Dodgers defeat the Giants 3-2
Pirates defeat the Angels 3-0
A's defeat the Braves 3-0
Royals defeat the Jays 3-2

Pirates defeat the A's 3-1
Royals defeat the Dodgers 3-1

Finals - Pirates versus Royals
Royals win 3-1

Royals win their fifth SABL Championship

Royals win the Championship

With the bitter taste of a first round exit from the 2022 playoffs still fresh in their mouths, the 2023 Royals entered their new season at a crossroads. Gone were the glory days of the 2010s, when the Royals were all but assured to make the SABL finals year after year; left in their place was a team predominantly composed of men in their mid-forties and early-fifties who were left wondering if they would reclaim their winning ways of the past or fade into obscurity.

The attempted youth movement of 2022 was abandoned, and the Royals doubled down on an already veteran-laden roster. Newcomers Andrew Goddard, Adam Hand, and Richard Thompson were added in the offseason, while SABL veteran Alex Seddiqi joined the squad just prior to opening day. All four would prove to be significant contributors.

With a 7-3 victory over the defending champion Braves in the season opener, the Royals set their pattern for the season: plenty of hitting, and just enough pitching.

Offensively, the Royals produced consistent fireworks. The notables were many, headlined by Mike Steward (.556, 2 HR, 32 RBI), Phil Chan (.500, 30 runs scored), Konrad Szczepanik (.485, .638 OBP), and Jason Andrews (.396, 2 HR, 20 RBI). Gavin Russell hit .310 and added a home run; Adam Hand hit .469 while posting an OBP of .514.

Defensively, the Royals were strong, anchored by Phil Hiemstra at shortstop and Donnie Burke in the infield, along with a strong and speedy defensive outfield of Seddiqi (23 RBI), Andrews, and Gbenga Ajasin (10 RBI, 10 runs scored).

On the mound, the Royals were led by ageless wonder Anthony Schiralli (7-0, along with a league-leading 1.14 ERA), Steve Nyczyk (3-0, 3.99 ERA), and Hiemstra (3-2, 2.04 ERA).

James Crosby (5 HR, 26 RBI) joined the team midway through the season and solidified the catcher position.

Coach Donnie Burke (.317, .423 OBP) battled through injuries to lead a club that scrapped and slugged their way to a 17-10-4 record during the regular season, good enough for fourth place in SABL.

The first round of the playoffs would present a significant challenge for the Royals, as they met their old nemesis, the Blue Jays, in what would prove to be a tightly-contested series.

After dropping the opener, the Royals were taken to the limit. Behind a complete game by starting pitcher Nyczyk, a home run by Chan, and three critical hits by Szczepanik, the Royals overcame their first major test of the playoffs and got past the Jays with a 12-3 win in the series' deciding fifth game.

That same day, the Royals opened their semi-final series against the Dodgers. Strong pitching from Schiralli and Hiemstra, along with a majestic home run from Goddard got the team off on the right foot, and they would cruise to a 3-1 series victory.

The Royals confidently strode into the finals against the top-seeded Pirates. Barely deterred by a walkoff loss in the first game, the team would bang out three straight wins to pull off the fifth championship in franchise history. Rookie Andrew Goddard - who hadn't pitched in nearly three months due to a broken finger - closed out the final three games on the mound, giving the team a tremendous lift.

The fifth championship in franchise history was fuelled by a return to form from Hiemstra, who rebounded from a disappointing regular season to pace the team offensively (.615, 1 HR, 17 RBI) in the playoffs, while also providing clutch pitching (2-0, 3.50) and excellent defensive play at shortstop. Jason Andrews hit .531 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and 17 runs scored in 13 games played. Outfielder Gbenga Ajasin also returned to form by hitting .429 with 10 runs scored and 5 stolen bases. Szczepanik hit .421 with an OBP of .560.

Other notable hitting studs during the playoffs included Chan (.355, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 13 runs scored), Steward (.424, .500 OBP, 10 runs scored), and Goddard (.444, 1 HR, 6 RBI). Outfielder Seddiqi led the way on the basepaths with 7 stolen bases.

The emergence of Goddard (1-0, 2 SV, 3.00 ERA, all in the finals) gave the team its trademark "just enough pitching", as Nyczyk helped solidify the rotation by going 5-0 in the playoffs with a 3.23 ERA and 3 complete games. Schiralli logged a team-high 31.2 innings pitched.

As always, the Royals were bolstered by beloved veterans Tony Kiriazakos, Warren Booth, Grant Brown, and Sohan Singh.

For the first time as an underdog, the Royals turned back the clock and recaptured the championship magic of their past. With muscles aching and joints burning, victory had never tasted quite so sweet.