Parksville’s Quality Foods Royals are back in the thick of things thanks to a well-earned sweep of the Whalley Chiefs on Saturday.
In action at Inouye-Wallace Field for their 2012 B.C. Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) home opener, the young Royals posted 4-1, 6-3 wins for their first points of the season.
Conditions were cool but sunny for the Royals’ 18th annual home opener, and retired local principal Clyde Inouye, one of the founding fathers of the Royals and the league, was in fine spirits, joking with the boys as he limbered up along the third base line before throwing the ceremonial first pitch.
In game one, Parksville product Andrew Evernden worked six strong innings and earned his first win as a starter on the senior team. Evernden gave up one earned run off three hits and struck out five.
Ballenas Secondary School exchange student Yuki Takahashi from Japan came in in the top of the seventh and closed it out with his teammates rooting him on from the dugout.
The 5’5” lefthander had a runner get on on an error to start the top of the seventh, then struck out the next two and finished it off with a ground ball to second for the third out.
The Chiefs committed three errors in that game, the Royals two.
“He changes speeds very well — he’s very deceptive,” Royals’ skipper Dave Wallace said after, and confirmed Evernden, in Grade 10 at Ballenas Secondary School, anchored a good team win.
“He pitched very well; with confidence. It was a good learning experience for him,” said Wallace.
“He’s young, he’s very young (but) he was certainly the dominant player in the game,” and that, he said, combined with some timely hits on the part of local players TR Doty and Liam Ballance, “was very encouraging. It was a very good team effort both games.”
TR Doty, who plays second base, was 2-for-3 at the plate. Left fielder Liam Joyce was 1-for-2 at the plate and scored both times. Errington third baseman Liam Ballance belted a standup double for two RBIs in the second inning.
If Everndon was happy with the outcome, he had good reason. He was called up last year and pitched for the senior Royals in a game they won, but this was his first start as a member of the premier team.
The young chucker found out he’d be starting game one last Thursday.
“I just did what my coach told me, throw strikes and let my fielders make the plays,” he said from beside the dugout after the game.
The righthander started playing with Oceanside Minor Baseball when he was around six, and confirmed that taking to the hill for the hometown club is something he’s been working towards for years.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’s always been my goal … it’s really nice to get a win and help the team.”
Whalley dropped to 1-5 on the season for last place.
In game two, the pinstripes struck for four runs in the scoring to open up a 4-0 lead and never looked back.
The Royals put the ball in the hands of three pitchers in that one. Keller Anderson threw the first four innings to earn the win. Rookie utility player Blake Heemskerk worked the 5th and 6th, and Yuki came in to close out the 7th with his second straight save.
The Chiefs out-hit the Royals 10-9 in that one, and committed three errors to the Royals’ two.
First baseman Clarke Ohman, a 6’3” junior from Vancouver, was 2-for-4 at the dish with two ribbies and two runs scored. Doty was 2-for-4 and scored twice. Heemskerk, Joyce and enter fielder Sam Visona connected for the other three RBIs.
Ohman, and pitcher Calvin Sandhu, are Grade 11-aged players who have come over from the Vancouver Cannons program.
Wallace said the two approached him about playing for the Royals “and we were well below the league roster limit (22) at 15, so we were able to accommodate them — they’re a welcome addition and they’ll help our team.”
The sweep lifts the Royals to 2-2 and has them sitting seventh in the 13-team high performance league. With a regular season numbering 624 games total, there’s a lot of ball to be played ye. The Nanaimo Pirates are leading the field at 5-1.
It was the first time the Royals have swept their home opener “in a while,” said Wallace. “I remember one year we went 4-0 to start, but that was about 10 years ago.”
Royals’ ace Clayton Isherwood was away with the Junior National team in Florida and will not return until Sat., April 28 for the Royals’ next home stand against the North Shore Twins.
Senior pitchers Bryan Paulina and Liam Joyce made their return to the roster on Saturday — both have yet to play because of injuries — which was also good news and both are expected to start working their way back into the rotation this weekend.
Wallace hasn’t fielded a full lineup yet but this weekend he’ll have pretty much his full lineup with the exception of Isherwood.
The Royals have their work cut out for them this weekend as they make the drive to Kelowna for back-to-back double headers against the second place, 6-2 Okanagan Athletics.