It was the first ‘Special Event’ of the 2011 National Baseball League season on Sunday. The concept was introduced last year as a way to bring all the top-tier clubs together as a showcase for the sport in Britain.
With the NBL increasing from eight to ten teams this year, the ‘Special Event’ was spread over two venues this time: three nine-inning games at Herts and two at Richmond.
At Grovehill Ballpark, the home team Herts Falcons (2-6) were unable to build on the momentum gained from their double-win over the Croydon Pirates from the previous Sunday. The London Mets (4-2) proved to be too strong for the Falcons, as explained by the Mets’ official scorer, Tanya Cramman:
“London Mets 14 Herts Falcons 3
After a scoreless first inning, London came out in the second to score 8 runs off 4 hits batting through their order, whilst Herts were unable to reply. Herts centre fielder, Mahendra Prasad, played a solid defence in sometimes challenging winds making a difficult diving catch mid way through the game. London welcomed their latest addition Erick Henson, who was solid behind the plate and got the job done with the bat scoring London’s opening run. Darrin Ward took the loss with Zach Russel earning his second NBL win”.
The Mets remain in second place in Pool B, 1.5 games behind the Lakenheath Diamondbacks (7-2) after the Pool leaders stunned the Essex Arrows (2-9) with a ninth-inning rally to turn a 7-4 deficit into an 8-7 victory. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Arrows, but they will take confidence from pushing the Diamondbacks all the way.
Meanwhile the Southern Nationals (5-4) moved over .500 thanks to a hard-fought victory over the Mildenhall Bulldogs (3-6). The Nationals appeared to be coasting to the win in the middle of the fifth inning when they led 10-1, but a six-run inning brought the Bulldogs back into it and the Nationals just managed to stay ahead to win 12-11. Brendan Cunliffe starred for the Nationals, going 3-for-4 with a home run.
In the games at Richmond, the home town Flames met the Southampton Mustangs in a battle from the top of Pool A. It appeared as though the Mustangs would have a two-game cushion at the top of the standings after they took a 4-0 lead; however the Flames levelled the game and then won it on a walk-off single by Marcus Simpson to leave the teams locked together on 9-2 records.
The Croydon Pirates (2-9) responded to their two losses last Sunday by taking an 11-8 win against an admittedly depleted Bracknell Blazers (3-4) team.
There are four NBL double-headers scheduled for this weekend: Arrows @ Blazers, Mustangs @ Bulldogs, Flames at Nationals and Diamondbacks @ Falcons.
The fabulous four become a fearless three
Away from the National Baseball League, the main story was that the number of unbeaten teams reduced from four to three on Sunday.
In the AA Midlands, the MK Bucks won the first game of a double-header against the Nottingham Rebels to improve to 9-0, but the rapidly improving Rebels broke the Bucks’ unbeaten run in the second game with a memorable 6-3 victory. Birmingham Maple Leafs swept a double-header over the Leicester Blue Sox to move within one game of the Bucks at the top of the AA Midlands, while the Rebels are in third with a highly creditable 5-5 record from their first ten games as a new team in the British Leagues.
That left the AAA North Liverpool Trojans and the two A South leaders, Southampton Mustangs II and Cambridge Royals, as the three teams still to face the disappointment of a defeat in 2011.
All three managed to put off that moment for at least one more week. The Trojans’ (8-0) double-header against the Halton Jaguars was postponed due to a waterlogged field, while the A South teams continued their winning ways. The Mustangs II (7-0) gained a 28-1 victory over Guildford Mavericks II and the Cambridge Royals (6-0) recorded an 18-3 win on the road against the Braintree Rays.
However, only more inclement weather will stop the unbeaten three from becoming an unbeaten two on Sunday as the Mustangs II and Royals meet in Southampton in a battle between the A South Pool B and Pool A leaders respectively. The Mustangs II will be favourites on home turf, but the Royals are sure to put up a strong fight in a high-stakes game.
Badgers back to winning ways, Herts Hawks break their duck
In the AAA South, the Bristol Badgers (11-1) responded to having their unbeaten start to the season broken the previous Sunday by picking up two wins away to the Oxford Kings (6-8). The Essex Redbacks (9-5) made it four wins in a row by taking both games of a double-header at home to the Richmond Knights (2-10) to pull within three games of the division-leading Badgers. The Knights have an immediate chance to gain revenge as they host the Redbacks this Sunday. Bristol may also feel they have a point to prove as they face the team that took their unbeaten start away: the Windsor and Bracknell Bears.
In the AAA North, the Manchester A’s picked up what looks like two forfeit wins over the Menwith Hill Patriots. The A’s and Trojans are scheduled to reignite their rivalry this Sunday at Allen Field in Manchester.
Staying in the north, Manchester Torrent took two wins against the Humber Pilots to improve to 5-3 on the season. They are two games behind the AA-North division-leading Bolton Robots of Doom, with those two sides set to meet this Sunday in Bolton for a double-header.
In the AA- South, the Latin Boys made it four wins in a row with two victories over the Richmond Knights. Judging by the box scores, they were two weird and wonderful games as the Latin Boys scored 17 runs in both. The first game was a comfortable win, the second was anything but. Brentwood Stags are in second place behind the Latin Boys in Pool A after two victories over Croydon Pirates III, while the Guildford Mavericks secured two victories over Essex Redbacks II to keep up the pressure on the Sidewinders at the top of Pool B.
And finally, Herts Hawks got rid of the ‘0’ in their win column while splitting a double-header with Kent Mariners. The Hawks will look to add another win to their total this Sunday against the Mavericks.