After the last month mainly consisted of exhibition games throughout the United States and other organizations, the PBLO teams are back on July 22-24 to compete for the PBLO Championship in the 18U and 16U divisions. Here’s everything you might need to know to get caught up for the crazy weekend of games that are coming up in the 18U division held in Ottawa.
The final standings had quite a distance between the Oshawa Legionaires and the rest of the pack, finishing with a 28-4 record and clear of the second place Sudbury Voyageurs by 8.5 games. Keep in mind, this 18U Legionaires squad are the same group of kids that tied for the top spot last year as only 17U.
Another year of maturity has made this team the definite favourites, but as we saw last year, anything can happen where the Tecumseh Thunder took the ultimate prize with the 5th highest run differential at +4 but had an undefeated playoff tournament. Unfortunately, the Thunder were unable to participate this year to defend their title, so a new champion will be crowned for the 2022 season.
Looking at the matchups, Pool A consists of the Oshawa Legionaires (1), Sarnia Brigade (3), Ottawa-Nepean Canadians (5), and Ontario Yankees (7). In the regular season, Oshawa went undefeated against this group, however they were met with obstacles in the Brigade’s pitching. Despite this, they finished with almost double the runs as the next highest club and had a disgusting run differential of +181 in only 32 games. To beat them, you’ll have to limit their explosive offence as it is insanely difficult to completely shut them down.
The Sarnia Brigade’s biggest strength is their pitching. Combined with the Brigade allowing the second-least amount of runs and a capable offence, don’t be too certain that they can’t surprise when the spotlight is on. They have great results against the higher seeds, but have been inconsistent at times. If everything comes together, they could surprise when it comes to the semi-finals if they can escape pool play.
The Canadians finished with a losing record but most of that was due to a cold month of May. They are currently on a 6 game winning streak and several of their losses have been close to the top-seeded teams in the league. Last year, the 16U Canadians won the PBLO Championship, so maybe some of those players can carry over that success to 2022 as well.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have underperformed over the month of June. This Yankee ballclub is a streaky bunch, where runs can pile up in a heartbeat. They scored 21 runs against the Ponies, and have wins over both the Brigade and Canadians this season. One rush of offence could easily put this team in the race for one of the top two spots and a place in the semi-finals.
In Pool B, we have the Sudbury Voyageurs (2), London Badgers (4), Kitchener Panthers (6), and Kingston Jr. Ponies (8). For two of these franchises, it is their first year in the league and an opportunity to prove themselves when it counts.
The Sudbury Voyageurs are the early favourites to win the pool with their pitching and defence, winning double the games as the next highest with 18 wins and the only team with a positive run-differential of +75, attributed to their league-low 87 runs against. The Voyageurs are done well against the teams in Pool B, but they lost and tied to the Badgers, as well as tied twice to the Panthers. This is a division where upsets are very possible.
For the London Badgers, they have scratched and clawed — pardon the pun — for many of their wins this season, finishing with a record just under .500. While they finished with the second least runs-scored in the league, they played only 22 games, making them about league average in comparison. In a winner-take-all game, the Badgers could be tough to beat with Junior National Team member, Carson Lumley, on the mound throwing low-to-mid 90s on the radar gun. The Badgers are another sleeper pick that could make it far this weekend.
The Kitchener Panthers are one of the new teams on the block. They began the season very well, however in July, they faced a challenging schedule of the Voyageurs, Legionaires, and the Thunder. Finishing with 9 losses in a row is not an ideal way to end the regular season, however, they have played well versus the entirety of Pool B. They split the season-series against the Badgers as well as multiple ties against the Voyageurs. With a little extra run support, they could easily sneak through to the elimination round.
This season for the Kingston Jr. Ponies has been a learning experience. Pitching has been a main concern with 265 runs allowed in their 30 games. They will need to solidify their rotation for the playoffs if they hope to compete against the well-pitched teams in their division. If the bottom half of their order can bring runs across to balance out the lineup, who knows what could happen in a short series.
Last year, the 17U Legionaires did not make it out of the group stage, showcasing how anything can happen in a short tournament format. Ottawa is going to have high-quality baseball this weekend at Hamilton Yards and Heritage Park. We can’t wait to see who surprises and comes out on top. Keep up to date through oru social media platforms as well as GameChanger.