A very disappointing 2013 Powerline Baseball League season came to an end for the Ryley Rebels on Tuesday July 16 when the Bardo Athletics defeated the Camrose Roadrunners 8-3. Although the Rebels were officially eliminated from the playoff picture on July 16 after sitting most of the season in fourth place and even a brief stint in first place early in the season, the season seemed to become lost in mid May.
Heading into the May 21 game against the then winless Beaumont Angels, the Rebels were sitting in a good position with a 2-0-1 opening to the season in a tough first week facing the rival Bardo Athletics, the defending champion Leduc Milleteers and the defending runner up Armena Royals. The Rebels capped the opening week off with a huge 17-8 win over the Royals but as it turned out, that would be the high point for the Rebels through much of the next eleven games. The Beaumont Angels defeated the Rebels, in Ryley, by a score of 15-13 and in retrospect, was a great foreshadow as to what the season would amount to for the Rebels.
The Rebels would finish the season as the second highest run producing team in the PBL scoring a total of 96 runs in 14 games (6.86 runs/game) but would surrender the third most runs in the PBL with 89 runs allowed in 14 games (6.34 runs/game). As scoring 13 runs in a ball game is often more than enough to win, so should scoring an average of almost seven runs a game be good enough to win most of the time. But not for the Rebels in 2013 as the pitching and defence just could not hold on to many games while the offence continued to put runs on the board.
While many preseason predictions saw the main issue for the Rebels being pitching depth, none could have forecasted it be as much of a problem as it was. Throughout early parts in the season the Rebels were without P Corey Epp, P Craig Koughan, P Kris Kushnerick and P Don Oslund due to injuries, work and other commitments. While Epp, Koughan and Oslund all eventually came around and recovered, it was too little too late despite going 3-2 in their last five games of the season to try and hold on to the fourth place spot. The Rebels would get great games down the stretch by Epp to beat the pennant winning Holden Blue Jays and the Camrose Roadrunners and from Koughan to knock of the perennial PBL Champion favourite Leduc Milleteers.
There were just too many games in hand that Bardo had over the Rebels in the final two weeks that left the final push close, but no cigar for Ryley. From May 21 to July 4 the Rebels would post a horrible record of 2-7 in PBL play and 2-9 overall. Adding to the already frustrating play on the field was the constant search for eight players who would be able to make it out in time for the game. With work, injuries and other commitments from guys in the way, the Rebels did not field the same line up in back to back games once in 2013. The inconsistent lineup would be scattered with guys, outside of the 3-4 core players, who would not see a pitch, a fly ball or a ground ball in 2-3 weeks and who would not have touched a baseball in that same time frame. With many of whom not playing baseball regularly since their midget days. Hard to play consistently at the plate, on the mound and in the field with trends like that.
When asked what they felt the team needs to address this offseason, Rebels fans did not hesitate to say pitching. Like so many other teams out there who value pitching at a premium, the Rebels will need to find a bonafide number two and three pitcher from either within their own organization or through free agency. While feelers are out there already and some verbal agreements have been reached with guys who are used to tossing complete games, the contract has yet to be signed on the dotted line.
While early season optimism started to fade in late May as the Rebels struggled to keep opponents off the board, the offence continued to be a Ryley Rebels offence and scored runs with ease at times. The Rebels have never finished lower than fourth in runs for in the league and 2013 was no exception as they put 96 runs scored which was the second highest runs for total in the PBL behind only the Armena Royals’ 109 runs scored.
Once again the Rebels offence was led by a core group of players like 2B/SS Brian Tavaroli who scored 19 runs in 2013 and filled in for the absent SS Dylan Solberg for the first three quarters of the season. 3B/P Craig Koughan would lead the Rebels with a total of 21 hits in 2013 and finished tied for first on the team in RBIs with 14 along with OF Kevin Reinholt. Koughan would win he Rebels batting title with his .389 batting average which included 4 doubles, tying Tavaroli for the most doubles on the team. The resurgence of C Dustin Solberg (.364 batting average) and the emergence of OF Tyson Schielke who would also bat .389 in limited at bats and with 7 stolen bases, gave the Rebels two more bats that could generate runs and a good line up when everyone was present.
Fans will be hoping for bounce back seasons next year from OF/P Corey Epp who hit .178 in 2013 with an OBP of .310 and from 1B Kyle Reinholt who struggled in his first full season with the Rebels since 2011. Reinholt, who previously led the team in batting in back to back seasons from 2009-2010, found himself hitting .146 in 2013 with 18 strikeouts. If the core group of players continue to produce at the plate and the Rebels get bounce back years from Epp and Kyle Reinholt along with a full season from SS Dylan Solberg, the offence should not need too many adjustments in the offseason.
Missing the playoffs means that the Rebels have roughly nine months to figure out what 2014 will look like for a team that struggled with consistency and desire in 2013. For the Rebels, they at least clutched up at the end of the season to win two big ball games against the Leduc Milleteers (6-3) and the Camrose Roadrunners (19-3) where the mentality of the game was different than it had been all season long. Players played smart and the pitching was aggressive, not giving out a lot of free passes to opponents and putting pressure on the opposition to produce to try and keep up with the Rebels offence. The right attitude and mentality went a long way into winning two big ball games but it left a lot of what if feelings on the team had they played that way all season long and not waited until the last week.
The 2013 Powerline Baseball League vs Battle River Baseball League All-Star Game that was originally scheduled for June 25 was moved to Friday August 9 at Harry Andreassen Field in Camrose, AB. Leduc Milleteers Manager Steven Pahl along with Armena Royals Manager Jason Buzzell will be managing the PBL All-Stars and should have the team selected from the nominations put forward by the teams in early August. It will be the final time for Rebel fans to see their team participate in a game until 2014.