Guelph Royals looking to vacate IBL’s basement

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – The Guelph Royals will be looking to climb out of the Intercounty Baseball League’s basement this year, a position they’ve occupied the last two years.

“We’ll be one year older than we were last year,” Royals field manager Steve Scagnetti said. “We’ve got a few guys coming in who are new to the team and with a little bit of pro experience, so that will help.”

Last summer the Royals lost their final eight regular-season games to finish eighth in the eight-team loop at 7-29. They were 20.5 games behind the London Majors who needed to win a tie-breaker game with the Kitchener Panthers to secure first place at 28-9.

Guelph’s total was an improvement of three wins over the 2015 season when they finished at 4-32 and 24.5 games behind the Barrie Baycats who were at 28-7.

“We have to learn to hit at this level,” Scagnetti said. “If you look at our games last year, we had a lot of losses by one run. I think we had nine games we lost with the runner on base or at the plate. Our batting averages were low. I think if we’d had a lot of clutch hits, even a few clutch hits, we would’ve won seven or eight more games.”

The Royals went 2-10 in games decided by three runs or less.

“We’re a young team,” pitcher Ben Reid said. “I think we were the youngest in the league. When it comes to those close games, that just comes with experience, maturity and stuff — just keeping our composure and relying on each other. Hopefully bounces go our way and we win a couple more games.”

While the Royals have not signed any players, they have numerous commitments and will likely begin getting signatures on contracts later this month.

“We’ve got a lot of new blood coming in this year so first off,” Scagnetti said. “We’ve got guys coming from the States, we’ve got guys coming from different parts of Canada and we’ve got returning guys who are away at school right now. It’s a matter of getting everybody back and forming that gel, as you would — just getting everybody to get to know each other.”

Last year the Royals hit a league-worst .227. The Burlington Bandits (now the Herd) was next worst at .252 while Kitchener hit a league-best .329.

On the mound, London had a league-best earned-run average of 3.09 while Kitchener was second at 4.10 and the Royals were sixth at 6.77. Burlington was seventh at 7.14 and the Hamilton Cardinals eighth at 8.18.

“Pitching improved as the year went on,” Scagnetti said. “You want to get better pitching, but definitely hitting is where we have to improve.”

Reid is one of the players committed to returning this season and he’ll be looking to improve his numbers. A reliever, the Guelph native appeared in 19 games and had a 3.97 ERA. While he had 13 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings, he yielded 24 hits and 22 walks. He also played in three of Guelph’s four playoff games and gave up three hits and walked six in 3 2/3 innings.

“I’ve been throwing all winter and working out, trying to keep my arm healthy,” he said. “I’ve got to work on my control, I’m not looking to walk a lot of guys this year. Keeping guys off base is probably the biggest deal I had. I really want to help the team by doing a good job.”

Last summer was Reid’s first full season with the Royals. He had appeared in five games in 2015 and two in 2014.

“Last year was a good experience,” he said. “I was with the team the year before that when we only won four games and that was pretty rough. We have a chance to do better. A couple of bounces went the wrong way, but overall it was a good experience.”

Other players expected back include catcher/outfielder Blake Kauer, pitcher Daniel Marquez, catcher/third basemen Pat Coughlin and catcher/first baseman Matt Schmidt.

The Royals are hoping to get some indoor sessions in this month before moving outside as soon as field conditions allow next month. They’re also hoping to line up an exhibition game or two.

The Royals are to open their regular season with a home game at Hastings Stadium against Hamilton May 13 at 2 p.m.

This year’s schedule includes 11 home games on Saturdays with 2 p.m. starts in May and June and 7:30 p.m. starts in July.

They also have five Tuesday home games, all with 7:30 p.m. starts and none before June 13.

Their other two home games are holiday matches. They’re to have their annual Victoria Day game with Kitchener May 22 at 2 p.m. and they’ll play June 30 at 7:30 p.m. against Barrie. That’s the Friday of the Canada Day long weekend.