PBL drops tough one in annual All Star Challenge

Harry A at Night in CamroseHarry Andreassen Field was once again the setting for the 17th Annual All-Star Challenge between the Battle River Baseball League and the Powerline Baseball League. While 40 kilometers down the road the Powerline Baseball League Championship was being settled, pride was on the line in Camrose.

Lance Zimmer took to the mound for the Powerline League to start the game, though he didn’t stay there very long. Zimmer needed just five pitches to make it out of the top half of the first inning.  The PBL All-stars were able to strike first on this muggy August night as Zimmer had the first hit of the evening and fellow Camrose Roadrunner Josh Banack was able to work a walk. Both eventually scored on a Corey Epp single. The PBL offence sputtered from there.

The second inning was off to an auspicious start as leadoff hitter Damon Zimmer was hit by a pitch from Lance Zimmer.   Zimmer, Damon that is, managed to make it home after a couple of errors up the middle. Zimmer, Lance this time, managed to get out of the inning though by striking out the bottom of the Battle River order. Meanwhile the Powerline All-stars went quietly in the second; three up, three down.

PBL All Stars 2017It was pedestrian third inning as both teams failed to get a runner on base with Lance Zimmer striking out two more and his pitching counterpart Graham Zimmer inducing three infield outs.

Eric Zimmer, there were a lot of Zimmer’s in this incarnation of the All-Star Challenge, started off the fourth inning with a solid single to right field. Zimmer would score the tying run on a Matt Stebner double. Greg Dalueg would drive in Stebner for the lead with a one out single. Lance Zimmer would strike out Blayd Anholt to end the Battle River threat in the third. Graham Zimmer would retire the Powerline All-stars in order in the bottom half of the fourth inning with two strikeouts and an Epp comebacker.

The wheels began to come off for the Powerline League in the fifth inning as a couple of infield errors opened the door for the Battle River All-stars to walk right through. Graham Zimmer started the inning off with a single, Brennan Anholt was able to reach base on an error at short and a double from Damon Zimmer brought them both home. Matt Stebner tripled to bring home Zimmer but was stranded at third as Trent Steil struck out and Greg Dalueg ground out to end the threat. Graham Zimmer once again worked a quick inning in the bottom of the fifth retiring the bottom third of the PBL lineup in order.

With the Battle River League up 6-2, Corey Epp took over on the mound for the Powerline League in the sixth inning. Epp was able to strike out Dean Brodie to start the sixth but then issued a couple of free passes to Graham Zimmer and Brennan Anholt. Damon Zimmer tripled to plate Zimmer and Anholt. Zimmer was brought home on a single by Eric Zimmer to increase the BRBL lead to 9-2. After a Matt Stebner single, Trent Steil stepped into the batters box and promptly cleared the bases with a three run homerun over the right field fence. As the sun began to set in the background of Harry Andreassen Field, so did the hopes for the Powerline League as they trailed 12-2 after six innings.

All remained quiet for both teams until the bottom of the eighth inning when Lance Zimmer and Josh Banack started a mini rally for the Powerline League. Zimmer walked, Banack dropped a bloop single and Luke Ryan doubled to plate Zimmer. Banack would score on a ball in the dirt to make it 12-4. Ryan came around to touch home thanks to a Craig Koughan single. The rally though was cut short as the bottom third of the lineup were unable to reach base.

Trailing 12-5 in the bottom of the ninth, the PBL was looking for one more rally to make things close. They had to deal with Dean Brodie who came on to finish things off for the Battle River League. Brodie struck out catcher Colten Craig to lead off the last half of the ninth. Lance Zimmer patiently worked a walk, Josh Banack struck out looking but then the bat of Luke Ryan came into play again. Ryan, just like he did in the eighth inning, laced a double which scored Zimmer who had moved to second on defensive indifference. With the score 12-6, Chris Koughan flied out to left to end the game and close the book on another All-Star Challenge.

Following the game and handshakes, members of the Andreassen family handed out the Challenge trophy to the triumphant Battle River Baseball League. A new tradition was started this year as Matt Stebner received the inaugural Doug Wolbeck Memorial MVP trophy. Stebner finished the night going 3 for 6 with a walk. Stebner was a homerun shy of a cycle.

While many from the Powerline League hoped for a closer score, neither team could hope for a better night for baseball. The warm August evening under the lights of Harry Andreassen Field saw the final game of the year for most of us, thankfully the ball park will welcome us back with open arms next spring.

Past Harry Andreassen Challenge Scores and Recaps:

Posted in BRL, Lucas, PBL

Ballad of the Blue Jay

I usually take the time to write the final column of the year to congratulate the victors and run down the season’s spoils and the trials of the trek to the trophy.

But this year, I must sway from tradition. For the Holden Blue Jays remain mere millimeters from a momentous milestone, yet miles from their ultimate goal after a 5-3 defeat to the Rosalind Athletics, who won their second straight PBL title.

This author has been a part of 3 (let’s call it 3 1/2) championship teams and two runner-ups. I may remember the two second places better than the three wins – and it’s not pleasant. The pain and agony of defeat still firmly in the pit of my stomach. I know my teammates, too.

So to see the Holden Blue Jays play well enough to win their first final in four appearances, while also seeing the Rosalind Athletics prove why they are such a scrappy bunch. And vice versa. Was a treat.

To lose four times in seven years and keep coming back and succeeding and coming so close may be harder than winning once, twice, three times a lady. A total tip of the hat to the Holden Blue Jays. Just keeping a team together for that long, through that many games is a feat. It would have been special to see the Blue Jays leap over that final hurdle. But maybe the baseball God’s have something more special to come. The lessons and bitter taste of defeat, lasting longer and giving breath to the meaning of team and brotherhood.

It looked like they had it. A wild game two followed by a back-and-forth game three. The bases loaded in the final frame. Rosalind seeming to bend, and potentially break like it had, too, so many times in the BRBL before entering the PBL. (All Star game recap still to come).

The Blue Jays have had three different foes in those four finals. Three of the four going to game three, and decided by a grand total of 5 runs (5-3, 3-2 and 5-3).

Tip your hat to the A’s and buy a drink. But this author is also saluting the Jays. I have confidence they’ll be back. It might not be next year, but it will come. Stick with it. And until then, congratulations to the Rosalind Athletics. You’re consistency will be tested next year when all the teams retool and gun for you and your shiny loot.

Posted in Buzzilinear, Holden Blue Jays, Rosalind Athletics

UPDATE: Finals experience aplenty in A’s-Jays matchup

With this author going 1-1 in the semis, the Rosalind Athletics made good, while the Holden Blue Jays upset the Tofield Lakers in the best-of-three showdown to make their fourth PBL final.

Tuesday, Aug. 1

  • Holden at Rosalind

Tuesday, Aug. 3

  • Rosalind at Holden

Tuesday, Aug. 8

  • Holden at Rosalind (If Necessary)

Both teams know how to make it to championships. Both also know what that feeling in the stomach when they lose. The Rosalind Athletics lost many, many times to the Heisler Cardinals in the Battle River League before making a move to the PBL. They then lost their first championship here as well. The difference is, parts of the group had won one championship in the BRBL and then last year, when it looked like they may blow it again, they pulled off a gutsy 19-inning game-three win versus the Armena Royals for their PBL crown.

Head-to-head this season: Holden 2-0

Blue Jays 12 – Rosalind 9 (July 6 in Rosalind)
Blue Jays 10 – Rosalind 7 (July 18 in Holden)

With the A’s reaching a final for the ninth straight time, they don’t seem to be tiring. They cruised through the semi-final matchup against the retooled Milleteers and look poised for their fourth title in nine tries.

Standing in their way are the Holden Blue Jays. The team is different than those heartbreaking years of losing in the final and missing the playoffs, only to reappear and then lose in the finals again. 2011, 2013 and 2014 the Blue Jays tasted bitterness like no other. Even though they were swept by Leduc during their five-time run, all the games were decided by one run. Then, in the crazy 2014 final, after a crazy series to get there versus Armena, they lost another one-run game in the deciding tilt.

One one side, a team can say they learned through defeat how to become a champion. On the other side, they may be epitomizing it if they can pull it off this year.

The A’s seem rested and ready for a repeat. But something is different with this year’s Holden team. They may have finally recognized their hothead ways were getting in the way. They slayed an experienced squad in the semis after falling behind in the series – something they hadn’t had to deal with much in the past. Ya never know… maybe this is the year.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

With the playoffs roaring into the picture starting for the first time in this author’s memory, just a day after the final regular season game, here’s a look at the series and the schedule:

Thursday, July 20

  • Leduc at Rosalind
  • Holden at Tofield

Tuesday, July 25

  • Rosalind at Leduc
  • Tofield at Holden

Thursday, July 27

  • Leduc at Rosaind (If Necessary)
  • Holden at Tofield (If Necessary)

Leduc (4) vs. Rosalind (1) – Series 2-1 for Rosalind, 6-5; 3-13; 3-13

Well look at that, here come the Milleteers again. This time in an unfamiliar spot in the playoffs as a full-fledged underdog.After winning the first matchup in Leduc the Milleteers have been blown out against the defending champions. I see no reason why this won’t be the case in this series either. Although the Milleteers have done well to become a playoff team again through rebuilds and acquisition of dispersal draft players, the Rosalind A’s have a little tank left in those aging arms and legs to make a run for their third straight PBL final.

Prediction: Rosalind wins series 2-0. Only chance Milleteers have is they can steal game one and take the old guys to that crazy field by the highway where planes and cars dominate the ambiance.

Holden (3) vs. Tofield (2) – Series 1-1 tie, 7-5; 3-11

The Holden Blue Jays have tricked this author for many years with their stellar defense and young arms, legs and tempers. During the season, the team came unglued, not an uncommon thing for this franchise, and it has cost them at least a couple championships over the years that to me, seemed like destiny. Maybe now that I am discounting them they will finally prove me and everyone else wrong. Here’s some motivation – I doubt it.

Prediction: Tofield wins series 2-1 after Holden takes game one and leads heading into the seventh in game two.

Posted in Buzzilinear, Holden Blue Jays, Leduc Milleteers, PBL, Rosalind Athletics, Tofield Braves