Ross Royals rule baseball league’s championship
GUELPH – The Ross Royals looked back to last year for a little extra motivation for Wednesday’s District 4/10 high school baseball league’s championship game.
“We talked about that. We talked about going undefeated in the regular season and how it really meant nothing,” Ross coach Ian Durk said. “I think everyone here was a little bit nervous about that happening again.”
“Last year we were undefeated, but choked in the final,” Ross second baseman Liam Brown said. He hit a game-ending grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning that invoked the 10-run mercy rule on a windy Wednesday at Pearson Park.
After another unbeaten regular season, the Royals wrapped up their league playoffs with six runs in the third inning and another five in the fifth for an 11-1 victory over the St. James Lions.
“Actually, I thought it was going to be a much tighter game,” Durk said. “We got a few bounces early on that helped us out.”
After the teams breezed through the first two and a half innings, the Royals struck in the bottom of the third as they scored six runs on five hits.
“We played BM on Monday and it was a 1-0 game and I thought we were going right down that road, too,” Durk said. “It just shows you baseball’s such an unpredictable sport. I think a few bounces one way and it’s kind of a psychological beast, also.”
Ross’s hits in the third were singles by Aidan Vivian, Elijah Wood, Noah Devine and Karl Butler and a double by Devin Zigby.
The Lions scored their run in the fourth as Bryan Richardson and Cameron Hewitt hit back-to-back singles and Ethan Dennie smacked a double.
The Royals brought the game to a dramatic end with five runs in the bottom of the fifth, the final four coming on Brown’s grand slam over the left-field fence, the homer coming on the 26th anniversary of Joe Carter’s World Series-winning homer for the Toronto Blue Jays.
“That was my first home run ever my entire life,” Brown said. “I didn’t even know it was a walk-off I must say. I didn’t even think it was going out until I rounded first base and I thought ‘shoot, that thing’s gone.’ I didn’t even know it was a walk-off until I walked back into the dugout and they told me so. It felt amazing.”
“Really exciting way to end the game – Liam Brown, his first home run ever over the fence,” Durk said. “A grand slam walk-off, really exciting and I’m really happy for all the guys.”
Brown was amazed that the hit managed to clear the fence in just above the 300-foot sign.
“It was a curveball in the dirt,” he said. “I don’t know how I put that one out.”
However, Brown did realize the hit had help from the wind and he was also aided by the game’s switch from the largest diamond at Pearson Park to the smaller south-east diamond. The switch, due to field conditions on the larger field, meant the outfield fence in left field was 25 feet closer.
“The wind helped me for sure,” he said. “We were actually going to play on the big field so I’m glad we didn’t now. It was the small field so I could hit it out.”
Zigby was the starting pitcher for Ross and he picked up the win as he limited the Lions to the three fourth-inning hits. He didn’t walk anyone and had two strikeouts. Ethan Vivian pitched a scoreless fifth, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
Ross had 10 hits in the match – with Devine, Zigby, Adam Nightingale and Butler rounding out the hits for the Royals with singles in the fifth.
Bryce Burgess started on the mound for St. James and was relieved by Massimo Church in the fourth inning. Both surrendered five hits. Burgess had five strikeouts and a walk while Church had two strikeouts.
The fourth-inning hits were the only ones in the game for the Lions who went three-up, three-down in the other four innings.
The championship win is the third in five years for the Royals and their ninth in the 29-year history of the league.
The Royals will have plenty of time to get ready for their next game which will be a CWOSSA qualifier in May, 2020.
“Hopefully the first game we’ll be able to shake the rust off and still be able to win,” Brown said. “I’ve never been to CWOSSA so this will be a good opportunity for our team. We went there a couple of years back when I wasn’t on the team. We won then and hopefully we can do it again.”
“We’re looking forward to playing baseball in the spring,” Durk said. “There’s not a lot we can do (to stay in baseball shape during the winter months). We’ll start up in spring again, get the guys together and do some workouts and practices and find out who we play and go from there. We haven’t been to CWOSSA for a few years so it’ll be exciting.”
- Guelph Sports Journal