Welcome to the 2019 Powerline Baseball League Playoffs! Teams have battled through 16 games this season for the right to participate in the post season and to for the opportunity to play for the PBL Championship. This season one of the Armena Royals, Edmonton Expos, Holden Blue Jays, Rosalind Athletics or Tofield Braves, will become the 81st PBL Champion since 1933.
The PBL had an exciting end to the season that has led to what fans are hoping to be an equally as exciting playoffs. This season fans were treated to a great race for the Pennant atop the standings and a fantastic Wild Card race that featured five teams at one point. When the dust finally settled, the Armena Royals, Edmonton Expos, Holden Blue Jays, Rosalind Athletics and Tofield Braves would begin the hunt for the PBL Championship.
Wild Card Monday
The 2019 PBL Playoffs kicked off on Monday July 15 as the Edmonton Expos defeated the Tofield Braves in the PBL Wild Card Game by a score of 6-3. The Expos will now move on to play the Pennant winning Holden Blue Jays beginning on Thursday July 18 in Vegreville. Yes in Vegreville. Thursday night’s game will mark the first time in PBL History that a playoff game will take place along the Yellowhead. The game is part of the Holden Blue Jays effort over the last couple of seasons to play more games in the Town of Vegreville to better accommodate their players and expand recruiting efforts. In 2018 the Jays played two regular season home games in Vegreville before playing four regular season home games and playoff home games in Vegreville in the 2019 season.
For a full recap of Monday night’s PBL Wild Card Game between the Edmonton Expos and Tofield Braves, check out our coverage here.
2019 PBL Playoff Schedule
*Weather/Field Condition Dependant*
**UPDATED TO REFLECT JULY 18 GAME POSTPONEMENTS**
Monday July 15 – Wild Card Game – Tofield Braves (3) at Edmonton Expos (6)
Monday July 22 – Semi-Finals Game One – Holden Blue Jays at Edmonton Expos
Tuesday July 23 – Semi-Finals Game One – Armena Royals at Rosalind Athletics
Tuesday July 23 – Semi-Finals Game Two – Edmonton Expos at Holden Blue Jays (in Vegreville)
Thursday July 25 – Semi-Finals Game Two – Rosalind Athletics at Armena Royals
Tuesday July 30 – Semi-Finals Game Three – Edmonton Expos at Holden Blue Jays *If Necessary
Tuesday July 30 – Semi-Finals Game Three – Armena Royals at Rosalind Athletics *If Necessary
Thursday August 1 – Championship Game One – at Highest Seed
Tuesday August 6 – Championship Game Two – at Lowest Seed
Thursday August 8 – Championship Game Three – at Highest Seed
The Wild Card Effect
In 2018 the Wild Card Game played it’s role perfectly. The Edmonton Expos as the fifth seed, would travel to Holden to take on the fourth seeded Blue Jays. The game was played on a Wednesday night with the winner having to take on the Pennant winning Armena Royals the following day. The idea behind the introduction of the Wild Card Game at the 2018 Spring PBL Meeting was to include more teams in a playoff race at the end of the season and to give an additional incentive and reward to the teams to win the Pennant. In the one game, winner take all Wild Card Game, most teams will do what they can to win, which often includes using an ace pitcher and/or emptying a bullpen. In 2018 the Expos threw ace Gary LeBlanc while the Jays countered with their own ace Kyle Muzechka. The Jays would go on to win the game 6-0 as Muzechka would pitch a one hit, complete game shutout to get them into the best of three semi-final series versus Armena. The Wild Card effect comes into play when the Jays could essentially only use Muzechka once in the three game series. Game one was the following night and after pitching a complete game the day before, odds are they are unavailable. That means the ace of the staff would likely only be available for a game two, which Muzechka was and beat Armena in Holden to tie the series 1-1. However that pitcher again, would likely be done for five days or so meaning game three would be unlikely and there fore giving the pennant winners an advantage when they can have their ace throw game one and game three on regular rest if need be.
This year, it is likely that the Holden Blue Jays will rely on Muzechka to pitch in game one on Thursday July 18 and game three on Thursday July 25, if necessary. The Expos on the other hand might be able to get a pitcher like Gary LeBlanc two games in the series after Gavin Turinek was able to throw a complete game in the Wild Card Game on Monday night. The Expos pitching staff might be deep enough to come up big enough in the series to give them a chance. However, the Expos will likely have to beat Muzechka, who was the anchor of a fourteen win Jays team, at least once…maybe twice in order to win the series. A tall order for any team, especially on the road for the Expos.
In the other semi-final series, fans will get to see the Rosalind Athletics take on the defending PBL Champions, the Armena Royals. The two teams have had slightly different finishes to the 2019 regular season. The A’s finished 4-1 in their last five games of the year with their only loss coming at the hands of the Holden Blue Jays on a bases loaded hit by pitch walk off win to clinch the pennant. The Royals finished 2-3 over the same span with their wins coming against the 7-9 Camrose Roadrunners and picking up a forfeit win against the Sherwood Park Athletics. The Royals would get 8-3 by the Rosalind Athletics followed up a 9-8 extra innings loss to the 5-11 Camrose Axemen and a 15-2 blowout loss to the 8-8 Tofield Braves to finish the season on a two game losing streak and a game that wasn’t played against the Leduc Milleteers due to the no effect on the PBL standings rule. But the Royals are the defending PBL Champions and should be able to erase a rocky finish to an otherwise great regular season come playoff time. A big factor for this series will be Rosalind Athletics newcomer Griff Lorenz, someone who baseball people in Rosalind call a difference maker on the mound. The tall lefty appears to have the ability to win a series himself if he can get two starts in the best of three series. It was Lorenz on the mound for the A’s during their 8-3 win in Armena a couple of weeks ago.
Fans should be able to get their money’s worth out of an Armena vs Rosalind series as the two teams have met in the 2015 and 2016 PBL Championship Series. The Royals would win in 2015 and the Athletics would take the 2016 title. The Royals will be looking to win the small hamlet’s sixth PBL Championship dating back to 1984 and their first back to back titles since the Armena Royals/Armena Axemen franchise on back to back to back titles from 2002-2004. The Athletics on the other hand are in the hunt for their third Championship, (2016 & 2017) since joining the PBL for the 2015 season and after a disappointing end to their season last year in the semi-finals, and some doom and gloom player availability worries in the off season, the A’s are right back in the thick of another championship season.
Last PBL Championship
Armena Royals – 2018 – defeated Leduc Milleteers 2-1
Edmonton Expos – Never – joined the PBL in 2017
Holden Blue Jays – 1992- defeated Ryley Rebels 2-1
Rosalind Athletics – 2017 – defeated Holden Blue Jays 2-1
Tofield Braves – Never – joined the PBL in 2017
Bold-ish Playoff Predictions
From talking to PBL insiders, some players and some fans, I feel like their is a strong feeling that we will get to see two great PBL Semi-Final Series that everyone is kind of expecting to go three games each, but a couple of clear winners.
PBL Semi-Final Series
Holden Blue Jays defeat the Edmonton Expos: 2-1
Rosalind Athletics defeat the Armena Royals: 2-1
PBL Championship Series
Holden Blue Jays defeat the Rosalind Athletics: 2-1
I think that 2019 could very well be the year that the Holden Blue Jays finally win their first PBL Championship since 1992 and in their fifth PBL Championship appearance since re-starting the franchise in 2010 after losing in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017 (to the Rosalind Athletics). They have to win the Championship at some point and this season, after winning a league record fourteen games, having Kyle Muzechka to pitch twice in a series, a pitching staff/defence that allowed a league low 44 runs and with an offence that scored the third most runs with 123 this season…it feels like this is the year. I feel fairly comfortable with predicting a Rosalind/Holden final, less comfortable predicting a winner between the two as everyone is expecting these two to have a great series. But it is senior men’s baseball and I did go 3 for 13 in my preseason predictions so…