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Benches clear in fourth inning of NBSBL quarter-final, Charlottetown facing must-win Game 4 tonight at Memorial Field
Tyler Wiwchar had a big hit for the Fredericton Riverview Ford Royals on Tuesday night. He said he took a few too.
Wiwchar's first inning grand slam gave the Royals a 5-3 lead en route to an 11-4 victory over the Charlottetown Gaudet's Auto Body Islanders – and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five New Brunswick Senior Baseball League quarter-final.
Wiwchar was also the only Royals player ejected when the dugouts emptied after the fourth inning, with Fredericton up 10-4.
As Royals coach Jody Peterson argued with home plate umpire Kyle Woodworth over called strikes on Adam Estey, the Islanders took exception to Peterson contesting balls and strikes with a six-run lead. The benches didn't empty, however, until after another Royals coach, Mark Sibley, came out to berate Woodworth as well.
Players from both teams converged for several minutes near the Charlottetown dugout before order was restored.
Punches were thrown, but the teams were too congested to determine the offenders.
Wiwchar, who was playing first base, was caught up in the middle of the melee.
“It's heat of the moment,” Wiwchar said. “I have no bad blood against them, but I let my emotions get the best of me. I apologize to my team for getting tossed for that.”
Wiwchar said an Islander player “grabbed onto me, so I gave him a couple pushes back. He wouldn't let go, so I threw him to the ground and the next thing I know I'm getting dogpiled. I have no idea who the (initial) player was, but once I was on the ground, I got an elbow to the face and got put in a headlock. After I got out of that, I got up and walked back to my position, but I was told I was tossed. I was just sticking up for my coaches and other players who were getting chirped.”
Wiwchar and Morgan Murphy, who was on the bench for the Islanders, were each suspended two games. Peterson wasn't suspended but Sibley was handed a 12-game suspension – 10 games plus an additional two for returning to the field after being ejected, Fredericton skipper Mike Lint said in an email Wednesday afternoon.
Charlottetown catcher Logan Gallant, who was picked up by the Royals for the recent senior nationals in Miramichi, tried to diffuse the situation by getting between the players and coaches.
“We just got caught up in it,” Gallant said, “but that's just the game of baseball – and that's all it is. Sometimes those things happen. I don't think it will carry over.”
The game started at 8 p.m. – as will tonight’s Game 4 in Charlottetown – and ended at 10:45 p.m. before 350 fans.
The Islanders jumped on starter Colby Lyle for three runs with two outs in the top of the first.
Jack Kraft walked and Lyle hit Gallant with a pitch. On a double steal, Kraft scored when catcher Corey Kavanagh threw the ball into centre field.
Kody Matthews, Nick MacPhail, Josh McDonald and Taylor Larkin hit four straight singles to plate two more runners for a 3-0 lead. Johnny Arsenault flew out to centre-fielder Corey Wood – who had robbed leadoff hitter Avery Arsenault with a diving catch – to leave the bases loaded.
The Royals countered with five runs off Darcy Affleck in the bottom of the first.
Estey and Tanner Banks walked. Dave Barr lined out to left, but Wood singled to fill the bases. Kavanagh singled home the first run and, after David Crossman got caught looking, Wiwchar smashed his grand slam.
“It felt good,” Wiwchar said. “He just hung me a curveball that didn't move. I put a good swing on it. I didn't think it was going out, but it just carried for me.”
The Islanders cut it to 5-4 in the third on singles by Matthews, Larkin and Johnny Arsenault.
The Royals chased Affleck with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
After right-fielder Kraft dropped Wood's fly ball and shortstop Johnny Arsenault couldn't catch Kavanagh's liner, Crossman crushed a three-run homer to deep right for an 8-4 lead. Mackenzie Washburn belted a no-doubt solo shot to end Affleck's night.
Wood belted a solo homer off reliever Charles MacLellan in the fifth for a 10-4 cushion.
“It just wasn't our night,” Gallant said. “They're a good hitting team. This is a small ballpark, but they put good swings on the ball for all those home runs.”
Lyle allowed eight singles in four innings to pick up the win. Jordan Drier pitched three innings of one-hit relief.
Wood, who scored three runs, and Crossman were both 2-for-3. Matthews, MacPhail and Larkin all had two hits for Charlottetown.
The Royals won Saturday's opener 5-1 but the Islanders rebounded for a 3-0 victory at home Sunday.
Fredericton finished fourth with a 15-17 record and won six of eight regular season games against the 9-23 Islanders.
The winner will meet the first-place Saint John Alpines (21-11) in a best-of-seven semifinal. The defending champion Chatham Miramichi Honda Ironmen (18-14) and Moncton Fisher Cats (17-15) will square off in the other semi.
– By Bruce Hallihan, The Daily Gleaner in Fredericton, N.B.