The Pennant winning Holden Blue Jays had a statement game on Monday night as they took game one by a score of 12-1 over the Edmonton Expos at Empire Park. The road win in game one now gives the Jays a chance to sweep the Expos on Tuesday night at home as the remaining game, or games, will shift to Vegreville.
Pitching for the Jays was eight game winner Kyle Muzechka who would once again pitch very effectively in his complete game win against the Expos. Opposing him was Gavin Turinek, who is coming off a big complete game, twelve strikeout performance in the Wild Card Game against the Tofield Braves. Turinek would pitch well for the Expos to start the game, however the Jays would wear out the right hander in the third inning when they would break the scoreless game wide open.
Turinek started the game with a lead off walk to Jays SS Colten Ziegler before erasing him on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of RF Grayson Soprovich and escaping the inning as 1B Zak Lang would hit a fly ball to the gap that was run down by LF Jordan Janke. The Jays would work another lead off walk from Turinek in the top of the second inning, but the right hander would work his way out getting the next three in order with a pair of strikeouts and a pop up back to himself. Through two the Expos had managed to keep the Jays hitless but things took an ugly turn for the sophomore Edmonton team in the top of the third inning.
Mid-season acquisition 3B Kyle Brisebois finally got the Jays in the hit column with a lead off single before P Kyle Muzechka would turn over the lineup with an infield single of his own to put runners on the corners. Turinek would end up hitting SS Colten Ziegler high on the shoulder to load the bases with no one out. A ball off the bat of RF Grayson Soprovich handcuffed Expos SS Bret Barron allowing both Brisebois and Muzechka to score on the error. A RBI single from 1B Zak Lang would make it 3-0 Jays before a series of wild pitches would score two more runs to make it 5-0, all without recording an out so far in the inning. Things were going so well for the Jays in the third that they would re-load the bases before Brisebois would score the sixth run on a RBI ground out to right side to make it 6-0.
The fourth inning was more of the same for the Expos as SS Colten Ziegler would find himself on base for the third time this game, this time with a walk, and would eventually score on another RBI single from 1B Zak Lang, again with no one out. After earlier in the inning missing a fly ball for an error, LF Jordan Janke would make a terrific pick up and throw home on a hard line drive single from Lang to narrowly miss getting a sliding Colten Ziegler at the plate. Player/manager C Stephen Hrabec would score Soprovich on a sacrifice fly making it 8-0.
Turinek’s night would come to an end in the top of the fourth inning when a lead off walk to CF Randall Ziegler would be enough for player/manager Bret Barron. After 110 pitches through four complete innings, Turinek would head behind the dish as C Vaughn Rempel would take over bullpen duties in the catcher/pitcher position swap. The Jays would score four runs to finish on the fifth inning, a RBI ground out from P Kyle Muzechka, a two RBI single from RF Grayson Soprovich and a RBI hit by pitch from C Stephen Hrabec.
The Jays offence broke out in just three innings putting up a total of twelve runs and eight hits between the start of the third inning and the end of the fifth inning to seal the Game One win.
Offensively the Expos had an opportunity to get on the board in the bottom of the first inning and make the Jays play catch up but could not get a clutch hit when needed. After starting the game with a three pitch strikeout looking of 2B Jonathan Down, Muzechka would give up back to back singles from 1B Andrew Down and RF Jeff Morris. A two out walk to CF Gary Leblanc meant a single could easily make it 2-0 Edmonton. LF Jordan Janke would make solid contact and force Jays 2B Craig Weder to move to his left but the veteran infielder would make a nice play and a nice throw to get Janke for the final out.
In the second inning the Expos were sniffing for a run again when P Gavin Turinek would find himself at third base after an infield single and a pair of errors to the Jays right side of the infield off the bat of 2B Jonathan Down. The ground ball would evade 1B Zak Lang for error number one and make its way to 2B Craig Weder who would throw the ball away for error number two. Like in the Wild Card Game against the Jays, the Expos were given scoring opportunities with two out errors. Unfortunately for Edmonton, they would not be able to capitalize tonight as Turinek and Down would be stranded at the corners.
After a 1-2-3 bottom of the third, the Expos finally got on the score board in the bottom of the fourth. Down 8-1 and looking for life, LF Jordan Janke would start the inning off with a bunt single. On the play, P Kyle Muzechka would make a throw from his knees to try and get Janke at first base. The throw would end up into foul territory in right field moving Janke into scoring position. After SS Bret Barron was hit by a pitch on a 1-2 count, a fielder’s choice would result in 2B Craig Weder’s second error of the game allowing Janke to score from third. The Expos would C Vaughn Rempel and P Gavin Turinek on base and into scoring position with only one out. Looking for more the Expos inning would come to a crashing halt when Muzechka would get 2B Jonathan Down swinging and 1B Andrew Down was caught looking to end the inning.
In a last gasp for the Expos offence, 3B Dennis Landriault would finally connect off of his former Camrose Axemen teammate Kyle Muzechka and drive a ball into the right field corner for a stand up double. The two would exchange smiles at second base as Muzechka would lead off the at bat with a change up two feet behind Landriault. CF Gary Leblanc would get to first on a one out walk but Muzechka would get out number two on a ground ball off the bat of LF Jordan Janke. SS Bret Barron was the last hope for the Expos to try and extend the game past the Powerline Baseball League’s ten runs after five innings mercy rule. A single would trim the lead to nine runs with Landriault at third and Leblanc at second. Like in Janke’s first inning at bat, Barron would put the ball in play with a hot ground to SS Colten Ziegler who would make a nice pick up and throw out Barron at first to end the game. Chances were there tonight for the Expos, unfortunately clutch hits just didn’t happen.
The series will now shift to Vegreville, where it will remain for games two and three of the series. Game one was played in Edmonton due to field availability in Edmonton later on in the week combined with the desire to finish this semi-final series off in a relatively timely manner. Game two will go tomorrow night (Tuesday July 23) in Vegreville with a 7:00pm first pitch at the Riverview Ball Diamond. If the Expos can come up with a win, the series will have the deciding game three on Tuesday July 30 in Vegreville. The winner of this series will then move on to play either the Armena Royals or Rosalind Athletics in the 2019 PBL Championship Series.
** PBL Playoff Schedule **
(1) Holden Blue Jays vs (4) Edmonton Expos
Game 1 – July 22 – Jays win 12-1 (5 Innings)
Game 2 – July 23 – Expos at Blue Jays (in Vegreville)
Game 3 – July 30 – Expos at Blue Jays (in Vegreville)
(2) Rosalind Athletics vs (3) Armena Royals
Game 1 – July 23 – Royals at Athletics
Game 2 – July 25 – Athletics at Royals
Game 3 – July 30 – Royals at Athletics