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Guelph Royals open season with big win (7 photos)

Newcomer A.J. Mackey pitches seven strong innings to get the win

The Guelph Royals kicked off the 2016 season in style Saturday, downing the Hamilton Cardinals 8-1 at Hastings Stadium.

On Sunday they fell 13-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto.

Newcomer A.J. Mackey pitched seven innings of three-hit ball to get the win, striking out eight Cardinals in the process.

Guelph scored its eight runs on just three hits, but took advantage of six Hamilton errors and eight walks to score six unearned runs.

Control was the key for Mackey, as he walked just one Hamilton batter in his seven innings.

 “A.J. did a really good job,” Royals manager Steve Scagnetti said of Mackey, one of three Americans on the Royals. “For his first start in the IBL I thought he did really well.”

Scagnetti attributed the lack of hits to the earliness of the season, with the Royals hitters having spent the past couple of months hitting indoors off pitching machines.

“Guys are eager right now, anxious to hit. We got a lot of pop flies and a lot of ground balls as guys were just too aggressive, but it will come in time. It’s only the second time we’ve faced live pitching this year.”

Cards starter Rhys Tapper allowed just one hit in his 5 2/3 innings of work and the Cardinals held a 1-0 lead until the sixth inning when the Royals struck for five runs.

They added the other three in the eighth.

Kingsley Alacon drove in two runs for Guelph with a double. A Tanner Spears double and Matt Schmidt single were the other Royals hits.

The Royals were very aggressive on the base paths, stealing three bases. Scagnetti said that will be a trademark of this year’s team.

“We don’t have a lot of power, so we’ll be using our speed to help generate runs and put pressure on the other team’s defence,” he said.

The game was also the competitive debut for some upgrades at Hastings Stadium, with new bullpens, new outfield fences and a new scoreboard on display.

On Sunday in Toronto, starting pitcher Evan DiMichelle was rocked for eight runs in four innings of work, allowing six hits and walking six.

The Royals managed 12 hits, four of them off the bat of Alarcon. Chandler McLaren, Aaron Loder and Schmidt also had two hits apiece.

Guelph's next game is Saturday in Barrie. Sunday they play in Hamilton. Next home game is May 21.