2019 PBL Playoff Preview

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.

Gavin Turinek and the Edmonton Expos would defeat the Tofield Braves 6-3 on Monday night in the 2019 PBL Wild Card Game.


2019 PBL Playoff Schedule

*Weather/Field Condition Dependant*

Monday July 15 – Wild Card Game – Tofield Braves (3) at Edmonton Expos (6)

 

Thursday July 18 – Semi-Finals Game One – Edmonton Expos at Holden Blue Jays 

Thursday July 18 – Semi-Finals Game One – Armena Royals at Rosalind Athletics

 

Monday July 22 – Semi-Finals Game Two – Holden Blue Jays at Edmonton Expos

Tuesday July 23 – Semi-Finals Game Two – Rosalind Athletics at Armena Royals

 

Thursday July 25 – Semi-Finals Game Three – Edmonton Expos at Holden Blue Jays *If Necessary

Thursday July 25 – Semi-Finals Game Three – Armena Royals at Rosalind Athletics *If Necessary

 

Tuesday July 30 – Championship Game One – at Highest Seed

Thursday August 1 – Championship Game Two – at Lowest Seed

Tuesday August 6 – 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. 

Finishing Strong

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. 

Back (LtoR): Clark Banack, Daniel Matushyk, Ian Sherbaniuk, Kellan Morris, Landon Miller, Liam Gregor, Lyndon Galvin, Derek Stollery
Front (LtoR): David Ritz, Devan Varga, Sheldon Petryshen, Doug Morris, Luke Ryan, Zenan Sherbaniuk

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…

Posted in Armena Royals, Edmonton Expos, Holden Blue Jays, Kris, PBL, Rosalind Athletics, Tofield Braves

Expos Defeat Braves In Wild Card Game

On Monday night, the Edmonton Expos successfully exorcised any Wild Card demons they may have possessed after last year’s loss with a big 6-3 win over the Tofield Braves at Empire Park. The win comes a mere three days after the Expos and Braves tangled on Friday night it a heated affair that left tempers boiled over and benches clear. 

Win – Gavin Turinek (7.0IP, 12K, 5BB, 4H, 1ER)
Loss – Corey Epp (1.0IP, 6R, 1ER, K, BB, 4K)

The pitching matchup for the Wild Card Game saw right hander Gavin Turinek get the start for the Expos while right hander Corey Epp was given the ball by manager Dylan Berrecloth for the Braves. In a one game, winner take all, Wild Card Game, both pitchers were on short leashes. The two pitchers would however go on very different paths once the game began. Turinek would eventually earn the complete game win for the Expos throwing 134 pitches, striking out twelve, walking five and allowing only one earned run. Epp only survive one inning of work but not before surrendering five unearned runs and six in total in a bad inning that saw the Braves commit three errors with two outs. It was a bad inning that the Braves just could not overcome on this night.

Tofield would get to Turinek right out of the gate, as leadoff hitter Dylan Berrecloth would earn a walk to start the top of the first inning. With catcher Chad Nelson at the dish, Berrecloth would be caught trying to take second base on a great throw from Expos catcher Vaughn Rempel. Nelson would walk and shortstop Jason Sutherland would hit a single into right field to give the Braves their first runner in scoring position. With one out Dane McCarty would fly out to deep centre field for out number two and Turnik would get out of the jam by striking out Sean Melanson to end the inning. Fired up, the Expos would come up to the plate and cause all the damage they needed. 

Expos pitcher Gavin Turinek would throw a complete game win on Monday night, striking out 12 Tofield Braves.

Expos shortstop Jonathan Down would set the tone of the inning for Edmonton with a double into left field that would take a home field hop sideways and past left fielder Dane McCarty. With one out, right fielder Jeff Morris would bring Down home from second on a soft RBI single to make it 1-0 Expos. With two outs, the Braves would see their defensive wheels fall off. Centre fielder Jordan Janke would get hit by a pitch before pitcher Gavin Turinek would earn a walk to load the bases. With Morris at third and walking back to the base after a pitch, the Braves would try to nab out number three on an unsuspecting Morris. There was however a little miscommunication and despite a diving attempt by third baseman Ray Lehman, the throw would find its way into left field allowing Morris to score to make it 2-0. Two errors later, runners at second and third and the score now 4-0 Expos, second baseman Jesse Janzen would hit a flare into right field and in front of Braves right fielder Josh McDonald to score runs five and six of the first inning. When the dust settled and as the clouds began to roll in from the west with heavy lightning, the game all of a sudden was 6-0 Edmonton. 

Despite cloudy skies and lightning, the game would continue and get a full seven innings in.

Relief pitcher Barry Truss would hold the fort for the Braves for the remaining innings, pitching five innings of shutout baseball, striking out eight and allowing only six Expos runners to make it into scoring position for the rest of the night. While Truss was silencing the Expos bats, Turinek was continuing to dominate the Braves with a dazzling display of fastballs. The Braves would finally get on to the scoreboard in the top of the third inning when Chad Nelson would lead off the inning with single and with Sean Melanson on his heels, would come in to score on a two out error to the Expos. With the score now 6-2 Edmonton, Turinek would retire eight Braves in a row, six via the strikeout, until the top of the sixth inning when the Braves would score their third and final run of the night. 

Veteran Ray Lehman would earn a four pitch walk against Turinek before moving over to third on an overrun by the Expos fielder on a Dylan Solberg single to right field. With runners now at second and third, centre fielder Dylan Berrecloth would hit a RBI infield single as the speedy player/manager would surprise the Expos defence, which was taking a little too long to make a play at first. Lehman would score to make it 6-3 before the Expos ended the inning on a fielders choice and the game on back to back strikeouts in the top of the seventh from Turinek for number eleven and twelve on the night. 

Braves 3B Ray Lehman dives to try and stop an errant throw with Expos RF Jeff Morris (11) scoring on the play.

It was a sloppy game by both teams defensively as they would combine for a total of seven errors and seven unearned runs. The pitching of Gavin Turinek was too much for the Braves hitters who despite getting pounded with fastball after fastball, couldn’t string together enough offence to chip away fast enough at the Expos lead. Edmonton first baseman Andrew Down was the only hitter in tonight’s game who would get more than one hit as he would pick up a double in the third inning and a single in the fifth. Jonathan Down, Gavin Turinek, Gary LeBlanc and Vaughn Rempel would all pick up singles for the Expos with Jeff Morris collection a RBI single and Jesse Janzen a two RBI single. For the Braves the offence was just as spread out across the lineup as the Expos, just not in as large of a quality. Dylan Berrecloth, Chad Nelson, Jason Sutherland and Dylan Solberg would each pick up a single on the night. Combined the teams had a total of twelve hits coming from eleven different hitters. 

The win for the Expos sets up a best of three Semi-Final Series against the Holden Blue Jays. In 2018, it was the Jays who eliminated the Expos in the Wild Card Game with a 6-0 win in Holden. It was Kyle Muzechka who would dominate the Expos in last year’s Wild Card Game, holding the expansion team to only one hit in his complete game win. This year the Expos will need to potentially face Muzechka twice, once in game one and once in game three, if they hope to defeat the pennant winning Holden Jays. Game one of the series will go on Thursday July 18 in Vegreville, where the Blue Jays announced they will be playing all their playoff home games this season, Game two is scheduled for Monday July 22 in Edmonton with the series moving back to Vegreville on Thursday July 25 if necessary.

The Edmonton Expos emerge victorious by a score of 6-3 over the Tofield Braves in the 2019 Wild Card Game.


2019 PBL Playoff Picture 

(1) Holden Blue Jays vs (4) Edmonton Expos

Game One – Thursday July 18 – Expos at Blue Jays in Vegreville

Game Two – Monday July 22 – Blue Jays at Expos

Game Three – Thursday July 25 – Expos at Blue Jays in Vegreville *If Necessary*

 

(2) Rosalind Athletics vs (3) Armena Royals

Game One – Thursday July 18 – Royals at Athletics

Game Two – Tuesday July 23 – Athletics at Royals

Game Three – Thursday July 25 – Royals at Athletics *If Necessary*

Posted in Edmonton Expos, Kris, Tofield Braves

Wild Card Game Preview

The Edmonton Expos (8-7-1) and the Tofield Braves (8-8) both won 8 games, good for the fourth and fifth best records in the Powerline Baseball League in 2019, but thanks to sub .500 records from the Camrose Roadrunners (7-9), Camrose Axemen (5-11) and Leduc Milleteers (4-11), they will face each other at Empire Park in the PBL Wild Card Game on Monday night. 

This Wild Card game is a battle of two closely matched teams as the Expos were 4-4 at home while the Braves were 4-4 on the road. The Expos managed to score 101 runs on the season while the Braves were right behind them with 96 runs scored. The two teams met twice this season with the Expos winning in Tofield on May 14 by a score of 9-3 while the Braves took the final game of the season 7-6 against the Expos on Friday July 12, in what became a preview for the Wild Card Game. 

How They Got Here

There is a difference in recent play for the two teams. The Expos are limping into the playoffs finishing the year 2-3 with both wins (vs Sherwood Park, vs Axemen) coming as 7-0 forfeit wins. In that stretch Edmonton would fall 10-0 to the Holden Blue Jays, 13-3 to the Rosalind Athletics and then finally 7-6 to the Braves to end their season. Tofield on the other hand got fire to end the season, pulling to within half a game of the fourth place Expos by going 4-1 in their last five. Fighting for a Wild Card berth in a tight race with three other teams has meant the Braves have been playing playoff like baseball since the beginning of July. As the teams dropped out of contention, the Braves were still battling the Camrose Roadrunners for that final spot. The Roadrunners would pick up a 7-0 forfeit win against the Leduc Milleteers who couldn’t field a team on July 11 which put the Braves two points back of Camrose. The Braves would need three points in their last two games to lay claim to the last Wild Card berth succeeding with a 15-2 win over the Armena Royals and then clinching their spot with the 7-6 win in nine innings vs Edmonton. 

While the Braves had to get hot to get into the playoff picture, the Expos played fairly consistently throughout the season. Never challenging the top three and never in real danger of falling out of fourth place and home field advantage for the Wild Card Game for most of the second half of the season. Stealing a point on the road in Armena on June 6th would prove to be the difference in home field advantage for the Expos this season. 

Previously In The Playoffs

In 2018 the Expos played in the first ever official PBL Wild Card Game. The Expos would finish 8-6 on the season and have to travel to Holden to take on the 9-5 Blue Jays. In the one game winner moves on to play the Pennant winner, the Expos were held in check with a 6-0 loss after generating only one hit. The lone hit off of Blue Jays ace Kyle Muzechka came to lead off hitter Vaughn Rempel in the top of the first. The flare into right centre would be the only hit of the game as the Expos offence just couldn’t generate enough offence to even threaten the Jays. The Expos will have to chalk up 2018, their first season in the PBL, as a learning experience and draw from it for the 2019 Wild Card Game. 

Last season the Tofield Braves fell into a funk, finishing the season 4-10 as they found themselves in eighth place. The team was the second highest scoring team in the league, however they allowed a league high 10.07 runs per game as the pitching and defence was thin. The Braves only appearance in the playoffs was in 2017, their first season in the league, when they would a 10-4 second place team and take on the Holden Blue Jays in the semi-finals. After getting up in the series after winning game one 2-1, the Braves would once again run into pitching issues with Holden winning game two 6-1 and game three 15-3 to end Tofield’s season. 

What To Expect

Both teams will need to play Monday’s game like it is their last of the season. So any rested arms will be available to managers Brett Barron (Expos) and Dylan Berrecloth (Braves) as neither team will want to leave an arm on the bench in an elimination game if it is close. The Braves will have an experience advantage with the likes of Ray Lehman and Rob Gillrie on the roster as both players have seen plenty of playoff success over the course of their careers. The Expos can be dangerous, especially with some of the names on their roster who could factor into the game if they don’t have any AA commitments on Monday night. 

It is fair to say that fans should expect a close game, whether it is a close pitcher’s duel as the hitters struggle, or a slugfest like the 16-14 game we saw between these two teams last season (Expos were victorious in that one). While the Expos might be more aggressive, close to reckless at times, on the base paths, the Braves could have an advantage in the field with a slight edge defensivley. However, it is senior men’s baseball and it is July, aka the Dog Days of July, meaning a nagging injury could flare up or someone could be on vacation and the entire lineup and game plan would have to change.

Prediction

Who knows. It’s too close to call in this Wild Card Game. Vegas would have the Expos as the favourite I am sure for nothing other than home field advantage. But the Expos were 4-4 at home this season while the Braves were 4-4 on the road. Over a sixteen game season, the Expos scored only five more runs than the Braves. It feels like one bad inning is going to sink one of these team’s seasons. A bad hop, a string of hits, an error, bad base running (or good base running) or a close call. But in this matchup, it feels like it could go either way.  

Posted in Edmonton Expos, Kris, PBL, Tofield Braves