After losing an early lead on Thursday night, the Armena Royals would battle back and take game two in the top of the seventh with 6-4 win at Fred Johns Park in Leduc. The win will even the PBL Championship Series against the Leduc Milleteers at 1-1 and sets up a game three on Tuesday July 31 at Anniversary Park in Armena that will see the PBL Champions be crowned. Unless things play out like the last game three played at Anniversary Park (2016) and the game ends in extras due to darkness forcing teams to reconvene for a game three 2.0 at a later date. It is the PBL, you really never can tell what might happen.
With the possibility to sweep the Pennant winning Armena Royals on Thursday night, the Leduc Milleteers sent veteran right hander Steve Pahl to the mound to try and capture the franchises sixth PBL Championship since 2008. Countering Pahl was Armena’s Lyndon Galvin. Both pitchers would battle all night filling the strike zone and using their defence behind them to great effect.
The Royals would open the scoring in the game with a second inning RBI single by DH Clark Banack. Catcher Sheldon Petryshyn would start the inning off with a single before swiping second base off the duo of Steve Pahl and Trevor Pahl. Once in scoring position all it took was a single back up the middle for the 1-0 Royals lead. The stolen base was a problem for the Milleteers pitching and defence all game and at the same time it was a catalyst for the Royals offence. Armena would steal a total of 9 bases in the game off of the Steve Pahl and Jon Anstey on the hill and Trevor Pahl and Brad Engel behind the plate. The Royals would score 6 runs in game two, each one of those runners that would come in to score had stolen a base and gained an extra ninety feet.
In the third inning with one out, Zenan Sherbaniuk would walk, steal second and then be driven in by a RBI single from Doug Morris. Morris would steal second base and after an error by the Milleteers defence would score on a RBI ground out from Petryhysn to make it 3-0 at the time. In the top of the fifth inning, now trailing 4-3, the Royals would use the stolen base to tie the game with some fundamental baseball. Left fielder Devan Varga would hit a lead off single, proceed to steal second and then move to third on the throwing error to the Milleteers catcher. A couple of pitches later Varga was scoring the tying run when Zenan Sherbaniuk would lift a sacrifice fly to right field. All of a sudden it was 4-4.
Armena would use their speed and the stolen base once again in the top of the seventh inning, this time to win the game. With one out, the now short stop Devan Varga would reach base on his second single of the game. Zenan Sherbaniuk would get hit by a Jon Anstey pitch to put runners on first and second. Varga would proceed to steal third, Sherbaniuk second and with two out Luke Ryan would hit a flare to right field that would just get over the glove of Alex McIntosh to score both runners and make it a 6-4 ball game and set the stage for game three.
Leduc’s offence struggled in the early going against Royals pitcher Lyndon Galvin but finally got on the board in the third. Left fielder Brendan Huber would reach base with a single and later be brought in by second baseman Alex McIntosh as the first year Milleteer would beat out a throw at first for a RBI fielder’s choice. In the fourth inning centre fielder Kirk Smith would start a big inning for Leduc with a single and after a passed ball and a costly error, would cross home plate to make 3-2 Milleteers. Another error later in the inning by the Royals defence would lead to a pair of runs, including the go ahead run at the time. With one out and runners at second and third, catcher Brad Engel would put a ball in play and use his speed to rush a throw that pulled first baseman Luke Ryan off the base. Trevor Pahl was scoring on the play to tie the game at 3-3 but speedy Brendan Huber would come all the way in from second on the play to give the Milleteers a 4-3 lead before the Royals would score three unanswered runs to win the game. Huber provided much of the Milleteers offence from the eighth spot in the order, finishing the game 1-1 with a pair of walks, two runs scored and two stolen bases.
Game two was an intense game that saw tempers flare a couple times, both during the game and after the game between the two teams. In the fifth inning the umpires got together to rule that Doug Morris weaved too far to the inside of the base path on a come-backer to pitcher Steve Pahl. The result was a missed out at first base on the throw and Morris standing at second. Unfortunately for the Royals the runner would be called out sparking an exchange between Morris and Milleteers third baseman Del Kruk. Words were again exchanged later in the inning when Kruk would make an error at third base, in front of the Armena dugout. In the 7th Leduc pitcher Jon Anstey would get Morris to pop up to Kruk in foul territory and in the bottom of the 7th Morris, now on the hill to close out the game, would get Kruk to ground out for the second out. The stare-down from Morris would cause Kruk to make his way over to the Royals dugout after the game where David Ritz played peacemaker. It is playoff baseball and after four meetings between these two teams already and now a third and final Championship game, it is a great ending to the season for baseball fans!
With five days off before game three, both teams are expected to have all of their pitchers ready and available. Armena should have Morris, Galvin and game one starter Ian Sherbaniuk ready while Leduc could have the likes of Pahl, Anstey, Chad Soucy and game one winner Kirk Smith ready. With both teams having quality arms, hitters might not get to see the same pitcher twice in what could be a low scoring affair. If the Royals win it will be their second PBL Championship in the last four seasons, winning the 2015 PBL Championship against the Rosalind Athletics. It will also wash away the dismal 2017 season for the Royals who went from nearly winning the 2016 PBL Championship against the Rosalind Athletics, losing in day two of game three’s extra innings (teams played nine innings on a Tuesday night and another seven on Wednesday night), to finishing 3-11 in 2017. The Royals started the 2018 season with the third longest winning streak in modern PBL history and a PBL Championship would complete the comeback season. If the Milleteers win, it will be the franchises sixth PBL title since 2008 and sixth title in six PBL Championship appearances. Leduc is already in the PBL history books with five consecutive championships (2009-2013), something that the legendary Ryley Rebels of the late 1980’s to early 2000’s couldn’t accomplish as they peaked at three consecutive titles in their nine championship dynasty.
Game three goes Tuesday July 31 at Anniversary Park in Armena. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00pm.