The Ridge Meadows Royals won the bantam AA provincial championship on home soil Monday.
The local association hosted the pee wee and bantam Baseball B.C. championships.
The Royals hit like champs in the final – solid line drives to the gaps followed by deep blasts that burned outfielders. The hit parade produced a 10-0 mercy-rule win after five innings.
The game MVP award went to starting pitcher Darian Guemos, who got the shutout.
The Royals started the tournament on Friday afternoon with a 2-0 loss to a Ladner team that had never beaten them in four prior outings. The Royals struck out 19 times, out of their 21 total outs.
But the real Royals – the squad that had gone 28-4 during the regular season, that had won the tough Valley of Champions tournament in Kelowna, and that took silver in the Tsawwassen tournament – showed up after that.
Big cleanup hitter Nick Stroud got things going. He hammered a walk-off, two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 win over Prince George. He was selected the game’s MVP.
Then Stroud kept it going. The Royals faced Prince George again, and he crushed two more long balls, giving him homers in three straight at bats.
“He’s a big powerful kid, and he’s come a long way,” said coach Patrick Whitford.
Derek Livesey, batting fifth, also parked a pair in that game, and he won the game MVP as his team took the slugfest 13-11.
Next up was a mercy-rule win over Abbotsford, by a score of 15-0 after just four innings. First-year pitcher Ryan Doyle threw a one-hitter, and was named the game’s MVP.
Then there was more Doyle heroics in the semi-finals, and another MVP award, this time for game-saving defence. The semi-final was a 3-2 win over Burnaby in an extra inning. With two runners on base and a ball headed for the gap, the right-fielder Doyle made a circus catch to preserve the tie.
Whitford won a provincial championship as a player, but it was his first in more than 10 years as a coach.
“It feels great,” he said.
This team put up a losing record last season, his first at the bantam level, but then established itself as the team to beat this year.
“Baseball IQ,” said Whitford. “Baseball knowledge wasn’t there – there was lots of mental errors, lots of mistakes, and the pitching wasn’t there.
“I had three pitchers returning this year, and that was the difference, Our pitching staff was just stronger than everyone else’s.”
His three main starters were Brody Clark, Darian Guemos and Nick Baust, with Stroud coming out of the bullpen.
Good as they have been, the bats went cold and they lost in the semi-finals of the B.C. Minor Baseball provincials.
“We were the top dogs in league and everyone was looking to us, so that was a tough one to lose,” said Whitford. “But this is a good one to win.
“The difference is the Baseball BC winner goes and represents BC. Now we’ll be team bc going to the Western Canadian Championships.”
Whitford said his team loves baseball, and it shows in “the work ethic the boys bring every day.”
“We would go three-hour practices and some of the boys would still ask for more,” he said. “Baseball-wise, with games and practices, we go five or six times per week.”
They will attend the Western Canadian Championships in Spruce Grove, Alberta on Aug. 12-14. The coach believes his team will have a good shot at winning more hardware.
“Team BC usually does pretty well out there.”