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Royals holding home opener Sunday

Brandon Heighton reacts to a bad hop during a Pictou County Royals practice this week.
Brandon Heighton reacts to a bad hop during a Pictou County Royals practice this week. - Kevin Adshade

Intermediate baseball club is 3-3 through six games

STELLARTON – Winning baseball games starts with good pitching.

The Pictou County Royals believe they have that looked after.

“We’ve got a bit of everything, but pitching is what we rely on to shut down the other teams,” says catcher Joel MacLean.

“Pitching and good defence will win you a lot of games.”

He said the key is for the guys on the mound to get ahead of hitters and mix in all their pitches.

“They’ve been taking us deep into the games, and even the guys in the bullpen have been pitching great – everybody’s doing their job. Our pitchers give us a chance to win every game. We trust them – whoever goes out there and pitches for us, we believe in them to get the job done.”

The fourth-year Nova Scotia Intermediate Baseball League team will open the home portion of their schedule with a doubleheader this coming Sunday at Albion Ballfield (starting at 1 p.m.) against the Sherose Island Schooners.

General manager/coach Alastair Conway said MacLean has been helping his pitchers, gunning down would-be base stealers.

“I don’t have the stats, but Joel has been phenomenal throwing guys out at second base,” he said, as he surveyed the Albion field at a Tuesday practice.

“These guys started playing baseball together – most of them – when they were Mosquito and Rookie, a lot of them. When they got through Midget, there was nowhere left to play.”

That’s when a few of them decided to get an Intermediate team going and the Royals, who started off this season with six straight road games (compiling a 3-3 record), came into existence.

They won three of their first four, but this past weekend in the Annapolis Valley dropped a pair of one-run games to the Windsor Knights.

“We have our issues hitting some days, we leave runners on base at inopportune times, but we have 18 very good athletes, and they’re all very baseball smart,” said Conway, who also has Darrell Heighton helping out with the coaching.

Royal Notes:

• Shortstop Tommy Hayman is hitting .357 and leads the Royals in RBI (five).

• Nathan Snell has a .500 batting average, with three hits in six at bats.

• Layne Conway leads the Royals in runs scored (5).

• According to the NSIBL website, Royals pitchers have only given up five earned runs in six games, which tops the seven-team league. They have a collective ERA of 1.30, also best in the NSIBL.

• John Fushtey was the NSIBL’s top pitcher in 2017. “He’s very smart, nibbles the corners all day long,” said Conway.

• The Pictou County Albions, who had been a Nova Scotia Intermediate Baseball League mainstay for close to 20 years, took a year’s hiatus this summer from the league.

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