Langley Blaze's Rhys Cratty drove home the winning run in a 9-8 victory over the White Rock Tritons in the BCPBL regular season finale. The victory improved the Blaze to 33-11 as the team clinched the regular season pennant.

Stunning turnaround as Blaze capture league title

Langley Premier Baseball League squad was at 7-7 through 14 games before winning 26 of their next 30

After winning their first five games, the Langley Premier Blaze lost six straight and seven of their next nine games.

The 18U baseball team was sitting at 7-7 as they neared the one-third mark of the 44-game BC Premier Baseball League season.

What followed next was an epic run as the team went 26-4 over the final 30 games, winning the league pennant by one game over the North Shore Twins.

The Blaze swept the Twins on Sunday at McLeod Park, winning 6-2 and 11-1 to overtake North Shore.

So what changed from the first four weeks to the next 10?

“We had a meeting and talked about how we were going to get healthy and eventually go on a run,” said Langley coach Jamie Bodaly. He brought up the fact that the 2013 team he coached rattled off 27 consecutive victories.

The team’s struggles had a lot to do with not having their top line-up due to injuries and unavailable players.

At one point, they were missing their entire starting infield with outfielders playing infield and hitters who normally would bat in the bottom of the line-up now at the top of the order.

“I kept telling (general manager Doug Mathieson) once we get those guys back, everyone slots back into the right spot in the batting order and it turned out to be true,” Bodaly said.

As the team got healthier, they also began practising twice a day on their situational hitting and changed their game plan at the plate while also making an adjustment with their two-strike hitting.

The Blaze wound up leading the PBL with a .284 batting average and a .392 slugging percentage and were tied for third with a .383 on-base percentage. Langley also led in home runs with 14 — no one else had more than nine — and had a league-best 72 doubles. They also struck out a league-low 199 times.

The pitching staff also had a league-high 320 strikeouts and they were the only team with a sub-2.00 earned run average at 1.88. And opposing batters managed to hit just .205 against Langley pitchers.

“I have had amazing teams and have seen a lot of great accomplishments but to change our season the way we did, I can’t say enough about this group of guys,” Bodaly said.

Playoffs this weekend

The Blaze host the Abbotsford Cardinals in a best-of-three playoff series this weekend at McLeod Park, with the winner advancing to the provincial championships.

The first two games are on Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m. If necessary, the teams would play Sunday at 11 a.m.

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