A quick start and a few nice catches in the later stage of the game was all the Armena Royls would need to win a third game in their last four.
After giving up a 7-run deficit last Thursday to Leduc, The Royals decided it was better to be on the other side of the ball. Red hot Zenan Sherbaniuk, 7-for-9 at the plate in the last two games got it all started with a double to left field. Six hits, three errors and some Armena bounces gave the Royals a 7-0 lead.
But the Rebels are a scrappy bunch. With Joel Boettger on the hill for Armena, the veteran righty struggled with control. He uncharacteristically walked five guys on the night, four of which accounted for Ryley Rebel runs.
“I just couldn’t find the zone,” Boettger said after. “I don’t know what it was. The arm felt fine, just wasn’t hitting my spots.”
His defence would pull him out, including two nice grabs in centre field by Kyle Ellis. A three-run second followed by an additional one in the fourth spread the lead to 11-2 after four and a half. The Rebels elected to change pitchers early from young Blake Helgland to long-time PBLer Cory Epp.
And Epp got the job done, not giving up a run over the final four innings, and it opened the door for a possible comeback.
The game took a controversial turn in the bottom of the sixth, however, as Boettger began to tire and suddenly the Rebels had two across and were down just six with one out and Boettger running on fumes. He had already given up a solo shot to Craig Kaughan in the fifth and the Royals began the debate to pull their star pitcher for a reliever.
With the bases loaded, Boettger got a ground ball to shortstop Jason Buzzell who was distracted by Koughan running for second to third base in front of him. The umpires immediately called runner interference, in a play exactly the same as a game in Bardo in May when Landon Miller was called out on runner interference.
The Rebels went ballistic, and couldn’t regain their composure for a few minutes. There were now two outs and despite tacking on one more, a ground out fielder’s choice ended the threat and the game was never in question again.
Jason Buzzell came in to close out the final frame to keep Boettger’s arm fresh for possible action next week. The win puts the Royals ever so close to their first playoff berth since the Armena Axemen split, especially after a Bardo loss to Leduc Thursday night.
The two teams meet again in Ryley Tuesday. Game time is 7 p.m.