Nearly six years ago the Leduc Milleteers were toast of the town in the PBL. They had won back-to-back-to-back championships in 2009, ’10 and ’11 before and were always about winning the close games with defense, pitching and clutch. During their incredible run of five championships, they went the distance in all but one of the championship series (2010 Ryley Rebels in a rare lopsided final), against Bardo (RIP), Holden (Twice!) and these Armena Royals.
Tuesday, July 24
Leduc at Armena
Thursday, July 26
Armena at Leduc
Tuesday, July 31
Leduc at Armena (If Necessary)
The Armena Royals of 2012 were not the Armena Royals of 2018. They were one game under .500 – with this year’s standings, by all account, would not have qualified for the postseason. They had a young knuckleballer and a veteran stud coupled with some muffin throwers and wild things. In their first-round series against Ryley, they caught the eventual 2014 champs sleeping with a 10-0 win in game one, followed by an improbable eight-run comeback in game two at home. By all accounts, no one in the league thought they deserved to be in the final.
The Milleteers still had trouble with them, losing game one, before a magical pitching performance by Steve Pahl in game two, and a late-game comeback in game three, kickstarted by a Trevor Pahl diving doubleplay that still haunts this author to this day.
But the Royals grew and won a championship after that a couple years later. The Milleteers retooled – missing the playoffs and then getting drubbed last year by the Rosalind Athletics. Armena did, too, in a trainwreck season that saw them finish in next to last place at 3-11.
But here we are again. Some familiar faces, some not-so-familiar. Only three Royals remain from that team – the Sherbaniuks who were still in diapers at the time as their parents canceled the family holiday to Seattle for games two and three, as well as the aging professor Banack. Leduc has a few more, showing the experience factor (for whatever it’s worth) is on their side.
Head-to-head this season: Armena 2-0
Royals 9 – Milleteers 2 (May 12 in Armena)
Royals 6 – Milleteers 4 (June 26 in Leduc)
Not only have the players changed, but the locale has, too. Games one and three, if necessary, will be at Anniversary Park in Armena. In 2012, the home-field advantage went to Leduc, and the noisy park along the highway hosted two of the three tilts. Although the Royals won both games in this season’s two-game series, the two haven’t met in Armena since opening day. Last year’s series also went to the team who got swept in the regular season, and as often does, the regular season is so much different than the postseason.
On paper the teams seem fairly even. Leduc’s pitching and defence has been better overall this year, but Armena’s offence has led the charge. Usually the latter doesn’t prevail in the playoffs. Surprisingly though, the Milleteers found ways to score in a wild first-round sweep of the defending champion Rosalind A’s.
For those with nostalgic views like myself, this gets us back there a bit. It’s not Armena vs. Tofield or Camrose but it does bring us back to another age. And a new-old champ will once again hoist that silver mug. And most importantly, another year in the sun, on the rural Alberta nights, was sung.
Good luck to the teams, and have fun.