The 2018 Powerline Baseball League Championship Series began on Tuesday night at Anniversary Park in Armena with the pennant winning Armena Royals hosting the Leduc Milleteers. The Milleteers would take the opening game by a score of 8-5 but the Royals made it closer than the score suggested with a late game rally.
Starting pitchers for game one were Ian Sherbaniuk for the Royals and Kirk Smith for the Milleteers. Both pitchers would pitch their team into the seventh inning, albeit with different ways to success. Smith would dominate the Royals hitters in stretches as the right handed power pitcher would strike out 11 Armena hitters in his 6.0+ innings of work. Sherbaniuk would use the defence behind him to get outs as the knuckleballer would retire only one Milleteer via the strikeout in the top of the sixth inning. Both offences were able to pick up their hits against both pitchers as Smith allowed 10 hits while Sherbaniuk was touched up for 8 hits by the Milleteers. Both pitchers would however get big outs when their backs were against the wall as Armena left 11 runners on base, 8 of which were left in scoring position, while Leduc would leave 5 runners in scoring position and 7 total base runners on the night.
Both teams came out swinging in their first few plate appearances. In the top of the first inning the Milleteers would score three runs off Sherbaniuk after shortstop Mykel Ruptash and second baseman Jon Anstey both reached on singles. Catcher Alex McIntosh would work a walk from Sherbaniuk to load the bases for third baseman Del Kruk to get hit with an inside pitch for the first run of the game. With runners at second and third the Milleteers would capitalize on a slow developing play with two runs. Pitcher Kirk Smith would hit into a 6-4-3 double play which scored Anstey from third base, but a big stretch and tumble at first base by Luke Ryan to secure the out would allow a second run, McIntosh, to score on the play as well to make it 3-0 early on. Armena would counter with back to back singles by centre fielder Zenan Sherbaniuk and short stop Doug Morris to lead off the bottom of the first inning against Smith and the Milleteers. Unfortunately it would be the start of missed opportunities for the Royals as both Sherbaniuk and Morris would be left stranded in scoring position. Smith would get first baseman Luke Ryan and catcher Sheldon Petryshyn swinging before right fielder Liam Gregor would end the inning on a come-backer to Smith.
Ian Sherbaniuk would settle down after a rough first inning as he would retire the six of the next seven Milleteers he would face. The only batter to reach for the Milleteers in either the second or third inning was second baseman Jon Anstey who would hit a flare into shallow right field that would go off the glove of David Ritz. The Royals would finally get on the score board in the third inning as short stop Doug Morris would hit a one out RBI to the left side allowing left fielder Devan Varga to score from second base. Vargas would lead off the inning with a single and a stolen base to get into scoring position. Luke Ryan would put runners on the corners for the Royals but once again a clutch hit would evade Armena as Petryshyn and Gregor would be retired to end the threat. The Milleteers would then have the opportunity they were looking for in the top of the fourth inning.
Pitcher Kirk Smith would reach via a lead off walk to start the inning and after a throwing error to Royals third baseman Landon Miller allowing right fielder Trevor Pahl to reach first base. With a pair of runners on, first baseman Steve Pahl would pound a RBI single past the Royals right side of the infield to score Smith and make the game 4-1. Short stop Mykel Ruptash would hit a sacrifice fly to centre field for out number two and a 5-1 lead. Then a scary moment Milleteers second baseman Jon Anstey would hit a hard ground ball that would hit a divot and jump up on Royals short stop Doug Morris catching him flush in the face. The play would result in another Milleteers run as Steve Pahl would score from second base with the Royals defence trying to react to what just happened. After a few moments of lying on the infield and getting checked out by the Milleteers training staff, Morris would continue and would record the final out of the inning.
In the home half of the fifth inning the Royals would make it a 6-2 game as Luke Ryan would pick up his second single of the game, this time a RBI single, to score Zenan Sherbaniuk from second base. It was now the second time of the game that the Royals would get on base, steal a base and score a run due to the extra ninety feet obtained by the stolen base. But once again they would struggle to pick up any more momentum as Smith would strike out the side to end the inning and the threat.
Leduc would end Sherbaniuk’s night on the mound in the top of the seventh inning after back to back hits to lead off the inning. Catcher Alex McIntosh would reach via single and would come all the way around to score when Del Kruk would drive a ball to the left centre gap that would evade both Royals left fielder Devan Varga and centre fielder Zenan Sherbaniuk allowing Kruk to get to second base. It was that play that would end Sherbaniuk’s night leaving his final line of the night at 6.0+ innings pitcher, 8 hits, 8 runs and 6 earned runs. Armena would turn to Dan Matushyk out of the pen to get the Royals out of the inning. The right hander would start off by allowing a single to Kirk Smith and a RBI single to Trevor Pahl, but settle in to get Steve Pahl, Ryan Swensen and Brad Engel in order to end the inning. Down 8-2, the Royals were ready to try and make an epic comeback.
A lead off error to second baseman Jon Anstey on a ground ball from Doug Morris would quickly turn into a two RBI bloop single by catcher Sheldon Petryshyn to make it 8-4. Despite being off balance all night with three strikeouts already on the evening, Petryshyn would battle Smith to a full count before sticking his bat out to get a bleeder for a pair of RBIs. Smith’s night would come to an end after right fielder Liam Gregor would single back up the middle for Armena’s tenth single of the night off of Smith. Manager Steve Pahl would turn to Jon Anstey to try and close out the now 8-4 ball game as the tying run loomed on deck for the Royals. Designated hitter Clark Banack would hit a major league popup for out number one but third baseman Landon Miller would strike with a RBI single up the middle to score Petryshyn and make it a 8-5 game. With Gregor at third and pinch runner Lyndon Galvin at second base, David Ritz would battle Anstey for a walk to load the bases and put the tying run on for the Royals. But as the story played out many times already this game for Armena, the big hit just didn’t come. Anstey, who was celebrating his birthday on Tuesday night, would get Devan Varga looking before ending the game with a sneaky fastball against Royals lead off hitter Zenan Sherbaniuk.
The Leduc Milleteers are now 5-1 in PBL Championship game ones dating back to the 2009 season where they started their run of five PBL Championships in a row. The 8-5 victory over the Royals moves the Milleteers PBL Championship record to an impressive 11-3 in the five Championship series they have participated in. The Royals are 5-4 in game twos dating back to 2008 and are 2-1 in game twos after losing game one. In 2013 the Royals lost game one of their semi final series to the Leduc Milleteers and then lost game two as well, but in 2014 against the Holden Blue Jays the Armena would bounce back from a game one loss with a win. Their other game two victory came in 2016 when they lost game one to the Rosalind shutting out the Athletics in game two.
Game two of the 2018 Powerline Baseball League Championship is set for Thursday July 26 at Fred Johns Park in Leduc. The Milleteers will be looking to secure the franchises sixth PBL Championship while the Royals will be looking to scrap together a win to force a game three back at Anniversary Park on Tuesday July 31. A recent Twitter poll shows that most fans are expecting a three game series between the Royals and Milleteers…