By Steven McCritchley
The Douglas College Royals finished their most successful season ever. They ended the regular season tied for third place in the North Region with a record of 12-12, barely sneaking their way into the North West Athletic Conference Super Regional.
They then went on to win their Super Regional in thrilling fashion to secure a berth in the NWAC Championships where they finished fifth place. But it would take a challenging season off the field to propel them forward.
Rewind eight months. The players and coaches were devastated by the death of a beloved Royal, Jordan Kornberger, one of the hearts of the team. The impact of this loss was felt for months and the team struggled to find their identity throughout the first half of the season.
Head Coach Cavanagh Whitely explained how it affected the team, “when we lost a teammate, we lost some of our focus and love for playing the game.” However, the tragedy ultimately pulled the team together and galvanized them for the second half of the season push. “I’ve never seen a team come together so well under pressure” said Whitely.
The team rebounded in the last third of the season with a 6-2 record putting them in position to qualify for the NWAC Super Regional via NWAC tie-breaking rules. The team would then need to defeat second-place Lane College from the South Region and third place Columbia Basin College (CBC) from the East region to continue their run; they did just that in what was one of the most intense and exciting games of the season.
Douglas led CBC 9-5 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, and looked certain to win. CBC had other ideas though as they piled on four runs to tie the game with two outs remaining. Relief pitcher Josh Yung then struck out the final two batters to force extra innings as Douglas fans everywhere let out a sigh of relief.
Defense then took over as Douglas shutout CBC in the bottom of the 10th and 11th to win 10-9 after Nolan Handley drove home Jeff Bouchard in the top of the 11th. After all this, Whitely’s Royals still had work to do after becoming the first Canadian team to clinch a trip to the NWAC Championships.
Things would be more challenging against the best in the NWAC though. Douglas went 1-2 in the NWAC championships after saving their All-NWAC Baseball Second Team All-Star pitcher, Cory Duggan, for their second game. Duggan pitched a complete game as they defeated North region rival, Everett Community College, 2-0. Results aside, the Royals performance proved something in those three games.
“Playing in the championships is an experience few teams get to go through and with the hard work the team put in during the season, we deserved to be there along with the best teams in the NWAC.” Hit by the significance of the accomplishment, Duggan noted that “the feeling is still surreal to [him]”.
“We have created a culture and attitude in the program [where we] expect to be in that position in May” said starting catcher Mike Orosz. He pointed out “Hopefully Canadian players will recognize that there is an opportunity to receive a better education while playing high calibre college baseball without having to leave the country”.
Coach Whitely remembered what he told the team earlier in the season, “I told them to define what it meant to be Royals and asked them what kind of legacy they wanted to leave behind.” who then went on to say “I was proud of how this group kept grinding against all odds and never gave up. This team decided to be the best when the deck was stacked against them and that’s what defined them.”
And these men should be proud! They found the strength within themselves to overcome these challenges together; they not only left a legacy of success behind for all those that follow but they demonstrated what it means to be a member of the Pride and to be a Royal.