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Thursday, 21 July 2011 12:01

Rookie MacKay emerges as leader for midget Indians

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By Brad Brown — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The only question left for bantam AA graduate Zac MacKay, after a standout year in 2010 with the Swift Current Indians baseball club, was what could he do with the midget Indians in 2011?

The better question has quickly become ‘What can’t he do?’

A 16-year-old rookie in a AAA league chalk full of 17 and 18-year-olds, MacKay has cemented his role as both the Indians’ starting shortstop and the ace of the pitching staff.

At the plate, he finished third on the team with a .364 batting average, third in the entire Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League with six doubles, and is one of just nine SPBL players with a home run this year.

On the mound, he leads the league with five wins, is seventh with 31 strikeouts, and his 2.48 ERA is eighth among qualified starting pitchers.

“He’s just a good athlete,” Indians coach Neil Hogg said prior to the team’s 1-1 draw July 12 with the Moose Jaw Cardinals. “And he’s quick. He’s actually a lot quicker than people give him credit for. When he gets out of the box, he’s down the line really fast so he surprises guys and gets a lot of infield hits. And for a smaller guy he’s got a lot of power too.”

MacKay is one of four rookies on a team that seems to be peaking at the right time. After winning just two of their first eight games, the Indians lost only two of their next 12, outscoring their opponents 90-41 along the way, before dropping their final four of the year. Their 10-10-4 record was good for sixth place and their 4.8 runs allowed per game gave them the second-best defence in the league.

“We’ve come together a lot as a team throughout the season,” said MacKay. “We’ve been competing against the top teams in the province so we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing … because it seems to be working for us.”

On paper it’s hard to imagine things not working for the Indians from here on out. Despite their success playing in a AAA league all season, Saskatchewan Baseball’s population rules allowed the Indians to register as a AA team. Accordingly, the club has opted out of SPBL playoffs in favour of midget AA provincials which start today in North Battleford.

The Indians will have a big target on their backs, having won the 2010 provincial title 2-0 over the Humboldt Dodgers.

“I think our chances at provincials are excellent,” said Hogg. “We’re obviously the team to beat. We’re defending champions and bringing back basically the same team we had last year. I lost four players but brought in four rookies who are just as good, so our chances going in to provincials are really good.”

Swift Current begins play today at 6:15 p.m. against the Wilkie Athletics. Two pools of four will play round-robin formats today and Saturday, with the top two teams from each pool meeting in Sunday’s semifinals. The gold medal game is scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m.

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