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Royals Punch Ticket to Final Four with Sweep of Brewers; Showdown with Orioles Awaits in ALCS

By Larry Lachman, 07/03/24, 5:15PM CDT


Welcome to the final four.  Sixteen teams have now been eliminated, and the Royals stand among the best.  In a postseason filled with thrilling moments and fierce competition, the Royals have emerged as a force to be reckoned with, showcasing elite pitching, clutch hitting, and an unyielding defense.

Scott Greenberg threw 14 gutsy innings, including three high-leverage strikeouts, Drew Waggoner blasted two monstrous homeruns, and Adwild Perez delivered a standout performance as the underdog, 3-seed Royals defeated the 2-seed Burk’s Brewers in two thrilling games, sweeping the second round of the playoffs 8 – 6 and 12 – 8.  Defense again played a leading role with the Royals turning three double plays in their opening game victory.

Playing as the visitors on field 4 with a gentle 8-mph breeze blowing from right field to left, Greenberg outdueled Brewers’ ace Jon Banta in a nail-biting opener.  The Royals wasted little time jumping on the Brewers as Tommy Apligian led off the game with a single and scored on Greenberg’s blistering triple.  David Fiorello’s single then brought Greenberg home.  After loading the bases, the Royals’ third run of the inning came from a fielder’s choice.

The Brewers, determined to respond, quickly scored one and loaded the bases in the bottom of the first with nobody out.  On the brink of a big inning, Greenberg induced a hard smash down the third base line.  Fiorello backhanded the smash, ran to and tagged third base to force the runner from second, then leaped in the air to throw over the runner’s head, attempting to score from third base.  Chris Peterson, who recorded two putouts at the plate last week in the opening round of the playoffs, reached for the heavens to corral the high throw and still managed to keep the tip of his cleat on home plate to complete the astonishing 5–2 double play.  That spectacular play enabled Greenberg to then record the third out, escaping the inning having yielded only one run.

Perez singled to lead off the second and moved to third on James Keller’s double.  Perez scored on Aaron Bartelson’s sacrifice fly, but two outs later Keller was still on second as the lineup turned over.  Two out, clutch hits became a recurring theme as Apligian singled to drive in Keller, and then took second on the throw home.  That alert baserunning led to the third run of the inning as Waggoner laced a single to drive in Apligian, increasing the Royals’ lead to 6 – 1.

The middle of the Brewers’ order rallied for two runs in the bottom of the second to cut their deficit in half and had runners at first and second with only one out when Greenberg turned a hot smash back to the mound into the 1–6–3 double play to end the inning, marking the Royals’ second twin killing in as many innings.

Kyzer Hoover tripled with one out in the top of the third and scored on Ronel Martinez’s single to make it 7 – 3.  In the fourth Perez and Keller combined again; this time Perez doubled, moved to third on Keller’s single, and scored on Peterson’s fielder’s choice to stretch the Royals’ lead to 8 - 3. 

However, from that point on, Banta found his rhythm and pitched shutout ball the rest of the game.  Meanwhile, the Brewers plated one in the bottom of the fourth to pull within 8 – 4 and threatened again in the fifth, when Brian Lee singled with one out.  One out later, Shane Scott, the American League Homerun Champion, crushed a ball that hit the top of the left centerfield fence.  Scott coasted into second base as Lee held up at third – not daring to test Waggoner’s cannon of an arm that unleashed a missile to Hoover at shortstop.  With runners on second and third and two outs – in one of the most pivotal plays of the game – Greenberg struck out the Brewers’ cleanup hitter on a nasty full-count pitch to end the inning and escape the jam.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Brewers loaded the bases with one out, when a ground ball back to the mound appeared to be a tailor-made double play to escape from yet another jam.  However, an errant throw from second allowed two runs to score to pull the Brewers to within 8 – 6.  After holding the Royals scoreless in the top of the seventh, the Brewers came to bat in the bottom of the frame needing two to tie, and three to win.  After a leadoff single by Gary Frank, the Royals turned their third double play of the game, 6–4–3.  Yet, as the lineup turned over,  Lee singled again to bring the tying run to the plate, with the potential winning run in the on-deck circle in the person of Scott.  After falling behind the batter 3 – 1, Greenberg battled back to force a full count.  The tension was palpable as Greenberg delivered the full-count pitch…and struck the batter out for his second high-leverage strikeout, ending the game.

Playoff Game 1 Offensive Stars

Tommy Apligian  2 – 4, 2 Runs, 1 RBI
Scott Greenberg  2 – 3, 1 Run, 1 RBI,
Adwild Perez  2 – 3, 2 Runs, 2B
Kyzer Hoover  2 – 3, 1 Run, 3B
James Keller  2 – 3, 1 Run, 2B
Ronel Martinez  2 – 3, 1 RBI


With the Royals’ victory in game 1, game 2 became an elimination game for the Brewers, and the Brewers played with that sense of energy and focus.  Twice in game 2, the Royals found themselves trailing the Brewers, and twice they mounted comebacks.  Waggoner, who went 2 for 3 with a walk, put the Royals on his back, blasting two homeruns, and accounting for eight of the Royals’ 12 runs.

After the Brewers jumped out to a quick 2 – 0 lead in the top of the first, Apligian walked to begin the bottom of the frame.  Waggoner’s no-doubt-about-it, monster blast slammed into the top of the netting, 67 feet above the ground, tying the score.  Had it not hit the net, it would have gone an estimated 458 feet.

Greenberg’s third high-leverage strikeout occurred in the top of the second to end the inning, again with Scott in the on-deck circle.

Waggoner was the catalyst in the Royals’ three-run third when the Royals scored all of their runs with two outs.  Waggoner drew a one-out walk, moved to second one out later on Fiorello’s single, and scored on Hoover’s clutch, two-out RBI double.  With Fiorello on third and Hoover on second, Martinez continued the clutch hitting parade with a two-run single to make it 5 – 2. 

However, the Brewers batted around in the fourth to briefly retake the lead 6 – 5, with Banta’s bases-clearing triple being the key hit. 

Again, the Royals responded, and it was the bottom of the order that rose to the occasion, igniting a rally that would ultimately shift the momentum back in their favor.  Singles by Perez, Keller, and Peterson loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth, turning the lineup over with one out, and bringing Apligian to the plate.  In one of his biggest hits of the season, Apligian’s two-run double put the Royals back on top 7 – 6. 

In the bottom of the fifth, Perez capped his remarkable day with a clutch, two-run single after the Royals had loaded the bases with two outs, making it 9 – 6.

The Brewers’ bottom of the order manufactured two runs in the top of the sixth, pulling within one run at 9 – 8.  The Royals knew they needed more cushion as they headed to the bottom of the sixth, clinging to their one-run lead with the top of the Brewers’ order due up in the seventh.  Peterson was the sparkplug with one out, singling sharply into the outfield and turning the lineup over.  Apligian promptly doubled him to third – his second two-bagger of the game – bringing Waggoner to the plate. 

The Royals’ left centerfielder with a game-changing bat and a Howitzer for an arm stepped into the batter’s box, the weight of the moment heavy on his shoulders.  With the game's outcome still in doubt, he dug in, took a deep breath, and delivered.  Waggoner’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; 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 Brewers’ outfielders frozen in their tracks.  12 – 8.

In the top of the seventh, Greenberg mowed through the Brewers' top of the lineup, and Hoover put an exclamation point on the Royals’ playoff series sweep as he backpedaled into medium depth left field to catch a towering popup, crashing onto his back as the ball landed securely in his glove for the final out.

Not only did the Royals advance to the American League Championship Series, but their second playoff series sweep served as a statement of intent – they are on a mission.  Their remarkable blend of elite pitching and defense, indomitable heart, and unshakeable resilience have set the stage for what promises to be an epic showdown against the 1-seed Orioles on Sunday, July 14th at 8:00 am.  Grab your coffee, don your rally caps, and strap in, folks, because the journey to the Championship is heating up, and the Royals are ready for any challenge.  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

Drew Waggoner  2 – 3, 3 Runs, 5 RBI, BB, 2-Run HR, 3-Run HR
Tommy Apligian  2 – 3, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, BB, (2) 2B, GWRBI
Adwild Perez  3 – 3, 1 Run, 2 RBI
David Fiorello  3 – 4, 2 Runs, 2B
Kyzer Hoover  2 – 3, 2 Run, 1 RBI, (2) 2B
Chris Peterson  2 – 3, 1 Run
Andy Wetterlin  1 – 1, (2) BB
Ronel Martinez  1 – 3, 2 RBI 

Royals Punch Ticket to Final Four with Sweep of Brewers; Showdown with Orioles Awaits in ALCS

front row, l - r:  Charles Lachman, Ronel Martinez, Adwild Perez, Kyzer Hoover, Aaron Bartelson, David Fiorello

back row, l - r:  James Keller, Ryan Greenberg, Andy Wetterlin, Larry Lachman, Drew Waggoner, Tommy Apligian, Scott Greenberg, Chris Peterson 

(Photo by Scott Lawrence)