The North Island Royals Bantam AA team travelled to Tsawassen over the Victoria Day weekend, and went undefeated with a perfect 6-0 record to come away with the championship win in the 2017 Grand Slam tournament.
The Royals started round robin play on Saturday with an 18-6 win over Richmond. Kolby Wood, Ethan Taylor and Brett Wildeman shared the pitching duties, while Cam Bell hit a two-run home run in the top of the 5th. Wildeman was named game MVP for his closing efforts, shutting down the Richmond bats in the last two innings.
Game 2 against Cloverdale saw the Royals squad come out on top with an 11-5 victory to close out day one. Austin Gurney threw four innings of shutout ball before Cloverdale finally got on the board. Nathan Underhill was brought in for the close. Owen Crouse led the way offensively with 3 singles, with doubles going to Riley Sutherland, Jayden Smith and Bell. Austin Gurney was named game MVP.
Game three was a Sunday matinee against the North Shore Padres. The Royals showed some stingy defence and disciplined play to top the Padres 4-2. The game remained a 1-1 tie through four innings until Austin Gurney successfully stole home, with two out, creating a turning point in the game and started a rally that saw Wood and Sutherland cross the plate on a well hit double by Nathaniel Abel. Bell was named MVP for his pitching efforts.
Game four saw the Royals face Peninsula in what was their 5th meeting of the year. Once again the local squad dominated the base paths with over 16 stolen bases, heading on to a 14-4 victory. Will Roberts was given the start, and took full advantage, going five innings with six strike outs. Robert Gurney was brought in for the close, striking out all six batters he faced in the remaining two innings. Roberts and Bell had two doubles each, while Crouse and Abel chipped in with three singles each.
On Monday morning, the Royals had to play a semi-final game against a tough Triangle team from Victoria. In what was probably the most exciting game of the tournament, the boys in purple walked it off with a sharp hit double by Bell that scored both Wood and Wildeman to win 14-13 in extra innings, advancing them into the final for the championship. Nathan Underhill had an unreal pitching performance, shutting down the potent offence of the Triangle team, giving his own squad an opportunity to score runs inning after inning. Bell hit two triples, while Sutherland had two doubles. Underhill helped his own cause with a double and two singles, earning him game MVP honours.
Waiting for the Royals in the final was Ridge Meadows. The two offensive powerhouses battled back and forth, with the team from Ridge Meadows pulling away in the bottom of the 5th with a four-run lead. In the top of the 6th, leadoff batter Matt O’Reilly stole home from 2nd base on a pass ball and was involved in an ugly collision at the plate with the Ridge catcher. As his team helped the injured O’Reilly off the field, it seemed to spark the offence, as the Royals scored Wood, Ethan Taylor, Bell and Austin Gurney, to take a one-run lead, and then, backed by his best pitching effort of the season, Brett Wildeman single handedly shut down the powerful Ridge Meadows bats through the four final innings with five strikeouts in a commanding performance. As Bell caught the final fly ball to end the game, his teammates mobbed him and Wildeman in the field, to celebrate the championship win.
Top pitcher award went to Underhill, top slugger went to Bell, and the game MVP nod was given to Wildeman.
The Royals have a much deserved weekend off, but resume regular season play June 3 at Nunns Creek against Carnarvon.