The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
Senior Charlie Royle spent most of Friday afternoon’s game against Long Beach Poly sitting on the edge of the dugout rocking Vans. But when his team needed someone to close out a 4-3 game in the seventh inning, he traded his sneakers for spikes and recorded the final three outs of a gritty win for the Bruins, keeping Wilson alive in the Moore League title hunt.
Royle was unable to start the game on the mound due to a back injury that was expected to keep him sidelined for the next few weeks, but as the game got closer to the finish, he made himself available for Wilson head coach Andy Hall.
“He said in the seventh, ‘I’m gonna go down and stretch out in case this thing goes sideways,’” Hall said of Royle, who is signed to play at Cal Poly after high school. “I almost called him back like, ‘No, you’re not’ because he’s been complaining about back pain a little bit, and his future is in this game long after the season’s over … But Charlie’s our guy. If he wants to go in and try to get it done, who am I to stop him?
“It’s his team. This has been his team for four years, especially the last few years. He’s our heart and soul.”
Royle was actually the fourth Wilson pitcher to enter the ballgame, and he inherited a runner on second base with no outs and Poly’s best hitter–longtime friend Ryan Skjonsby–standing in the batter’s box with a 3-1 count. Royle’s first pitch to Skjonsby was in the dirt, putting two Jackrabbits on base with no outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Poly attempted a sac bunt to put the potential winning run in scoring position, but Royle was able to field his position well and get the lead runner at third base on a fielder’s choice. He then jammed the next batter, forcing a weak liner to second base, where Jake Fox made the catch and stepped on second for a game-ending double play.
“It was always in the back of my mind,” said Royle on coming in to close out the game. “Because I'm not in too much pain with my back right now, I just know I should probably lay off of it. But I knew if we got into that situation, I would maybe go or at least be ready to go … Especially in a game like that, where there's so much energy and all that around the stadium, you have to stay ready and be able to put up for the team.”
Prior to Royle’s late heroics, Wilson got off to a nice start at the plate on a sizzling Friday afternoon with temperatures approaching triple digits. The Bruins scored two runs in the second inning, then tacked on an additional run in the third and fourth to take a 4-1 lead in the middle innings.
After Aaron Mingo and Nathan Gomez-Gardenswartz hit back-to-back singles to start the second, they were brought home on a Taylor Kirk sac fly and an RBI single from Fox.
Poly pulled a run back in the bottom half of the second inning thanks to an RBI single from Raymond Jenkins, plating Jae Simon who was hit by a pitch then stole second.
The Bruins responded with an RBI single from Zack Wakefield in the third to score Diego Orozco, then tacked on a fourth run when Xander McLaurin singled home Kirk, making it 4-1 Bruins.
Poly put up a crooked number in the fifth as the top of their order got a rally started. Lucas Scott pulled a double down the left field line, then Skjonsby worked a walk to put two runners on with no outs. An infield single from Jordan Kramer brought in the first run, then Sebastian Byrd’s RBI groundout made it a 4-3 ballgame, setting the stage for Royle’s crucial cameo in the seventh.
Drew Payares got the start for Wilson and went once through the order before giving way to senior Jack Eckenrode. He proved to be the inning eater for the Bruins, pitching 4.1 innings with two runs allowed, two walks and five strikeouts.
“I told the kids before the game started that once in a while you have to play a game when you don't have your best player, and a couple of you guys in this group are gonna have to compensate for us not having Charlie tonight,” said Hall. “And I think we did … We did what we needed to do and hopefully we got another step closer to either a playoff berth and/or a league championship.”
Wilson’s next league game is Tuesday against Cabrillo before they get another shot at league leaders Millikan next Thursday night. That game will follow the rematch between Lakewood and Poly in the first game of another Blair Field doubleheader.