With another weekend sweep of four wins, and a sterling record of 30-3, the Royals midget team is looking at a provincial championship this year.
“They have as good a shot as anybody,” said general manager Nor Ljunggren. “We’re in first place, and there’s no real weakness to the team.”
“They’re strong in everything. Their top three or four pitchers are really good, their defence is strong – it’s a well-rounded team.”
He gives credit to the coaching staff. Last year, they had to rebuild the program after two years of not having a top flite midget team in the Ridge Meadows association.
Head coach Mack Whitford went with a young team last season, prepared to take some lumps in order to get ready for this season. They finished a respectable 17-18 on the season, in a rebuilding year.
“But they did a real good job last year – they developed really well,” said Ljunggren, who coaches with the Langley Blaze of the B.C. Premier Baseball League, but handles the red tape with the local midgets.
“He [Whitford] has got an incredible ability to teach skill sets.”
Whitford has an all-star coaching staff that includes hitting coach Jeff Scott and assistant coaches Doug MacDermid and Patrick Bigelow.
Ljunggren said some of the Royals could help a BCPBL team, but they stay because they like the coaches, and have loyalty to the Royals.
With nine games remaining in the regular season, they are riding a winning steak of 12 straight games.
On Saturday, the Royals hosted the last-place Cowichan Mustangs at Hammond Stadium. In the first game, the Royals took advantage of some control issues by the Mustangs starter, plating six runs early and not looking back en route to a 11-7 victory. Domenic Baptista pitched four innings without allowing a run to pick up the win.
In game two, Trevor Reed was dominant on the mound. He pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only one hit. The Royals prevailed 4-0.
On Sunday, the Royals took on the Richmond Chuckers in the only meetings of the year between the two perennial contenders.
In the first game of the day, Seth Injates dominated the boxscore. Not only did he throw a complete game shutout, striking out nine, but he also went three-for-four at the plate with three runs batted in. Baptista (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI), Brayden Slaughter (2-4, RBI), Colton Beard (3-3, 3 runs), and Tristan Reed (2-2, RBI) also had solid games at the plate in an 8-0 win.
In the final game of the weekend, the Royals’ bats pounded out 12 runs in five innings en route to a 12-2 mercy-rule win. Chris Bailey picked up the win, pitching a complete game allowing only four hits while striking out three. The offence was paced by Nick Peters (2-4, 3RBI), Beard (2-3, RBI, 2 runs), Miguel Norquist (1-2, triple, 2 RBI) and Santiago Torres (1-2, RBI).
The Royals will travel to Vernon on Canada Day for a double-header against the Canadians. They will then head to Kamloops for a weekend tournament.