With two wins over the Parksville Royals Saturday afternoon at Whalley Stadium, the Whalley Chiefs tightened an already firm hold on a playoff position.
But the B.C. Premier Baseball League (PBL) team is expecting much more in the second half of their 44-game season.
The seventh-place Chiefs blanked the Royals 2-0 in the first game, then completed the sweep with a 9-3 victory in the second.
Whalley finished 12 games under .500 last season, and missed the playoffs by two games. Following the sweep of the Royals, the Chiefs are now 12-13 (win-loss), and three and one-half games up on the ninth-place Victoria Mariners. The top eight teams in the PBL qualify for the play offs.
“All things considered, we’re in a good position,” said Chiefs general manager Paul Hargreaves of the 12 wins tallied in the first half of the season. “It’s less than we thought, but we’ve had some serious injuries.”
Hargreaves listed pitchers Max Williams and Isaac Greer and second baseman Colin Kellington as players who have missed substantial playing time with injuries.
Kellington has had just one at-bat this season, while Williams has pitched just three innings. Greer has yet to take to the mound.
The Chiefs are playing at roughly a .500 pace without the trio, but all three are now healthy and will be available over the final 23 regular season games.
“We played an exhibition game in Bellingham yesterday (Sunday), and they all played,” Hargreaves said. “They’re all back, so it’s going to be great.
“Our second half record will be substantially better, I’d bet on that.”
Starting pitcher Thomas Espig again provided the Chiefs with a solid outing in the mound in the first game Saturday against Parksville. The Royals managed just one hit, and didn’t draw a walk against the 18-year-old left hander.
Espig took a perfect game into the seventh inning, and gave up a lead-off single before retiring the final three batters. He finished with 11 strikeouts, and now has the league lead with 47 on the season.
Espig also singled to score Ken Dubois in the third inning. Lucas Soper’s infield out allowed Lichel Hirakawa-Kao to score in the first inning.
The Chiefs buried Parksville with a 12-hit effort in the second game, led by Matt Legg with three, leaving him with five hits over the two games.
Soper, Lachlan Hunter and Braeden Massignani had two hits each. Whalley scored five times in the first inning and added three more in the second.
The Chiefs were scheduled to play last night in North Vancouver against the first place North Shore Twins (14-3). They will be on Vancouver Island next weekend, playing twice Saturday against the 4-14 Royals in Parksville, before a double header Sunday with the 15-11 Nanaimo Pirates.