Wellington Heat pitcher Matt Royal takes the description as a compliment. He knows who he is — a 5-foot-7 lefty who gets batters out by messing with their minds.
“Slow,” said El Dorado centerfielder Tyler Ware. “It’s like 75 percent off-speed. You try to stay back and do your best. It didn’t work.”
Wellington defeated El Dorado 8-1 on Friday in the NBC World Series semifinal. The Heat plays unbeaten Seattle on Saturday, needing to win twice to win a second NBC title to go with one from 2007. Royal preserved the bullpen with 7 2/3 innings and the Heat pounded out 16 hits. The first game is at 6 p.m. and the second one, if necessary, will follow that.
“We’ll play 18 straight if we have to,” Heat right fielder Nick Thimesch said. “We’ll grind it out and play a hard 18. Playing for the Heat, the expectation is to win the World Series.”
The Heat picked up lefty Royal late in the season with a spot like this in mind. El Dorado starts five left-handed hitters and started the game hitting .276 in five Championship Week games. Heat manager had three lefties in line to face the Broncos, starting with Royal. The lefties went 2 for 19 against Royal and reliever Noah Coleman. The Heat and Broncos, Jayhawk League rivals, split eight games before the NBC.
“Matty was a matchup for them because they hadn’t seen him yet,” Heat manager Rick Twyman said. “We were coming after them with all left-handers.”
Royal relied on his changeup and curveball for most of the game. In the middle innings, he watched the Broncos let fastballs sail by. He stayed away from the left-handed hitters with his breaking pitches.
“They were definitely getting frustrated when they were taking fastballs and swinging at the off-speed stuff,” he said.
Royal, who ended his college career at Kansas Wesleyan in 2012, pitched for the independent league Southern Illinois Miners earlier this summer. When they released him, he returned to the Heat. Twyman got him his shot in professional baseball and Royal wanted to help.
“I was still in shape, and me and Rick have a really good relationship,” Royal said. “I thought it would be another good run, another good experience for me.”
Royals cruised because his offense provided a cushion early. Wellington took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, previewing its consistent battering of Broncos pitchers.
Thimesch doubled in Aaron Siple, who led off with a single. Thimesch scored on Tony Piazza’s flyball to left. The Heat added a run in the third, ending the night for El Dorado starter George Brandecker after he allowed four hits. In the fourth, singles by Rowdy Andrews and Thimesch drove in runs to give the Heat a 5-0 lead. In the seventh, T.C. Mark singled in Nick Billinger for a 6-0 lead.
“Our pitching has definitely carried us this year,” Thimesch said. “We’ve been on and off with the bats. We’ve turned it on in the post-season. We’re a really contagious team; if we get a rally going, it’s tough to get it stopped.”
The Broncos wasted leadoff singles in the first, second and fifth. Thomas Clay doubled to lead off the sixth and the Broncos stranded him at third. In the seventh, they put two runners on with one out and failed to advance them. In the eighth, El Dorado loaded the bases with two outs, ending Royals’ outing. Reliever Coleman ended the threat by getting Patrick Esposito to foul out to the catcher.