The 2014 Nova Scotia Intermediate Baseball League’s season gets underway this Sunday and it’s shaping up to be a strong year for local players.
Two of four Hants County teams will open at home.
The Pictou County Albions will visit the Noel Road Blue Jays for a pair of games at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., while the expansion team, the Kennetcook Braves, will travel to Hantsport for a pair of games beginning at the same times.
The Windsor Knights will be on the road, looking to secure wins over Yarmouth.
The Hantsport Shamrocks are looking to secure an unprecedented 10th consecutive league championship this year.
Last year, they finished the regular season with a 16-5 record.
Head coach Jeff Bishop said in an interview with the Hants Journal that “it will not be easy in 2014 as our pitching staff has a number of question marks."
Only one regular pitcher, Matt Lloy, will be back in the line up this year.
Bishop noted Dryden Schofield and Nick Tibert opted to play junior baseball this season.
On a positive note, the Shamrocks will be eligible to affiliate with one junior team and will be able to call up pitchers when they are not playing elsewhere.
Hantsport will have the choice of affiliating with either their hometown junior team or Kentville.
“We do not have to make that decision until July 1,” said Bishop.
The Shamrocks are expected to be strong at the plate and defensively in the field. Mike King and Matt Pearl are returning. King led the league in hitting with a .478 average in 2013 while Pearl was close behind with a .452 average.
Lloy, mentioned earlier, went 4-0 on the mound in 2013 striking out 29 in 26 innings with a 1.35 earned run average.
The Windsor Knights will be on the road for their opening two games of the season. They will travel to Yarmouth to take on the Gateways.
The Knights will be looking for another incredible season from Dave Swindall, who was the league's Most Valuable Player in 2013. He had an 8-2 record while being an ironman on the mound, hurling 66.2 innings and striking out 70 batters.
The Knights, who held a 12-8 record last season, will also be looking for another big season offensively from Paul Humphreys, who batted .367 in 2013.
Noel Road Blue Jays
The Noel Road Blue Jays finished 2013 in second place, with a record of 13-7. They were just two and a half games behind the first place Shamrocks.
Aaron MacPhee's .431 average paced the Blue Jays last season, and more of the same is expected from him in 2014.
Each of the seven teams will play a 24-game regular season consisting of two home games and two away games against the other six teams.
The league standings this year will be based on points earned, with two points for a win, instead of a winning percentage and games behind format.
The Shamrocks have perhaps the most balanced playing schedule for 2014, with two games at home this weekend followed by four on the road.
Noel Road will have a six-game home stand between June 29 and July 16 before finishing the season with six of their final seven games on the road.
The Knights last home game of the regular season will be played July 19 before they close with six consecutive road games. The Kennetcook Braves do not leave Hants County after July 6 as they play seven of their final 10 games at home, with their only three road games being in Windsor for a doubleheader and a single game on the Noel Road.