2021 25+ Mountain

Kansas City Royals 4, Capital City Angels 2

Submitted by Justin White, Royal’s manager

What a series we had in 2021! We had a great team with solid pitching and good defense and timely hitting for our first mountain division title. This team is much different than my men’s team that plays in my Sunday league in the KCMSBL and I really cherish seeing these guys for a week once per year to compete with the help of fellow manager and league director James Jones.

Although we call our team the Kansas City Royals, which is where the team originates from, we have guys from Kansas City, Phoenix, Southern California, and even North Carolina. I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to network with a lot of guys who recruited other guys that helped us get to this point of winning a championship in 2021.

After winning a championship in 2012 with my KC Federal division Rebels team, we took a few years off as guys moved on and kids were being born.

Fast forward to 2019, we had a great team in the Cactus division but lost a heartbreaker in the first round of the playoffs after going 5-0 in pool play.

We moved up in 2020 to the Mountain division due to adding a few players with ex-pro status and struggled with a shaky defense that gave up close to 50 errors in pool play. With that said, my goal for 2021 was to improve the defense. During the off-season, an opportunity presented itself to combine our team with the OC Rays who regularly played for a National championship. The Rays had several infield defenders who helped us with our previous defensive problems and it was great to reconnect with their manager, Andrew Velarde who had played with several of my teams previously.  They had infielders who could play solid defense.

We started off pool play in 2021 with a close win over the San Diego Knights. We had our ace and tournament MVP, Pete Gehle on the mound and won 3-0 against a very good San Diego Knights team. Pete is a member of a local AZMSBL team and had spent some time in the White Sox system and pitched professionally overseas. Our plan was to throw Pete in the first game and hopefully bring him back for the playoffs championship. We ended up winning the next two games against the Yanese Bandits and San Diego North teams behind solid pitching performances by John Havird and Chris Prado with solid relief work by Jackson Webb, who closed out both games.

We lost two on Friday against the Venice Gaze and the CC Angels, but both of our pitchers, Derek Watkins and Ryan Agnitsch were able to give us nine innings saving us arms for the weekend, which put us in a good spot heading into the playoffs.

With our 3-2 record, we were fortunate enough to get the two seed with one win getting us to the championship. We went back and forth as to who to start in the playoff game against the San Diego Knights, but decided to go with our long-time guy, Tim Martin. Timmy as we affectionately call him went a solid nine and kept the Knights off balance with a steady mix of well-placed fastballs and off-speed pitches and we ended up winning 14-3. Timmy has battled some injuries but has been down with me since day one, so it was particularly satisfying. In fact, we bought him a steak dinner that night for his efforts.

With all that being said, we were set up and in a great position with our ace, Pete Gehle ready to start the championship game against the CC Angels on three days’ rest. The CC Angels were a great team and mashed against us in pool play, but we were ready for the challenge with our best pitcher on the mound. Before the game, I spoke with their manager, who is a real cool dude and he exclaimed we got our best going against their best. What more could you ask for?

We got off to a fast start in the first inning scoring a few thanks to some timely hitting and a clutch double by our slugger Dakota McFadden that knocked in two RBI’s. From there it was a pitcher’s duel. The Angels scored a run in the seventh and the momentum seemed to be switching but we answered in the eighth with a well-timed “Pickle” play. McFadden on first and Velarde at thrid with our nine-spot up to bat. Dakota left early and got into a rundown which allowed Velarde to score ultimately and that run really kind of flipped the momentum back in our direction. That was a really cool play as those guys did it on their own and it worked out.

At that point, I knew we were in really great shape as our starter Pete went out in the ninth and preserved the victory with a scoreless inning with veteran Royals outfielder, Chris Lloyd running down a ball in the gap as the final out.

From there, we celebrated our team victory and can’t wait to be back with the same team next year. Can’t wait to see those guys again!

Top performers were Andrew Velarde with a .371 average, Jackson Webb with a 1.106 ops, James Jones with a .936 ops, and Pete Gehle with an ERA of 1.00 over 18 innings with 15 k’s and two wins. Props to Brandon Adams for catching almost the entire tournament and for Alex Ornellas for stepping in and being a stud behind the plate.