On Tuesday night in Armena the Royals completed their two game series sweep versus the Holden Blue Jays with a commanding 11-1 win in six innings. The win gives the Royals their second PBL Championship in as many years, third PBL Championship since 2015, fifth PBL Championship as the Royals and seventh PBL Championship for the hamlet of Armena between the Axemen and Royals.
The Royals would use timely hitting, some great pitching from right hander David Ritz and some sloppy Blue Jays defence to secure the series clinching win.
In the first inning the Jays were the first on the board when they put together a nice two out rally after 1B Zak Lang connected on a single to left field. A wild pitch from Ritz would move him into scoring position for LF Alan Ziegler to score him on a RBI double to the right centre gap to make it 1-0 Jays. Unfortunately for Holden the well oiled offensive machine that scored 123 runs in the regular season and 25 runs in two games against the Edmonton Expos in their Semi-Final Series could not make much of an impact against Royals pitching. In the last five innings the Jays were able to get seven runners on base, however only four were able to make it into scoring position limiting the chances of a big inning, something the Jays desperately needed, to get back into the game.
CF Randall Zielger would reach base in the top of the second with a single down the left field line, but would promptly get thrown out by Royals C Sheldon Petryshyn trying to steal second base. In the top of the third P Grayson Soporvich reached on an error to Royals SS Devin Varga and managed to steal second base but was left stranded as Ritz would get 1B Zak Lang to fly out to left field and 2B Craig Weder to ground out to end the inning.
Trailing 3-1 now heading into the fourth inning the Jays had another great opportunity to score a run as LF Alan Ziegler would get his second hit of the night with a single to right field. Ziegler would move into scoring position when Ritz would issue a walk to 3B Clay Giebelhaus with one out. The veteran right hander would settle down striking out CF Randall Ziegler before ending the inning with a ground ball off the bat of RF Kyle Muzechka. Keeping the Jays off the scoreboard was huge as the Royals would explode in the home half of the fourth.
After watching the Royals score with ease and expand the lead to 9-1, the Jays would load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fifth for what would turn out to be their last chance at scoring some runs against Ritz and the Armena defence. 1B Zak Lang would pick up his second hit of the night after a lengthy seven pitch at bat versus Ritz followed by another single from 2B Craig Weder. LF Alan Ziegler proved to be the biggest thorn for Ritz on the night, already with two hits, Ziegler would work a walk to load the bases ahead of C Kyle Brisebois. The former Sherwood Park Athletic would send a pitch into centre field but CF Zenan Sherbaniuk was able to track it down with ease to end the threat.
Clearly deflated, the Jays would go quietly in the top of the sixth inning as Ritz would use thirteen pitches to get 3B Clay Giebelhaus, P Randall Ziegler and RF Kyle Muzechka in order.
The Armena hitters came out swinging against Jays starter Grayson Suporovich right from the start of the game. SS Devin Varga would hit a hot comebacker on the second pitch of the game while C Sheldon Petryshyn and 1B Luke Ryan would each go down swinging with mighty hacks against the Jays pitcher. CF Zenan Sherbaniuk would start the Royals offence with lead off single in the bottom of the second inning. Sherbaniuk would steal second base and move to third on a 2B Liam Gregor infield single. 3B Ian Sherbaniuk would tie the game with a RBI groundout back to the pitcher, as Zenan Sherbaniuk would come in to score. Gregor would steal second with P David Ritz up to bat and later score when Ritz would line a single into left field for what would turn out to be the game winning run. LF Lyndon Varga would reach on a fielder’s choice and would eventually come around to score on a two out dropped fly ball by LF Alan Ziegler for the Jays first error of the game.
Soprovich would settle in and get the middle of the Royals lineup in order with another comebacker, this time off the bat of C Sheldon Petryshyn and a pair of fly balls to 1B Luke Ryan and CF Zenan Sherbaniuk, both finding the glove of Alan Ziegler in left field.
The Royals fourth inning was the dagger. The inning resulted in Armena sending eleven hitters to the plate, scoring six runs on four hits and three Blue Jays errors. 2B Liam Gregor would start the inning by reaching base on an error to his counter part 2B Craig Weder. 3B Ian Sherbaniuk would rip the first pitch he saw into left field to put Gregor into scoring position. P David Ritz would reach base on a fielder’s choice when he would hit a ground ball to Weder who would try to take Ian Sherbaniuk running infront of him. Sherbaniuk was called safe as the umpire ruled that Weder switched the ball to his hand and tagged him with his glove. Gregor would come in to score on the play as Weder would throw the ball away trying to get Ritz running to first base. LF Lyndon Varga would be the beneficiary of the Jays third error of the inning when 1B Zak Lang would get eaten up on a ground ball to his right to once again load the bases for the Royals. SS Devin Varga and C Sheldon Petryshyn would each hit RBI singles and 1B Luke Ryan was issued a bases loaded walk. CF Zenan Sherbaniuk would get his second hit of the night with a RBI single before Gregor would return to the plate, this time getting a RBI ground out for the sixth and final run of the inning.
Now within striking distance of the PBL’s mercy rule, the Royals offence went back to work in the bottom of the fifth. A one out single from LF Lyndon Varga was followed up by a single from pinch hitter Doug Morris would arrived just before his at bat to a nice round of applause from the Royals fans. C Sheldon Petryshyn would score Varga on a two out RBI single which would lead the Royals to having two runners in scoring position in a 10-1 game with 1B Luke Ryan up to bat. A single would have ended the game but Ryan went for the spectacle of a three run home run and just missed as he would drive LF Alan Ziegler to the fence for the final out of the inning. Close but…
CF Zenan Sherbaniuk needed to see two pitches from P Randall Ziegler before taking a big swing at a 2-0 fastball that he liked. Sherbaniuk’s drive would clear the left field fence by a considerable amount and find it’s way to the horse pasture and the Royals became the 2019 PBL Champions. Sherbaniuk was only a few steps out of the batter’s box when he would raise a hand to watch the ball sail out of Anniversary Park. At home plate Sherbaniuk was greeted by teammates and a mini-jug of water, which was step up from the two red solo cups worth of water used in the 2002 Royals PBL Championship win.
We have had walk off Championships in the past, big Championship clinching home runs in the past as well, but the walk off mercy rule win on a home run that fans saw on Tuesday night in Armena, is very likely the first in PBL History.
Congratulations to the Armena Royals on another PBL Championship to add to their trophy case in the skate shack. The Royals would finish off their Championship run with a four game winning streak, beating the Rosalind Athletics soundly when their backs were up against the wall in game two of their series before holding strong to win game three 5-4 and take the series. Then they were able to shutout the Holden Blue Jays, who scored the third most runs in the league and whose 25 runs scored in two games versus the Edmonton Expos is the second most runs scored in modern PBL History in a series sweep, in game one before once again having a big win in game two at home. This time it was for the title.
For the Holden Blue Jays, they will need to re-group and look forward to next season as the fifth time in the PBL Championship Series was not the charm. Everyone is waiting, and expecting, the Holden Blue Jays to take the next step and become PBL Champions, but they now have losses in the final series against the Leduc Milleteers (2011 & 2013), Ryley Rebels (2014), Rosalind Athletics (2017) and Armena Royals (2019) on this current team’s record. The Jays also lost in the finals in 1979 and 1981 both to the Camrose Roadrunners, 1991 to the Tofield Lakers and 1993 to the Ryley Rebels. The only PBL Championships that have made their way into Holden were in 1950 when they defeated Thule, 1987 over the Ryley Rebels and 1992 over the Ryley Rebels.
Next up in the Powerline Baseball League season will be the annual Harry Andreassen All-Star Challenge set to take place on Sunday August 11 in Camrose at 1:00pm. Teams are formalizing their All Star selections for manager Ian Sherbaniuk, who will be at the helm of this year’s (and now next year’s) PBL All Star team as they take on the best from the Battle River Baseball League.