A Duncan baseball duo helped the Parksville Royals win the gold medal at the Western Canada AAA Midget Baseball Championships in Yorkton, Saskatchewan late last month.
In their first year of midget ball, second baseman Zach Waddington and first baseman/pitcher Robinder Dhut both played key roles with the Parksville-based team made up of players from across Vancouver Island.
Wearing the colours of Team BC, the Royals triumphed over a field of five teams including two each from Saskatchewan and Manitoba and one from Alberta.
“It took a while to set in, but once it did, it was a pretty good feeling,” said Waddington, a veteran of several provincial championship tournaments who was making his first trip to Westerns.
Dhut reflected on the team’s growth from the start of the BC Premier Baseball League season through the Western Canadian championship.
“It was a really amazing experience to get to win with the teammates I had and the great coaching staff,” he said. “We gelled pretty good together. We worked hard at practice and we worked together well.”
Dhut was impressed with the level of talent displayed by the other teams in Yorkton.
“The competition was good,” he said. “There were some good ball clubs.”
The Royals opened the tournament on Aug. 20 with a tough 7-6 loss to the host Parkland Expos. Leading after six innings, the Royals gave up two runs on the bottom of the seventh as Parkland pushed ahead. A five-error outing didn’t help the Royals.
Parksville then put together a 7-3 win over the North Winnipeg Pirates on Aug. 21. Later that day, in what manager Jim Seredick called “the pivotal game of the tournament” where the Royals came together as a team, they fell behind the St. Albert Cardinals 2-0 but rebounded to win 3-2.
“We battled back as a team,” Waddington said. “It was a team effort.”
On the morning of Aug. 22, the Royals faced the Northwest Pirates from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, winning 6-1, scoring all six runs in the third inning. Waddington picked up two hits in that game. Later that day, they wrapped the round robin against the St. James A’s from Winnipeg. After enduring a “pressure-packed” six scoreless innings, the Royals finally scored twice in the top of the seventh then held off the A’s in the bottom of the frame to win 2-0.
The Royals matched up again with St. Albert on Aug. 23 as the top two teams squared off in the championship game. Tied 1-1 after seven innings, in which the Royals gave up just two hits, the nail-biter went into extra innings, but Parksville collected the decisive run in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Over the 11 innings, the Royals out-hit the Cardinals 10-3 and left 14 men on base to the Cardinals’ five.
“We had a few chances to win,” Dhut said. “We found a way to win in the end.”
The Parksville coaches were pleased with the result.
“The kids really came together, supported each other, picked each other up and did what they had to do in order to win,” coach Wes Dieleman said.
“This was a very satisfying team win,” coach Lee McKillican said. “We didn’t have as many wins during the regular season as we would have liked and for the boys to play good pressure baseball against the best AAA teams in Western Canada, all of whom had multiple pick up players from other teams was really gratifying. We were deserving winners in this tournament.”
To qualify for Westerns, the Royals had played the North Shore Twins in a best-of-three series, with the winner going to nationals and the runner-up going to Westerns. The Twins ended up second at nationals.
“We did well at Westerns,” Waddington said. “We represented B.C. very well.”
Waddington and Dhut were both first-year players with the Royals, although they have played together for years. The step from bantam AAA to the senior premier league is a huge one, they agreed.
“It’s the most competitive level in B.C. right now,” Waddington said.
“Everybody is older and stronger and faster,” Dhut said. “It’s a great experience though.”
Both players are back in fall ball now as they look toward next season. Dhut is going into Grade 11 and isn’t sure where he’ll be playing next summer.
It is his goal to get a college scholarship, and “maybe farther than that.”
Before going to Saskatchewan, Dhut had just returned from a major tournament in Centralia, Washington with a B.C. all-star team, and he is now about to head to Arizona for a scouting camp run by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Waddington is starting Grade 12 and is hoping to secure a scholarship to play in the U.S. some time this year.
“I’m thinking about going all the way, as far as I can,” he said.