Parksville’s Quality Foods Royals are off to the best start in club history.
The locals are back home, savouring a four-game sweep of the Okanagan Athletics and soaking in the view from the penthouse suite in the league standings.
In action at Kelowna’s Elk Stadium for back to back double headers over the Easter weekend, the Royals swept the hometown A’s 6-4, 7-3 on Saturday then posted 8-5, 5-2 wins on Sunday.
Those four wins lifted the Royals to a 7-1 record and has them sitting first in the 13-team league, riding a six game win streak.
Heady stuff for sure, and the mood around the dugout is upbeat, but veteran skipper Dave Wallace is always quick to remind his players the 48-game regular season “is a marathon not a sprint.”
Either way, the Royals are knocking the hide off the ball right now and are getting great pitching.
Mitch Powelson picked up his second win of the season in game one on Saturday, throwing six solid innings. He also started the first triple play in Royals’ history when he caught a pop-up bunt which he relayed to Josh Croft at second base for the second out. Croft threw it to Matt Ney at first for the third out and the always rare 1-6-3 triple play.
Marcus Drewry was solid on the hill in game two, scattering four hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking two.
In game three Sunday morning, big righty Liam Joyce picked up his first win in his first start of the season, striking out eight and walking one in six innings.
“That was his best outing ever for us in two years,” Wallace said Monday. “He had a real strong performance on the mound — it was very good to see.”
Bryan Pawlina turned another solid pitching performance to wrap it up in game four, striking out five and walking two over six innings. Croft came in to close out the seventh both games Sunday for his first two saves of the season.
“Our whole game was solid all weekend,” said the longtime local PBL coach. “We had very good pitching. I think they only walked five guys in four games.
“Our defence was excellent, and we continue to get timely hitting. We had some key kits in each game.”
As of this week Qualicum Beach senior first baseman Matt Ney is sitting sixth in the BC Premier Baseball League in hitting at .435. Rounding out the Royals’ high octane offence is Deep Bay’s Kevin Biro, who is hitting .421, and Josh Croft from Powell River at .350. All three have five RBIs so far.
And the Royals sticks don’t stop there.
Devon Heard had a base clearing double in the top of the second in game four to bring in three runs on Sunday. Jordan Dugray had a double and a triple for a run scored and two RBIs to lead the Royals’ 12-hit attack.
Biro belted out six hits on the weekend, driving in two runs and scoring five times. Croft had five hits and four RBIs and scored twice, and leadoff batter Ashton Martin had three hits and four runs scored, and continued his stellar play in the outfield.
The Royals have swept back to back double headers before, but this is the first time they’ve won six in a row “in a longtime,” said Wallace, and confirmed this is the squad’s quickest start ever.
“We opened the season with four straight wins five or six years ago but then we went on a bit of a losing streak … it’s early, but it’s good. We’ve played very well, and we deserve to be where we are now,” said Wallace, adding, “it’s a long season and things can turn around in a hurry, but it’s great to see the kids rewarded for their hard work.”
Most of the team was together last season, and that extra year experience is serving them well.
“The big thing about this team is they don’t get flustered if they fall behind. They make adjustments during the game; they don’t get to high or to low, they just keep plugging away. They play with a quiet confidence — they believe in themselves, and they have the determination.”
The Royals are sitting third in the league in team batting at .290 and second in the league in Team ERA at 1.75. The Langley Blaze lead the league in team batting (.325) and pitching (1.26).
The Royals, who lead the league in extra base hits by a considerable margin, have outscored their opponents 45-23 in their first eight games.
“We’ve got some things to work on — our base running is one of them — but our hitting has been very consistent. We make teams pay for their mistakes.”
Four and five run innings like they did on the weekend “take teams out of it in a hurry.”
“As the saying goes, we’re capable of putting up crooked numbers (more than one),” said Wallace.
The Royals are on the Mainland for the next two weekends — first up is the annual Abbotsford tournament, and the week after that they’re back in Abby and White Rock to resume league play. The Royals return home May 14 for a double header against the White Rock Tritons and the North Delta Blue Jays are in town for a two game set the next day. In between (Wednesday, May 4), the Royals travel to Nanaimo’s Serauxman Stadium for a 6 p.m. start against the Pirates in a head to head of the BCPBL’s top two teams.
The Junior Royals , in the meantime, lost 6-3, 14-4 to White Rock in South Surrey on Saturday.
The Juniors are home this weekend for back-to-back double headers against Kelowna (game one Saturday goes at 12:45 p.m. and Sunday game one is a 10 a.m. start).