The wins haven’t come easy for this year’s young Quality Foods Royals, but the local boys of the B.C. Premier Baseball League capped off their campaign by splitting their final two double headers of the season at Springwood Park on the weekend.
On Saturday against the third place North Shore Twins (29-15) the Royals, who had four wins on the season heading into the weekend for last in the 13 team league, turned in what head coach Dave Wallace later reckoned “was our best complete game effort of the season,” and fashioned an exciting 4-3 win.
The visitors exacted some revenge in game two in an 11-0 romp.
All four Royals’ runs came in the bottom of the second after the Twins had taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the frame. North Shore added a single in the top of the seventh and final inning but that was as close as they’d get.
Second year Royal Calvin Sandhu, a senior in his final season who makes the trip from the Mainland, went the distance on the hill for the win, striking out six Twins and giving up one earned run on five hits for the win.
“It was a good team game,” Wallace would add later. “We outhit them 10-5 it was a well played game by us,” he said, “they’re a good team and Calvin pitched very well.”
Back at it Sunday against the Whalley Chiefs, who at 17-28 and 11th in league are also out of the playoffs, the Royals picked up a 3-0 game one win, then lost 10-0 in game two.
“The first game today, that shut-out win today by Nic Annau, and Calvin yesterday, those two performances were outstanding and carried us to victory,” said Wallace.
In game one with the leadoff runner on first, Parksville product Andrew Evernden parked a shot over the fence at left centre to stake the Royals to a 2-0 lead.
It was Annau’s team-leading fourth win of the season — he was 4-6 on the hill and accounted for two-thirds of the Royals’ wins.
“He had a very strong game and that was all we needed Nick struck out three and didn’t walk a batter,” Wallace said of his Parksville starter, who was in control Sunday.
Annau, 17, just graduated from Ballenas Secondary and is off to UVIC but still has another season of eligibility with the Royals and is expected to be back for another full campaign.
“He was in control of the whole game. He didn’t walk a batter. He did that consistently all year,” said the long-time Royals’ skipper, “and today we made the plays behind him, and that makes a big difference.”
A smart pitcher with a good off-speed pitch “he’s got a good curve ball, he keeps batters off balance with it.”
Annau led the team in strikeouts with 71, and accounted for a third of the teams total K’s, “and he only walked 15 players. He also led the team innings pitched at 73, and had the lowest ERA on the team at 2.68.”
Keeping in mind a 2-1 strikeout to walk ratio is considered good, Annau was 4.7-1 “which is outstanding. Nick did a great job for us this year. A really solid season.”
Also contributing in the wins was Evernden — in his second year with the hometown club the local Grade 11 outfielder/pitcher had three hits on Saturday and had his team-leading third homer Sunday.
Ballance said Wallace “is another young guy who’s come along in the last month. He’s done very well.”
One of eight Grade 10 rookies in the line-up this season for the Royals, Coombs infielder/pitcher Liam Ballance got an RBI with a timely base hit in the win on Saturday, and a hit on Sunday to go along with a stellar stretch grab in game one for the out at first.
“Very few senior teams have Grade 10s on their team, we don’t have a junior team, so we had eight this year. We’ll probably have four or five next year,” Wallace said, adding “we knew going in we had a young team that was fairly inexperienced. We started out slowly but we played far more consistently in the last month.”
Sunday’s game one victory marked the Royal’s sixth win in the high performance league’s 48 game regular season — 33 games behind first held by the 39-9 Langley Blaze. The Victoria Mariners are second.
On the club’s 6-42 record, Wallace said “I think there was one other year in our 19 year history where we’ve only won six, it’s a competitive league, and our philosophy has always been more towards development then wins and losses.”
They will welcome back 13 of their 19 players, “so they’ll be that much better for it next year.”
The Royals penciled in six Oceanside Minor Baseball products this season.
“We’ve had as few as two we’ve had as many as eight so a little better than average,” said Wallace, adding “Oceanside baseball’s done a tremendous job in getting players out in the younger ages (and) Save On Foods has been a huge supporter for minor baseball.”
The Royals have five players graduating this year, all five will be attending post secondary education and will continue playing baseball “which is great for them, so from that perspective it was a great year,” said Wallace.
The Royals will be doling out their team awards at a wrap up in the next two weeks.
DIAMOND BITS: The Royals’ Fall Ball program for players Grade 9-12 looking to get in some extra innings gets underway July 17 at Springwood Park from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. and runs every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday until Thanksgiving weekend.
“It’s basically next year’s team but it also gives new kids the opportunity to come out and see what we’re about,” said Wallace, adding they have about 20 kids who’ve committed already, “but we’re always looking for new players.”
It costs $50 for eight weeks of baseball, with the older players practicing and playing exhibition games.