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First win in first game

The Beaverlodge Royals took advantage of some wild pitching in the first inning to score three runs and, on the other side of the ball, played solid defence to win their opening Wheatbelt Baseball League match 3-1 over the Rycroft Rage Wednesday nigh

The Beaverlodge Royals took advantage of some wild pitching in the first inning to score three runs and, on the other side of the ball, played solid defence to win their opening Wheatbelt Baseball League match 3-1 over the Rycroft Rage Wednesday night in Dawson Creek.

Rage starting pitcher Kale Helgeson loaded the bases in the first after he walked Elliott Holthe, Tyson McCallum and Andrew Nash.

Jason Higson was also walked to bring home Holthe and later McCallum came home. Nash was thrown out at the plate, but Higson also made it home when another Beaverlodge batter was walked.

After that, Helgeson was yanked in favour of Byron Murphy who ended the inning and didn't allow a run for the remaining six innings, but by then the damage was done in the tight defensive match.

"That first inning really helped us where we got three right off the bat and (pitcher) Tyson shut them down for four inning and Chase (Garbitt) came in and cleaned it up for us," said Nash, the Royals' player-coach.

Meanwhile, McCallum got his team off on the right foot. He struck out three and didn't allow a single run in the four innings he pitched.

"I have been out to a few practices, but this was the first time I have thrown off the mound so it worked out pretty good. It is good to be throwing that well this early in the year, so I am happy with it," said the 16-year-old McCallum, who played major midget hockey in Prince George over the winter and arrived home in early April.

The win bodes well for the team's future this WBL season as the match was just the first time the Royals have played together.

The senior men's team is a combined Grande Prairie-Dawson Creek squad that was formed after neither community could find enough players to field a team. Since Grande Prairie played out of Beaverlodge last year, the home games will be split between Dawson Creek and Beaverlodge and use the Royals' uniforms and name.

One never knows what to expect in a season-opener, especially with so many players who are unfamiliar with each other.

However, it was an impressive win over a traditional WBL powerhouse that played well despite giving up three early runs.

"Especially coming out in the first game of the year, you never know about the nerves. but I think there might have been two errors in the whole game and that's a great improvement from last year and some of the balls the guys were getting to out there we weren't getting to those last year and a key double play in the fifth inning really set the tone for the remainder of the game. If we didn't get that double play, there might have been a comeback there," said Nash, adding that he was impressed with the number of players who showed up.

"We were figuring we would probably have 12, 13, 14 guys out here tonight, but to see 19 guys show up and stick around and be part of the atmosphere. For the first time in a couple of years you can look over and it looks like an actual team."

At the top of the seventh there were some nervous moments for Dawson Creek fans when Beaverlodge threw out the Rycroft runner who was advancing to second, but an overthrow to first allowed Morgan Zahara to score.

The next batter was walked and with runners at first and second the winning run was at the plate. But left fielder Devon Letourneau somehow snagged a line drive in the fading light to get the third out and end the game.

The Royals are off this weekend and next play at Dawson Creek's Harry Morrow Ball Park Wednesday when the Fort St. John Paladin Black Sox visit. The Black Sox hammered Cecil Lake' Norwest Thunder 13-0 last night, and Peace River beat Grimshaw 9-5.

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