Pirates as positive as ever

The Hub City Paving Pirates step to the plate for their season opener Saturday (April 6) at Serauxmen Stadium against the Victoria Eagles.

Nanaimo Hub City Paving Pirates third baseman Owen Kelly

Nanaimo Hub City Paving Pirates third baseman Owen Kelly

The Nanaimo Pirates, pennant winners in 2011 and even better in 2012, expect to be a premier team in the premier league again in 2013.

The Hub City Paving Pirates step to the plate for their season opener Saturday (April 6) at Serauxmen Stadium against the Victoria Eagles.

The start of a new B.C. Premier Baseball League season is always an exciting time for the Pirates and this year is no different. The team had an encouraging pre-season and now it’s brimming with energy to bring to the ballpark on opening day.

“Things are going well,” said Doug Rogers, Pirates manager. “I’m happy with what I see so far as far as a completely new group of guys. They’re fairly close already.”

There’s a good deal of turnover this year, with a sizable crop of guys moving up from junior and ready to take on everyday roles at the premier level.

“It’s a higher level,” said Rogers. “You need to be tougher mentally at this level and you’ve got to be able to deal with failure a lot better.”

There’s great potential, said starting pitcher Luke Skingle. He said the newcomers are catching on to Pirates baseball, so the rookies and veterans are becoming one team.

“Knowing what the league’s like, we could be competitive,” said Braeden Mousseau, veteran catcher. “We have a great staff this year, we’re solid defensively and we’re scrappy at the plate.”

PITCHING

The Pirates expect pitching to be a team strength.

“That’s going to take us a long way and hopefully that will hide some of our inexperience,” said Rogers.

Right-handed vet Skingle will get the opening-day start, and fellow righty Alex Rogers has added velocity in the off-season and will be the next guy in the rotation. Left-handed Devon Geary and big righty Aidan Goodall are the other starters at this point, with other righties Tanner Linn, T.J. Mah, Connor Jones, Thomas Negrin and Bryan Borrelli ready to contribute.

“We have a lot more depth this year,” said Skingle.

BATTING

The Pirates pitchers say they don’t need to put too much pressure on themselves, because they’re anticipating plenty of run support.

Alex Rogers said he thinks guys up and down the order can offer up good at-bats, make contact, hit for power and run the basepaths.

Mousseau said the Pirates battle at the plate, and that will lead to offence.

“It’ll be more getting guys on, put them in motion, play some small ball,” he said. “Productive outs is going to be a big thing for us – putting the ball on the ground in play and letting [opponents] make mistakes.”

Alex Rogers is a top-of-the-order guy and rookie Zach Diewert has speed and power and could bat first, second or ninth, which Doug Rogers considers a sort of “second leadoff” slot.

Goodall will be the cleanup man, Brady Rogers will bat No. 3 or No. 5, and Borrelli will be another middle-of-the-order hitter.

DEFENCE

The Pirates showed improvement in their defensive chemistry over the course of the exhibition season and will continue to work at it.

Mousseau, catching most games, will have to be one of the leaders of the defence, and he’ll be backed up by Lee Martin.

Brady Rogers returns as the everyday shortstop and he’ll share the middle of the infield with second baseman Shawn Arabsky. Mah will also play at second.

Tristan Olsen slots in at third base, backed up by Owen Kelly.

Borrelli will be the Pirates’ first baseman, but the team also wants to get Goodall some innings there.

Alex Rogers will be the usual centre fielder and Diewert will be an everyday guy in the outfield. Arabsky, Borrelli, Jones and Mah are some of the others who will play outfield.

OUTLOOK

This year, just like the last two seasons, the Pirates have set a goal of 10 or fewer losses over the course of their 48-game schedule (they lost 14 in 2011 and 12 in 2012).

“Our main goal is to finish first in the league…” Doug Rogers said. “We want to be in that mix at the end of the year.”

Maintaining the standard they’ve set will be a challenge, he acknowledged, because when a young team gets in a slump the losses can pile up in a hurry in the premier league.

But the Pirates have built a winning program and they’re used to winning, and that attitude will help them in close games.

“The Pirates have a history of being a contending team and we don’t expect anything less this year,” said Alex Rogers.

GAME ON

The Pirates and Eagles play Saturday (April 6) at noon and 2:30 p.m. at Serauxmen Stadium. Admission is $5 per game or $8 for a doubleheader. A season’s pass good for all 24 home games is $30; for information please contact game-day coordinator Ryan Smith at 250-713-5801 or e-mail smitty1211@hotmail.com.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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