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Kilburn, Wu, Kaminski Power Royals to Second Division Title in 13 Years

By Larry Lachman, 05/30/23, 8:30AM CDT


In a gripping Sunday morning showdown, Royals’ outfielder Tommy Apligian displayed a burst of speed and sprinted to his left as he tracked a screaming liner slicing away from him into the right centerfield gap.  The ball, struck by Iron Pigs’ right centerfielder, Chris Stutz, rocketed off the bat with an exit velocity of 98.6 mph and a staggering 94 percent chance of becoming a hit.  However, defying the odds, as the ball approached the green turf of Spirit Park, Apligian executed a remarkable slide.  It was the fifth inning of an epic winner-take-all showdown against the division-leading Iron Pigs.  When the ball left Stutz’s bat, the Royals held a precarious 6 – 3 lead, and the Iron Pigs had runners on first and second with two outs, with the heart of their order – Ryan Alford and Troy Steele – due up after Stutz.  Apligian’s spectacular, game-saving catch – millimeters above the turf – prevented at least two runs from scoring and completely altered the trajectory of the game.

Buoyed by Apligian’s heroics, the Royals ultimately triumphed over Alford’s Iron Pigs, 9 – 5, and went on to decisively defeat Dlott’s Dragons 22 – 7, securing the Irwin Kaufman Division Championship, their second division title in 13 years.

"I’ve felt all along we would win this division.  I’ve got my eyes on a much bigger prize," Apligian said. "This is the first step of it."

Let’s reset.  Because before the late-inning drama unfolded, it was Royals’ first baseman, Jon Kilburn, who put the Royals on his back, blasting two electrifying homeruns that left the Iron Pigs stunned.

In the opener, Royals’ pitcher Brad Parr outdueled former RoyalMichael Barth, in the low-scoring affair.  Playing on field 3 with a 7-mph crosswind blowing from left to right field, the Royals swiftly scored two runs in the first inning on singles by Charles Lachman, Darius Wu, Tim Kaminski, and RBI singles by Apligian and Liam Kilburn.  However, the Royals left the bases loaded when Barth induced a harmless flyball to end the inning.

Parr was magnificent as he began the game by retiring nine consecutive Iron Pigs.  The Royals took their two-run lead to the bottom of the third, knowing it was going to take a lot more than two runs to win this game.  With one out, three consecutive hits by Wu, Kaminski, and Apligian loaded the bases and set the stage for Jon’s pivotal at-bat.  The tension was palpable as Barth delivered a full-count pitch to the Royals’ slugger.  As Jon whipped his bat through the strike zone with precision and barreled the pitch toward left field against the crosswind, there was little doubt of the ball’s destination as it traced an arc through the cloudless, sundrenched sky, slamming 4.4 seconds later into the netting behind the fence.  The Grand Slam ignited the Royals’ dugout, extending their lead to 6 – 0.

The Iron Pigs responded with two in the fourth as Stutz went yard, and another run in the fifth, before Apligian’s heroics ended that inning, thwarting their momentum.  Back-to-back singles by Brad Stanford and Wu began the bottom of the fifth, but Barth quickly recorded two outs, bringing Jon to the plate.  True to form, Jon rewarded the Royals’ faithful by unloading his second homerun of the game; a clutch, two-out, 3-run blast over the left field fence.

With the heart of their order due up in the sixth, the Iron Pigs scored two more as former RoyalTroy Steele, belted his sixth dinger of the season to make it 9 – 5.  But amidst the Iron Pigs rally was the memory of Apligian’s spectacular catch an inning earlier.  The sheer audacity of his feat only magnified the importance of the moment, amplifying the intensity in the air.  Yet, despite the tremors of anticipation, that’s how the game ended.  Parr took the mound in the seventh inning and pitched his fourth scoreless inning of the game to close out the victory.

In defeating their formidable division rivals, the Royals avenged a 10 – 9 loss to the Iron Pigs just three weeks ago.  Apligian’s remarkable web gem was not the lone spectacle of the day; Wu’s commanding presence in left centerfield showcased a series of jaw-dropping catches that belong in highlight reels, Liam made an awe-inspiring, full-extension, diving catch on a ball hit down the left field line that had extra bases written all over it, Kaminski defied all odds – defying gravity itself – with a running over-the-shoulder catch in left field on a ball that had been crushed, possessing a mere seven percent chance of being caught, and Larry Lachman’s quick reflexes at first base helped snag a challenging, one-hop throw, extinguishing any glimmer of uncertainty to end an inning.  After each play, the Iron Pigs’ dugout transformed into a scene of disbelief and frustration.  Multiple players could be seen, hands pressed tightly against their heads, their expressions a mirror of sheer exasperation.

The Royals’ defense was so remarkable, it's no wonder someone summoned the Allen police!  The Royals’ defenders were committing grand theft, robbing Iron Pigs’ hitters left and right with their jaw-dropping acrobatics.  Rumor has it that the cops are contemplating a plan to set up a special unit to handle the sheer number of defensive heists that unfolded on the field!

Game 1 Offensive Stars

Jon Kilburn  2 – 3, 2 Runs, 7 RBI, GS HR, 3-Run HR
Darius Wu  3 – 3, 3 Runs
Liam Kilburn  3 – 3, 1 RBI
Horacio Dominguez  3 – 3
Tommy Apligian  2 – 3, 1 Run, 1 RBI
Tim Kaminski  2 – 3, 1 Run, 2B

With identical records of 17 – 8, the victory – combined with their superior divisional record – catapulted the Royals into first place in the Irwin Kaufman division.  While the Royals waited an hour to take on the Dragons, the Iron Pigs defeated the Bananas 9 – 7, concluding their regular season at 18 – 8.  Consequently, the final game of the regular season remained crucial to both teams.  The Royals controlled their own destiny; win and they would secure the division title; lose and they would finish as the 2 seed.  The stakes couldn’t be higher.

In the nightcap, the Royals moved to field 1, where that 7-mph crosswind changed direction and picked up in speed, now blowing from right to left field at a fairly stiff 12 mph.

Wasting no time, the Royals exploded for seven runs in the top of the first inning.  Apligian and Jon picked up where they left off in the first game, with Apligian’s RBI double and Jon’s 2-run single serving as the key hits in the inning.  The Royals capitalized on every opportunity, cycling through their lineup for the eighth time this season.

The Dragons swiftly responded in the bottom of the first as former Royal, Matt Hyson, launched a 2-run homerun, contributing to the Dragons’ 4-run inning.  7 – 4.

In the top of the second, the Royals extended their lead to 10 – 4 when Kaminski clubbed his team-leading, 15th homerun of the season – a 3-run blast over the left centerfield fence.  The ball was struck with such power that it cleared the fence before reaching the peak of its trajectory.

The game seemed destined to turn into a shootout as the Dragons responded, plating three more runs in the bottom of the second, as Brandon Yamauchi and rookie, Aaron Lowenberg, both went yard.  10 – 7.

From that point on, the Royals’ offensive freight train rolled on, scoring seven more runs in the top of the third.  Remarkably, all seven runs were tallied after the first two outs had been recorded in the inning, and the Royals batted around the lineup for the astounding ninth time this season, and second time in the game.  Larry drew a base on balls, Charles singled, and Stanford’s RBI double extended the Royals’ lead to 11 - 7, paving the way for Wu’s moment at the plate. 

Wu, who did not record a single out in the doubleheader, patiently waited as the count increased to 3 – 1.  With a graceful swing that seemed to defy gravity, Wu’s bat connected with the 3 – 1 pitch, producing an explosive crack that reverberated through the air like a resounding thunderclap.  Time itself seemed to pause, holding its breath as the ball soared on a majestic trajectory, leaving a trail of yellow vapor in its wake.  The crowd erupted with gasps, cheers, and exclamations; their eyes transfixed on the arcing missile that defied the boundaries of mere mortal limitations.  It traversed the diamond's expanse with the grace of a soaring eagle, a vivid streak of kinetic energy that disappeared into the morning sky, leaving the Dragons' outfielders frozen in their tracks.  14 – 7.

In the Royals’ 5-run fourth, Wu provided an encore performance, blasting his second 3-run round tripper of the game, matching Kaminski for the team lead with 15 homeruns on the Royals’ magical 2023 season.

As the Royals’ offense flourished, Parr shut down the Dragons for the remainder of the game.  The contest ended after 4 innings by virtue of the run rule, with the Royals up by 15, marking the Royals’ sixth run-rule victory this season.

The Royals unleashed a barrage of eight extra-base hits – five doubles and three fence homeruns – en route to capturing the division title. 

The Royals showcased their most complete doubleheader performance of the season, exemplifying the pillars that have characterized the team throughout the year:  exceptional pitching, a relentless offense, and a formidable defense.  From the first pitch to the last, the Royals never trailed their opponents for a single inning. 

Game 2 Offensive Stars

Darius Wu  2 – 2, 4 Runs, 6 RBI, 2 BB, (2) 3-Run HRs
Jon Kilburn  2 – 3, 1 Run, 3 RBI, 2B
Tim Kaminski  2 – 4, 3 Runs, 4 RBI,
3-Run HR 
Tommy Apligian  2 – 3, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, (2) 2B
Brad Parr  2 – 3, 2 Runs, 1 RBI
Charles Lachman  1 – 2, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, BB
Brad Stanford  1 – 2, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2B
Tony Lowery  1 – 2, 1 Run, 2 RBI, BB
Horacio Dominguez  1 – 2, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, BB
Larry Lachman  3 BB, 1 Run, 2 RBI

With their remarkable performance in the regular season, the Royals have sent a resounding message to their opponents: they are a force to be reckoned with and a team capable of achieving greatness. 

  • The Royals concluded the regular season as the highest-scoring team in the league, amassing 316 runs. 
  • They also boasted the largest run differential, outscoring their opponents by 112 runs, and held the third-lowest number of runs allowed, conceding only 204 runs (trailing only the Renegades and Dodgers). 
  • With an impressive slugging percentage of .831 (ranking first in the league), 51 homeruns (second in the league, trailing the Bananas), a .504 batting average and .537 OBP (both second in the league, trailing the Dragons), the Royals have firmly established themselves as contenders.  

Their sights are now set on the 2023 postseason and their quest to secure the league championship and etch their names in TSSL history.  The stage is set, the playoffs await, and the Royals’ pursuit of glory continues.  Stay tuned for the thrilling chapters yet to unfold.