The Kings once again sit atop the throne. But the Royals and a handful of other tightly packed teams are planning a coup.
The Kings and Royals split a doubleheader Sunday at the Southside Little League Complex in Bethlehem in the Lehigh Valley Men’s Baseball League Game of the Week. In 18 American Division action, the Royals took Game 1 by a score of 10-2 before the Kings earned the split with an 11-4 win.
The Royals blasted two homeruns into the Saucon Creek in their double-digit barrage. The Kings then returned the double-digit favor with a seemingly endless supply of scorching singles and warning-track doubles.
The Kings (7-3), owners of threepeat championships from 2011 to 2013, are atop the 18 American standings once again – albeit in a tie. Kings Player-Manager Ramon Garcia’s rebuilt club is in strong position to get back to its title-town ways.
The Royals (4-5) are the other bookend among six 18 American teams separated by three games or less. While the Royals results have been uneven, Game 1 showed the type of cohesion that can vault Manger Doug Brill’s squad up the standings.
This Team’s All Wet
William Ghazi and Mike Kiak made the biggest splashes for the Royals in Game 1.
Ghazi led off the top of the fourth inning with a towering fly ball that crackled through a thicket of trees beyond the left-center field fence and into the Lehigh River tributary, extending the Royals lead to 3-1. Kiak finished the scoring in the seventh inning with an almost identical 2-run shot.
With both balls on their way to the Forks of the Delaware, Royals pitcher Paul Duyvejonck was cruising. Backed by error-free Royals defense, Duyvejonck allowed only five hits and a walk while striking out 8 to earn the complete-game win.
Ghazi and Kiak are among 10 new Royals this season.
“We’ve added a bunch of mature, responsible, excellent young men who most importantly are people you like to spend your Sundays with,” Brill said. “They also happen to be super-talented players.
“The challenge, my challenge, is to get everyone into the right spots and the right frame of mind – composed -- so that we can get hot going into the playoffs,” Brill said. “We need to gel. We’re close.”
Kiak finished the doubleheader 5-6 and Ghazi finished 4-7. Ory Ball, Paul Duyvejonck, Jim Finnen, Steve Ghazi, and Matt Kiak also each reached base three or more times in the doubleheader. Blue Mountain League P-IF Collin Kichline made his Royals debut.
Tommy Burns is putting the league on notice.
The Kings rookie leadoff hitter went 4-7 on the day with two doubles, consistently ripping opposite field drives struck so squarely that they don’t even tail. The high-intensity second baseman also made a diving play of a two-out grounder that squelched a Royals opportunity to get back into Game 2.
Garcia pointed to the King’s resiliency. After squandering opportunities with runners on base early in Game 1, the Kings capitalized on their early opportunities in Game 2. The Southsiders put up a 4-run first and never looked back.
“After we lost the first game, I knew we needed to jump on the Royals right away. We were able to keep it up and get the win. I’m hoping we can keep up the good defense and that our bats stay hot so we can get some more wins. I’m happy to have a great group of guys that keep their heads up and all have their mind set on the same thing, having fun and trying to win games. Every player on the team matters a lot,” Garcia said.
Brayden Knipe, Luis Garcia, and Brandon Agosto reached base three or more times in the doubleheader. Knipe, Luis Garcia, and Burns blasted warning-track doubles.
The 18 American Division features six teams in a tightly packed race and two others who hope to make some noise down the stretch.
Player-Manager Rick Orengo’s Pink Sox (7-1), who are tied for first place despite playing one fewer game than the Kings, split two games with the Cubs (2-7-1). The Pink Sox are extending a streak of continually improving seasons, and the Cubs in their inaugural season are playing with tenacity that belies their record.
Player Manager Josh LeMaster’s Macungie Grizzlies (6-2) defeated the Black Sox (0-11). The Grizzlies are showing marked improvement upon their already successful first MSBL season, while Dan Snyder’s bunch retains its poise following a championship series appearance two seasons ago.
The idle Bethlehem Mariners and Macungie Expos each entered the weekend 5-3.
While there are Kings and Royals and more, the 18 American Division remains anything but a monarchy.