCarthy will play at first, occasionally spelled off by Morgan.
McCarthy is the primary centre fielder and Alex Rogers will play some innings there as a defensive specialist. Rushton and rookie Dave Jerome will split time in left field and Ryan Smith will play in right.
Solid defence will help the Pirates have some quick innings. Then they can jog back to the dugout and “play the fun part of the game, get out there and hit the ball,” said Faber.
Even though the team is just wrapping up spring training, the players already seem to have their swings in order.
“Usually at this time of year, it’s the bats that are behind and I don’t see that,” said Doug Rogers.
Not many teams will be able to win a slugfest with the Pirates. The manager said there are Nanaimo players capable of hitting five, six, even seven home runs, unheard-of totals at the high-school level.
“Everyone can hit the ball with power into the gaps and almost anyone on this team can have enough power to take it out of the ballpark,” said Faber.
Dunbar, Andreychuk, Bryan Odgers and Jerome are some of the guys capable of hitting in the leadoff position, with Mousseau or one of the Odgers twins possibilities in the No. 2 slot.
Clarkson, McCarthy or Dunbar could hit third, with Brady Rogers or McCarthy hitting cleanup. Other middle-of-the-order guys are Bryan Odgers, Faber and Smith.
The manager would like to settle into a set order at some point, but for now, everyone will get a chance.
“It’s a healthy competition, because guys who produce will be there,” he said.
The Nanaimo Pirates started last season by winning 18 of their first 20 games. It won’t be easy to improve on that, but the team will try.
It starts Saturday (April 7) when the Victoria Mariners come to Serauxmen Stadium for the first doubleheader of the B.C. Premier Baseball League season.
The Hub City Paving Pirates will be looking to sweep the action.
“Wins are contagious,” said Morgan. “Once you start winning, you keep rolling and keep rolling and that’s what we’re looking for.”
He said Nanaimo has the best crowd in the league, so the Pirates will try to keep from getting overly excited and try to go out and do their thing.
“They’re a fun group to watch because they have so much fun on the diamond, it will spill off on people watching,” said Doug Rogers.
Saturday’s game times are noon and 2:30 p.m. Admission is $3 for one game or $5 for the doubleheader. Children 12 and under get in free.