It used to be that senior baseball provincials were based on population size, forcing North Battleford to enter in one of the top divisions.
That's not the case anymore, and so this weekend the North Battleford Beavers will play in the tier four provincials in Standard Hill, along with five other teams, including the Meadow Lake Sox.
"The [Saskatchewan Baseball Association] has done some different things the past couple years in trying to get as many teams involved in provincials as possible," said Beavers player Rory Gregoire. "Now, you enter provincials and then SBA at some point, usually about the third week in June, they take everybody's standings and... they plunk you into one of those tiers.
"In terms of tier four and tier three, there's not much separating us. You could flip flop teams and it wouldn't make a difference. So it's a little weird but I guess that's the way they want to do it to get a lot of teams entered."
Since the Beavers season ended in mid-July, the team has played two exhibition games against the Wilkie Brewers and had a few practices as well, mainly focusing on batting.
Gregoire said the toughest thing in preparing for provincials is getting pitchers set.
"It's tough for pitchers to get ready without seeing much game action, so that's why the exhibition games against Wilkie were key for pitchers to get some innings in," Gregoire said. "We have a good core of pitchers, we picked up a couple guys [in Kyle Gregoire and Tyler Russell], so that shouldn't be an issue. All of our pitchers are coming."
Confidence in the team's pitching is certainly a positive, but perhaps the most important thing for the weekend will be how the team fares at the plate.
This year, the Beavers bats faded as the season went on. They'll need to come alive again this weekend if the team is to succeed, Gregoire said.
"We kind of went into a slide there, the back half of the season, and we started getting it into playoffs but then we went up against a pitcher like [Rhett] Feser," he said. "I definitely want to see our bats get back to where they were last yaer and where they were at the start of this year. If we can get our bats going like that, I think we'll be OK."
Other than the host Standard Hill Lakers and the Meadow Lake Sox (both of whom play in the North Saskatchewan River Baseball League with North Battleford), the Beavers will be joined by the Arcola Threshers, the Kenosee Cubs, and the Langenburg Indians.
The schedule has the Beavers avoiding their familiar foes, as their three round robin games are against Arcola, Kenosee, and Langenburg.
"It'll be nice to have a little bit different competition for sure," Gregoire said. "We've got to expect they'll have good pitching and good teams, similar to Meadow Lake and Standard Hill. We can't go in thinking w'ere going to walk over teams because pretty soon we'll be 0-3 and we'll be packing our bags. We definitely have to come out firing.
"The first two games for sure, Friday and Saturday, if you can get two wins there, then it sets yourself up where that third game in the round robin doesn't mean all that much because two wins should get you into the semifinals."
The Beavers first game is Friday, Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. against Langenburg. They'll then face Kenosee at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Acola at 8 a.m. on Sunday. The semifinals are at 11 a.m and 2 p.m. on Sunday, followed by the finals at 5 p.m.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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