The Quality Foods Parksville Royals fell one run shy in their bid for a worst-to-first turnaround in B.C. Premier Baseball League play, falling 4-3 to the North Shore Twins in the championship final of the 2017 BCPBL playoff tournament in Coquitlam on Sunday, July 23.
After falling behind 4-0 in the first three innings, the Royals (5-4 post-season) scored two runs in the fifth, then closed to 4-3 on Shane Rogers’ solo home run to start the sixth inning.
But Parksville, which placed last in the 12-team conference in each of the last five years, managed just one more baserunner over the final two innings as the Twins (6-1) claimed the league title.
The second-seeded Royals reached the final with a 5-4 semifinal win over No. 3 Abbotsford earlier Sunday, in a late-inning rally that became the team’s signature throughout the postseason. Trailing 4-2 after the Cardinals scored three runs in the sixth inning, Parksville stormed back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh and had the bases loaded with nobody out when Zach Waddington scampered home on a fielder’s choice by Nicholas Yu to end the game.
It was the team’s second win over Abbotsford in the five-team league championship tournament, following a 12-5 pasting in round-robin play.
The Royals, a North Vancouver Island squad made up of players from Ladysmith to Campbell River, finished 2-2 in round-robin play after suffering a 6-1 loss to the host Coquitlam Reds Saturday. That left the team in a three-way tie with Abbotsford and Langley for second place, and Parksville claimed the tiebreaker based on its wins over both Langley (9-1) and Abbotsford in round-robin play.
In the first game of the “ladder” style playoff Saturday night, the Cardinals topped Langley 6-4.
That set up Sunday’s showdown between No. 2 Parksville and No. 3 Abbotsford, for the right to face regular-season champion North Shore in the afternoon final.
Starter Josh Laukkanen threw a complete game, scattering eight hits and two walks while striking out two, to earn the win over the Cardinals. He carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth before Abbotsford rallied for three runs to take a 4-2 lead.
After the Royals were blanked in the bottom half of the inning, Laukkanen reached down and found enough left in the tank to put down the Cardinals in order in the seventh with the help of an inning-ending double play.
The Royals then pounced in the bottom of the inning. Cam MacNeil led off with a solo home run to cut the deficit to 4-3. Rogers followed with a single off starter Tasei Yahiro and scored the tying run when Waddington greeted reliever Travis McDougall with an RBI double.
Kieran Bowles followed with a walk and Jayden Marsh beat out an infield single to load the bases for Yu, whose infield grounder allowed Waddington to run home with the game-winner.
In the final, the Twins jumped on Parksville starter Brayden Baker for a single run in the first inning, two more in the second, and another in the third before he was replaced by Jason Volkers, who was called up from the Royals Junior program for the tournament.
Volkers proceeded to pitch four innings of one-hit, shutout ball to open the door for one last comeback.
The Royals got things started with a two-out, two run rally in the top of the fifth inning. Waddington’s single scored Laukkanen, who had reached on a leadoff error, and Nolan Baker followed with an RBI single to score Thomas Green, who reached on a fielder’s choice.
That made the Twins’ lead 4-2, which was trimmed to 4-3 by MacNeil’s leadoff homer in the sixth.
It was the second one-run win by North Shore over the Royals, following a 6-5 victory in the teams’ opening round-robin game.
MacNeil finished as the tournament RBI leader with nine, and matched Rogers with a tourney-leading two home runs. The Royals, who outscored their opponents 35-26 in the “Final Five” tournament, were well-represented among the postseason leaders. Rogers paced all hitters with a .440 batting average, and Marsh was seventh at .381. Following MacNeil as the top run-producer, Waddington was third with seven RBI and Rogers and Marsh were tied for fifth with five each.
On the mound, Laukkanen’s two wins matched five other players for the top spot.