The Mid Island Pirates feel like years of work can pay off this season.
The Hub City Paving Pirates premier league baseball team opens the 2019 season this Saturday, April 13, with a home doubleheader against the Whalley Chiefs.
It’s the start of a season that holds a lot of promise for a Pirates team that has kept its core together and kept getting better to the point that they take the field this spring with an experienced lineup.
“Really, all facets are there,” said Doug Rogers, Pirates manager. “Whether they all come together at the same time, we’ll see.”
Rogers said Pirates coaches have been working with the same group of players for three seasons and their development is where coaches would have wanted it to be.
“We’re two deep in every position, so it’s nice to have that competition between guys,” he said. “We have some teem speed this year, power now that the kids have dedicated themselves in the gym and we’re an older team.”
Rogers said on-base percentage is the team’s No. 1 goal, and if they keep that at the forefront, batting average will come and players will get opportunities to use their power to try to drive in runs.
“I think we’re strong one through nine. Everybody can get it done at the plate,” said Connor Caskenette, Pirates veteran. “Especially in later-game situations, we can all bunt for base hits, move guys over.”
Caskenette is expected to be a leader offensively with his power and consistency and Aaron Marsh has also been hitting well this spring. Dylan Brock and Ryan Waatainen shape up as two middle-of-the-order guys and Jackson Stephens and Marcus Steen are both coming off of good 2018 seasons and are expected to continue to hit well.
Rogers said the Pirates have seven or eight guys who merit a lot of innings.
Brock is a leader of the staff and likely an opening-day starter.
“We have a lot of good pitchers, a lot of people who throw strikes,” Brock said. “We’ve got a lot of dual guys – people who play positions and pitch. That’s really good, because it’s both sides of the game, both sides of the ball.”
Josh Hill, Stephens and Mackinnon Homeniuk are other key arms and Waatainen has thrown well this spring. Rogers said Colby Neff, coming off an injury, is a wild card and could do well in a closer’s role.
Caskenette anchors the defence from behind the plate and is a vocal leader back there, Rogers said.
Steen at shortstop and Marsh at third base both play their positions well, and that’s generally true around the horn.
“We were the top defensive team in the league last year, so we don’t expect anything less this year with guys being older and more experienced,” Rogers said.
Caskenette said players trust one another and “the chemistry’s really there” defensively, and Brock said that makes a difference for the guys on the mound.
“I think pitchers are going to be really happy with what we’ve got behind us this year,” he said.
The Pirates had winning results throughout spring training and hope to carry that into the B.C. Premier Baseball League’s regular season. Brock said all players are better when they’re confident, and stepping on the field with a positive mindset is “a completely different story” than going out there with negative thinking.
So the productive spring should serve the Pirates well.
“We’ve climbed the ladder the whole way, getting better until we’ve come to this point, reaching opening day here this weekend,” Brock said. “We’re all really excited to get back on the field.”
Admission is free to all Pirates home games and there should be some good ones for fans this year, the team predicts. Caskenette expects the Pirates to win some games by a lot, but knows there will be plenty of close contests.
“Hopefully when they come out and watch they’ll see intensity, but [also] a lot of fun with the squad,” he said.
Saturday’s game times are 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at Serauxmen Stadium.