It’s not quite the production it was in its first two decades, but the Quality Foods Parksville Royals’ May long weekend baseball tournament returned to Springwood Park last weekend after a one-year absence.
The Island Cup, a four-team jamboree featuring Vancouver Island’s entries in the B.C. Premier Baseball League, debuted to replace the defunct invitational tournament that had drawn competition from across Canada — and beyond — from 1995 to 2014.
“We didn’t have it last year, for a variety of reasons,” Royals manager Dave Wallace said, citing the time and cost of travel and the shift of major league baseball’s draft from late June to the first week of the month, when pro scouts have already completed and submitted their evaluations. “One of our other coaches said, ‘Why not just have an Island Cup?’”
So the four-team tourney, with two days of round-robin play followed by a one-day playoff session, welcomed the Victoria Mariners, Victoria Eagles and Nanaimo Pirates to join the host Parksville Royals.
Parksville claimed just one win, but it was a big one — a 3-2, 12-inning semifinal upset of the top-seeded Eagles that allowed the hosts to go on to a second-place finish.
Depleted of experienced pitching, the Royals went on to drop the championship 10-1 to the Mariners. But the big semifinal victory put them in a position to challenge for the title.
“This is probably the only tournament where you can go 2-3 and still win the championship,” Wallace joked. “But that Sunday morning (semifinal) game may have been the best game we have played in the last five years.”
The Royals went 0-3 in the round-robin, though two of the losses were close affairs that could have gone either way. As a result, they were seeded fourth and faced the top-seeded Eagles in one of Sunday’s two semifinals.
But Adam McKillican pitched 10 strong innings, and Jaydan Saban drove in the game-winner with a two-out single that scored Zach Waddington, who had singled and stolen second to start the top of the 12th inning.
Jaydan Saban of the Parksville Royals hits a ground ball in Saturday’s Island Cup baseball game against the Victoria Mariners at Springwood Park. Saban had the game-winning single in 12th inning of Sunday’s semifinal victory in the three-day, four-team tourney. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB News
Matt Stevenson, who was being held to start the championship final if the Royals won, was pressed into service over the final two innings, and collected the win.
“As a result, he wasn’t available for the final game,” Wallace conceded. “But that’s why we like that (tournament) format; it gives us a chance to play a number of games in a competitive situation at home.”
Home games have been far and few between this month, thanks to a quirk in the BCPBL schedule that left the Royals just one home day of league play for the entire month of May. They’ll get their payback beginning June 4, when they embark on a season-ending stretch of 16 home dates over their final 20 games.
“It’s amazing the way the schedule worked,” said Wallace. “We’ve almost got our road games finished. I don’t mind getting our road games early, though. We have guys coming together from a bunch of different communities, and those trips are good team-bonding exercises.”
The Island Cup will never match up to the 16-team showcases that used to draw major-league scouts to the mid-Island every May, along with teams from across Canada and even one club from France and another from the U.S.
But after last weekend, its future is probably secure. Even if the details are a bit murky.
“Our intent was to host it this year and then rotate it around between the other Island teams each year,” said Wallace. “But then the other coaches said, ‘We like coming up; you guys should host every year.’
“I guess we’ll have to talk it over and decide how it’s going to look.”