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Royals Put on Pitching, Defensive Clinic in Playoff Series Sweep

By Larry Lachman, 06/26/24, 8:00AM CDT


Here’s a riddle:  What do you get when you combine elite defense, the league’s best pitcher, and a relentless, consistent offense?  The answer, folks, is you get the only 3 or 4 seed to advance out of the first round of the TSSL Playoffs.  Four talented, battle-tested teams emerged from the mini-playoffs last week.  These hungry underdogs faced a daunting challenge:  taking on teams that had qualified for the playoffs weeks ago but sat idle for three long weeks – a gap that can be a death sentence in the high-stakes world of the TSSL playoffs.  Just ask the shell-shocked teams that were eliminated on Sunday.

Silverman’s Rangers, the plucky 8 seed, earned their shot at glory against the Royals, the formidable 3 seed, in a first-round clash.  Fresh off their 31-run dismantling of the Yankees the week before, the Rangers’ power-laden lineup strutted onto the field, having proven no lead was safe.  Their season tally of 270 runs scored were third most in the league.  However, the Royals boasted the best defense, allowing a miserly 185 runs – the stingiest in the league by a country mile.  Only one other team in the 20-team gauntlet had managed to keep opponents under the 200-run mark.  So, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?  Strap in, Shalom League fans – we're about to find out.

In a statement that echoed through Spirit Park, the Royals surrendered just six runs over two games to sweep the Rangers, 12 – 2 and 14 – 4.  When the Rangers threatened to spark a rally, the Royals’ defense slammed the door firmly shut.

Game 1 unfolded on field 3, where a gentle 9-mph breeze blew in from center field, and Scott Greenberg’s dominant pitching performance was backed by an impeccable defense.  The Royals recorded two outfield assists – their 11th and 12th of the season – snuffing out Ranger threats in the first and second innings with the cold efficiency of a hitman.  Royals’ catcher, Chris Peterson was the executioner, recording both putouts.

The defensive clinic commenced in the top of the first inning as Royals’ left center fielder, Drew Waggoner gunned down an overzealous Ranger baserunner attempting to score from second on a single, ending the inning.  The inning had begun with much promise:  a one-out single by former Royal, Brad Parr, followed by Tim Jamieson’s no-doubt-about-it blast to left field.  The Rangers' bench erupted, but little did they know their celebration would be short-lived.

In the bottom of the frame, with the Royals looking to answer back, Kyzer Hoover and Ronel Martinez delivered clutch, 2-out RBI singles knotting the game at 2 – 2 by scoring Waggoner and David Fiorello, who had both drawn pivotal walks.

Omar Ovalle doubled to lead off the top of the second and attempted to score on a single to left field by former Royal, Jonathan Braun that had 'RBI' written all over it.  Ryan Greenberg had other ideas.  Charging the ball, he hit his cutoff man, Hoover, who – on the relay home – fired a missile to Peterson at the plate to cut the runner down by a split second and end the threat.  From that point on, Scott Greenberg transformed into a one-man wrecking crew on the mound.  He stifled the Rangers’ potent offense, scattering three singles as the Rangers never threatened again.

The score remained tied at 2 – 2 heading to the bottom of the third, when the Royals cycled through their lineup for the seventh time this season, sending 12 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs.  Hoover and Martinez not content with their earlier heroics, again delivered RBI singles following consecutive singles by Tommy Apligian, Waggoner, and Scott Greenberg, and Fiorello’s second walk of the game.  The hit parade continued with relentless fury as Andy Wetterlin, Adwild Perez, and Larry Lachman chipped in RBI singles, with Lachman’s coming with two outs.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth, the Royals loaded the bases, bringing Aaron Bartelson to the plate.  The scoreboard read 10 – 2, a lead that would be comfortable against most teams.  But against these Rangers – the same squad that had erupted for a mind-boggling 16 runs in a single inning against the Yankees just last week – no lead was safe.  Bartelson stepped into the batter’s box, the weight of the moment heavy on his shoulders.  With the outcome of the game still in doubt, he dug in, took a deep breath, and delivered.  Bartelson rifled a two-run single into the outfield for his biggest hit of the season, sealing the victory by invoking the mercy of the run rule after five innings with a commanding 10-run lead.

Playoff Game 1 Offensive Stars

Andy Wetterlin  3 – 3, 2 Runs, 1 RBI
Drew Waggoner  2 – 2, 2 Runs, BB
Kyzer Hoover  2 – 3, 1 Run, 3 RBI, 
Ronel Martinez  2 – 3, 1 Run, 2 RBI
Tommy Apligian  2 – 3, 2 Runs
Adwild Perez  2 – 3, 1 RBI
David Fiorello  2 BB, 2 Runs, 1 RBI
Aaron Bartelson  1 – 2, 2 RBI, BB


With the Royals’ victory in game 1, game 2 became an elimination game for the Rangers.  But the Royals, far from resting on their laurels, came out swinging like they had a personal vendetta against those bright yellow Tattoos.  The visiting Royals erupted for 10 runs in the first two innings, with six of them coming with two outs, a testament to the Royals’ clutch hitting.  Both innings were symmetrical, as the Royals sent 10 batters to the plate, and scored five runs in each inning.

In the top of the first, both Greenbergs, Wetterlin, and Perez contributed RBI singles.  By the time the dust settled, the scoreboard showed a 5 – 0 lead before the Rangers could take their first at-bat.  Lesser teams might have folded, but the Rangers showed a lot of character by mounting a three-run rally in the bottom of the frame. 

However, the Royals’ offensive freight train rolled on, scoring five more runs in the top of the second.  Lachman and Peterson led off with back-to-back singles, turning the lineup over.  Apligian’s 2-run triple made it 7 – 3.  After a sac fly by Waggoner, the Royals loaded the bases with two outs on singles by Scott Greenberg and Fiorello, and a walk drawn by Martinez, his second of the game.  As he did in the first inning, Ryan Greenberg delivered another clutch, 2-out hit; this time a 2-run single to push the Royals lead to a commanding 10 – 3.

The Rangers added one more run in the bottom of the second, but that would be all they could muster.  The defensive highlight reel continued in the bottom of the fifth when Apligian made a spectacular, gravity-defying catch, leaping to snag a screaming liner slicing away from him into the right centerfield gap while running full sprint, ending the Rangers’ last potential threat.

Greenberg pitched shutout ball the rest of the way, leading the Royals to a convincing 14 – 4 victory.

Not only did the Royals advance to the second round as one of eight remaining teams, but the playoff series sweep served as a statement of intent – they are on a mission.  Their elite pitching and defense, unwavering spirit, ironclad determination, and unshakeable resilience have set the stage for what promises to be an epic showdown against the 2-seed Brewers next Sunday at 8:00 am.  Grab your coffee, don your rally caps, and strap in, folks.  If this series was any indication, we're in for a wild ride that no true Shalom Softball fan would dare to miss.

Playoff Game 2 Offensive Stars

Ryan Greenberg 4 – 4, 2 Runs, 3 RBI 
Scott Greenberg 3 – 3, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, BB, 
Drew Waggoner  2 – 3, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, 2B
Kyzer Hoover  2 – 3, 1 Run, 1 RBI, 3B
David Fiorello  2 – 4, 2 Runs, 1 RBI
Andy Wetterlin  2 – 4, 1 RBI, (2) 2B
Ronel Martinez  2 BB, 1 Run, 1 RBI
Larry Lachman  1 – 2, 1 Run, BB

Royals Put on Pitching, Defensive Clinic in Playoff Series Sweep