Parksville’s Quality Foods Royals dug deep and salvaged an important split against the Victoria Mariners Wednesday night.
At home for a rare BCPBL mid-week double header, the Royals were blanked 7-0 in game one, but regrouped for a 7-4 win in game two.
The Royals were out-hit 8-2 in game one — game-time temperature was a toasty 24C — and turned in three errors and the M’s none. It was a different story in game two as the Q-crew out hit the visitors 7-5, playing error-free ball to the Mariner’s three.
“That was a very important split,” Royals’ skipper Dave Wallace confirmed after the dust had settled, pointing out the Mariners, who are already in the playoffs at 25-12, “are well-secured in the top four, so it was like a bonus win for us.”
The split puts the Royals at 10-26 on the season and lifts them out of last place in the 13-team league ahead of White Rock.
Making the playoffs said Wallace “is still going to be a daunting task, but getting a win there yesterday (Wednesday) really helps our cause in many perspectives. Not only standings, but it shows we can compete against the top teams in the league, so it’s good for the confidence. We’ve competed against those top teams all year but just haven’t had the success,” surmised the veteran skipper.
Case in point — three of their four losses to the second place Nanaimo Pirates (who at 30-8 are a half game back of the Langley Blaze for first) were by one run, and one of those in extra innings. And it’s a similar story line against the third place 28-12 Okanagan Athletics.
In Wednesday’s win, Calvin Sandhu struggled a bit early but regrouped and pitched five solid innings to pick up the win on the hill — Blake Heemskerk and Keller Anderson threw an inning each to nail down the W.
Heemskerk, a Gr. 11 from Campbell River and one of many players in the lineup making the jump from the Jr. Royals, was solid on the hill in relief and also hammered a two-run homer, his first of the season, in the bottom of the second inning to spot his team the early lead.
“It was a well-hit ball that’s for sure,” Wallace said of the line-drive over left centre field, adding “we were far more competitive in the second game.”
Defensively, Rob Vlaj continued his stellar play in centre field, making a number of nice catches Wednesday including two in game one where he had to get on his horse to track down the ball.
“He’s been playing great out there,” Wallace confirmed, pointing out “since we moved him to centre (from right field) two weeks ago he’s really solidified our outfield.
“We’ve got 12 games left,” Wallace said. “Mathematically we could finish as high as sixth, but realistically we’re battling for that eighth and final spot, which is good, it gives the last 12 games some meaning and intensity which is what you want. If we are going to make the playoffs we’re going to need all 15 guys contributing, and that’s what happened in that second game yesterday — the whole team had a hand in that win.”
The Royals kick off a six-game road stretch this weekend with double headers on the Mainland against the first place Langley Blaze on Saturday (Clayton Isherwood gets the start in game one for the Royals) and the Whalley Chiefs, who are one game up on Parksville, on Sunday. The pinstripes return to Van next Wednesday for a two game set against the Vancouver Cannons, then return home for their final home stand of the season July 21-22 when they host the Blue Jays and the Cannons.
Asked why he wouldn’t start his ace Isherwood against the 12-25 Chiefs on Sunday and hedge his bet for the W, Wallace said “it doesn’t make any sense to let him beat up on the Chiefs… I always believe in throwing our best against the best — Clayton needs to be challenged too.”