The Royals home playoff debut didn’t go exactly as planned, but this year’s squad can hold their heads high knowing they set a high water mark for the local baseball club.
At home and hosts of a best of three BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) playoff series for the first time in the club’s 17 year history, the Royals were in tough against perennial mainland powerhouse Langley Blaze.
The pinstripes lost the opener 4-1, then saw their season come to an end in a 3-0 loss in game two. The Royals had a decent regular season that saw them finish with a club high 28-20 for third overall in the 13-team league.
The Royals had the bases loaded with one out in the second of two games, but Langley brought in senior righty Tom Robson to close it out. Robson, 18, became the first Canadian selected in last months MLB entry level draft when he was selected in the fourth round by the Toronto Blue Jays.
“We got beat by a better team. Plain and simple,” Royals’ skipper Dave Wallace said Sunday in a one-on-one with The News. “They out-pitched us, they out-hit us … they’re a dominant team and they showed again why they’re the most successful team in the league.”
The three-time defending league champions had the best record in the league at 37-11, but had 12 wins taken away down the stretch because the league ruled they had used two ineligible players over the course of a month. As a result the Blaze, whose name appears on the BCPBL playoff championship trophy more than any other team, finished the regular season in sixth place.
Had Langley not had the 12 games taken away they would have finished first and the Royals would still have secured fourth and their team’s first home playoff series. Ironically, had Langley taken top spot in the standings for the fourth straight year, the Royals would have faced Victoria in the opening round, a team they beat five out of six meetings during the regular season.
The weekend showdown was played under ideal conditions and the bleachers were full with plenty more watching on from the beside the fences.
In game one the Blaze went up 1-0 in the top of the second inning and Josh Croft replied for the Royals with a solo homer over right centre in the bottom of the fourth. Langley struck for one run in the fifth and tacked on two more in theseventh.
Neither team committed an error. Langley out-hit Parksville 7-1.
Royals’ ace Clayton Isherwood, who led the league with the lowest ERA a minuscule 0.79 , was handed only his second loss in of the season in nine starts. The only other loss was a 3-2 decision to Langley in extra innings back in April. Wallacewasn’t about to throw the blue-chip southpaw under the bus.
“Clayton pitched well. We only got one hit and that was the home run. We just didn’t hit the ball, but having said that, they have tremendous pitching, and their pitchers just overmatched our hitters for the most part on the day. You have to give them credit,” said the veteran coach. “I mean Kyle Joel (Langley’s starting pitcher in game one), he struck out 14 and walked one. He only faced 22 batters (the minimum a pitcher can face in a seven inning game is 21). He pitched an outstanding game.”
‘Ish struck out seven and handed the ball over to teammate Marcus Drewry in the seventh.
Things didn’t get any easier for the pinstripes in game two.
Homegrown righty, 6’2” senior Mitchell Powelson earned the start in game two for his contributions this year, but the storyline was similar as Langley jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead and shut the Royals down the rest of the way.
Langley out-hit P-ville 8-3 in that one. The Royals committed the lone error of the game. Kevin Biro, Devon Heard and Josh Croft accounted for the Royals’ only hits.
This is the third time the Royals have faced both Joel and Devon Stewart who started game two. – Joel pitched a perfect game against the Royals in a tournament game earlier this year, “so we got one hit off him this time,” chuckled Wallace.
For the Parksville’s five graduating players — Deep Bay shortstop Kevin Biro, Qualicum Beach first baseman Matt Ney, catcher Jordan Dugray, and outfielders Devon Heard and Ashton Martin, Saturday marked their final outing for the Royals. Kevin and Matt both came up through the local minor baseball. Biro capped off a five-year career with the Royals that included two as a Jr. Royal.
Mitchell and Marcus Drewry from Courtenay have another year of eligibility, and both are talking about coming back.
Earning props from his coach was the play of 16-year-old Mackenzie Parlow. In his second season with the Royals and heading into his senior year at Kwalikum Secondary School, Parlow was pressed into service due to injury and caught most of the season including both games Saturday.
Parlow gunned down three base runners on Saturday. He picked a runner off at first in game one and threw two runners out trying to steal in game two — one at second and one at third.
“He’s improved tremendously this year,” said Wallace. “He plays the game with enthusiasm, and he plays with intelligence — he plays the game the way its supposed to be played. He loves to be out on the field, and in that regard he has a lot of (former Royal standout) Carter Bell and Kevin Brio in him. He did an outstanding job for us, the whole year. (He) will be one of our leaders next year.”
Wallace echoed what many of the fans on hand that gave the Quality Foods crew a standing ovation after the final out on Saturday.
“It was an outstanding season. We have one of the smallest areas to draw players from and for us to finish third in the league is an outstanding achievement, and it’s a testament to the players and their enthusiasm and dedication improve.”
“From a winning standpoint, yes, for sure, it was great, but for me, every single season has its own special positive aspects, and that’s what we draw on. The players change every year, but all we ask is that they improve, and they do that every year.”
“It was a great season, the best Royals’ season I’ve ever seen and I’ve been involved (with the team) for over 10 years now,” Royals GM Scott Rodway said after the dust had settled. “The team played well (against Langley), they were just unfortunate not to get the bats going, but then they were up against the best team in the league probably.”