Sports

Bantam AAA Royals off to perfect start

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For manager Kyle Lukacs, the start of the 2012 B.C. Minor Bantam AAA Baseball season couldn’t have gone any better.

His Ridge Meadows Royal swept their competition on their season-opening road trip to Kamloops, where they were a perfect 3-0 against the Junior Riverdogs.

The Royals outscored Kamloops 38-5 in their three-game series.

“We had a decent weekend,” said Lukacs. “It was a good way to get started.”

This year’s edition of the bantam AAA Royals features five returning players from last year’s squad: Domenic Baptista, Nick Evans, Devon Bird, and Brenden Holstrom, and Kole Bernard.

Lukacs said he’s counting on his senior players to provide leadership for his young team after the departure of Kyle Ross, Andre Pelletier, and Bayley Germain to the Langley Blaze’s Junior Premier Baseball League team.

Among the new recruits to the team this season are pitchers Justice Eely, Zac Comeault, infielders Ryley Leoppky, Clayton Skipper, and Ryan Lipscombe, outfielders Jared Clark, Garret Maydaniuk, and first-year bantam player Ryan Keller.

“We’re an inexperienced group, but we have a lot of natural, athletic talent,” said Lukacs. “The priority will be working on the mental knowledge of the game.”

Despite the turnover in players, Lukacs says this year’s team plays very similar to the Royals’ 2011 edition.

“We’re a really well-rounded team,” he said. “Last year we didn’t have to play a lot of small ball because we had a lot of power. I think we’re going to be similar this year, but sometimes we’re going to need to be able to chip away.”

Lukacs says his priority is to build solid fundamentals in his young team.

“Defence is always something that needs to be worked on at this age,” he said.

Lukacs is taking a holistic approach to managing the team. In addition to off-field fitness training, he is organizing library sessions and study groups to ensure his player maintain strong grades in school.

“All of our players have aspirations to play at a higher level,” said Lukacs. “It’s our job to help them get there.”

Whether it’s the PBL or the NCAA, players who have a solid baseball IQ will always get noticed.

“The PBL is full of naturally talented players, but what sets guys apart are the little things,” said Lukacs. “Being prepared, being able to know what to do in any situation, having that knowledge is so important.”

With the folding of the Ridge Meadows midget AAA team this year, many on the Royals bantam AAA squad will have to play elsewhere if they want to stay at the same competitive level.

Lukacs hopes that won’t always be the case, and that Ridge Meadows will land a PBL franchise someday.

“If we have success at this level for a few years, maybe they’ll see that Ridge Meadows deserves a [PBL] team,” he said.

• The Ridge Meadows Royals bantam AAA team plays their homeopener this Tuesday, April 24, at Pitt Meadows Athletics Fields against the Tri-City Indians at 6 p.m.

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