For a few seasons now, the Nanaimo Pirates have had a flair for the dramatic. They have a knack for late-inning heroics, for thriving under pressure.
This weekend (July 26-28), they’ll try to show those traits in the biggest games of the summer. The Hub City Paving Pirates begin play Friday at the B.C. Premier Baseball League championships.
Only four of the league’s 13 teams are still playing at this stage. For a youthful, No. 7-seeded club to be in the mix is an achievement in itself.
“We hoped for it. I’m not sure if we expected it,” said Braeden Mousseau, Pirates catcher.
The last two summers the Pirates were among the playoff favourites, but didn’t win any games at the final tourney.
“It takes one team to get hot, it takes one pitcher to have a good game and you can lose,” Mousseau said. “Last year we were by far the best team there and it didn’t happen for us.
“Anyone can beat anyone at any day, so we’re just going to have to focus every pitch, every at bat, every game.”
Shortstop Brady Rogers said the Pirates are “a scary team” because of their pitching.
Pitching is a strength, certainly, but then there’s also that late-inning magic that the Pirates possess.
“It’s almost like we have another gear we turn to when the game’s on the line or our season’s on the line,” Mousseau said.
He noted that all those dramatic victories tend to be team wins – a guy will get on base, the next guy will move him over, and another guy will deliver the clutch hit.
“In close games we have way more intensity,” Rogers said. “It’s what brings us up and makes us play better.”
The challenge at this weekend’s championships will be maintaining that intensity and focus for 21 innings, and hopefully more.
The Pirates intend to rise to the occasion.
“That’s what you play sports for,” Mousseau said. “You want to be in that final moment in the seventh inning, be up at bat, you want to have the ball, or have the game on the line.”
The Pirates have as much of a chance as any team to reach those final moments of the tournament. The PBL’s top three seeds were all upset in the first round, so in a final four that includes the host Abbotsford Cardinals, the Victoria Eagles, the Pirates and the Vancouver Cannons, the tournament is up for grabs.
“Every single year I thought we were going to win because our team’s been so good,” said Rogers. “And this team [is] the most unexpected team and we have the best chance of winning it.
“We are going to win it. I know we will.”
GAME ON … The Pirates start the PBL championships Friday against the Eagles at 4:30 p.m. at Abbotsford’s Delair Park.