For the first time since 2001, the PBL Championship is heading down Highway 14 again.
The Holden Blue Jays triumphed in one of the most intense PBL playoff games ever witnessed in Armena history, as multiple lead changes and fan interaction highlighted a 7-6 thriller on an unbelievably beautiful night under the bright Alberta sky in Armena.
The game began with a bang as the Blue Jays notched a run on a lead-off double by Alan Ziegler followed by the red-hot Zak Lang who would collect 4 RBI on the night in the winning cause. Ian Sherbaniuk steadied himself but gave up two more on a walk and an error in the third.
The Royals responded in kind with two runs in each of the second and third innings with six hits and two walks off starter Logan Skori. Up 4-3 with two on and two outs in the third, the No. 8 batter Jason Buzzell would launch a drive to right centre field that appeared destined for the orange snow-fenced area, sectioned off after work crews sprung a leak in doing construction on sewer lines on the other side of the fence. An amazing diving catch just before the ball hit the ground by the right fielder proved to be the turning point and preventing a 6-3 lead for Armena.
The Royals would then make an interesting decision to yank Sherbaniuk after four with Armena up 4-3 and the top of the order coming up for the Jays. Brother Zenan Sherbaniuk entered the game in the fifth, and a seeing-eye-single and a walk setup the pivotal moment of the game, as Lang launched a three-run bomb to give the Jays a 6-4 lead. Sherbaniuk would bean the next batter and Logan Skori would launch an RBI double off reliever Jason Buzzell to make it 7-4.
With the game appearing out of reach, the scrappy Royals got back into the game with another run on an RBI single by Buzzell, scoring Chad Samoisette. Then Buzzell would come around, after a Lyndon Galvin walk and double steal. The game was now 7-6 and the Blue Jays went to closer Kyle Muzcheska for the two-inning save.
With the Jays looking to add insurance against the far reaches of the Armena bullpen in Buzzell, they couldn’t cash in a run. They also were losing their composure as Grayson Soprovich was tossed for the second time in the series for appearing to bodycheck first baseman Clark Banack on a bunt. The all-star pitcher had, what one Armena wife called, a “hissy-fit” before exchanging choice words about the umpires ability.
With the game still going on despite the side-show antics, the Royals fought Mucheska hard. Doug Morris battled through a 12-pitch at-bat to single before Muzcheska struck out both Cole Tomaszewski and Landon Miller in the sixth. He then went 1-2-3 in the final frame, with the game being capped by a Zak Lang diving stab on a hard-hit pay-off pitch down the first baseline to secure the finals berth.
That means the PBL trophy is heading back to Highway 14. Tuesday marks game one in Ryley while game two is Thursday, Aug. 7. If game three is needed, it would be back in Ryley, Aug. 12. Game times are 7 p.m.