Prep baseball: Hansen leads Roy's charge toward postseason
The Roy baseball team knows few people expect much from it.
The Royals, who finished league play with a respectable .500 record last season, still were picked to finish last in Region 5 despite returning the majority of their starting lineup.
That's the price to pay for a few years of mediocrity and missed playoff appearances.
But the Royals know a few other things, too.
They have one of the best pitching staffs in the league. They are stocked with plenty of talent and a solid one-through-nine hitting lineup, including junior slugger and leadoff hitter Grady Hansen.
"We just want to show people who we really are," third baseman Carson Bubert said. "We want to show we're not a team to be ignored."
There's no ignoring Hansen at the plate or on the diamond.
He's scored nine runs and stolen four bases through 13 games. His ability to get on base has helped the Royals jump out to a 6-4 start in region play that included a six-game win streak.
"He just does such a great job getting on base that you're honestly kind of shocked when he doesn't," first-year coach Travis Flint said. "He's the engine to our offense and, quite frankly, the best player I've seen this year."
He's the kind of player who can trigger a turnaround.
Since Hansen first donned a Roy uniform, the Royals have gone from a Class 4A afterthought to a legitimate region threat, though it's still a work in progress. Roy has seen three coaches in as many years, and given their past records, the Royals struggle at times to stay confident and resilient against dominant teams.
"It's been up and down so far," Flint said.
It's a mind-set Flint hopes to change quickly. After helping mold the softball team into a perennial power, the first-year baseball coach hopes to foster a winning attitude among a team accustomed to just making it by.
"We're trying to right the ship," Flint said. "I think sometimes we try too hard, over-think things. Once we get that resolved, we're capable of a lot."
The Royals are starting to believe it.
Confidence was high after a six-game win streak at the beginning of region play, thanks to the deep pitching staff and Hansen's dominant play.
"A lot of people overlook us in some ways, and that's to be expected, I guess," Bubert said. "But we're out to prove them wrong."
That enthusiasm was mitigated by two lopsided losses to Mountain Crest and Logan last week.
The Royals vow not to let the slip become a landslide.
"We discovered some of our weaknesses in those games," Bubert said. "We didn't play as well as we have been, but it's something we know we can learn from and come back from."
"The main thing I wanna see is our ability to get the train back on the tracks when we falter a bit," Flint said. "I want them to see that when we settle down and play to our ability, we are as good as anybody."