Last weekend’s weather put a considerable dent in the British baseball schedule.
The planned contest between the two Pool-leaders in the National Baseball League, Richmond Flames and Lakenheath Diamondbacks, was postponed, as was all but one game on the NBL fixture list. The Essex Arrows defeated the Croydon Pirates 7-3 before heavy rain brought an end to the day’s play, despite the best efforts of those involved.
Other games that did survive the weather included a 9-4 victory by the MK Bucks over the Nottingham Rebels in the AA-Midlands, two wins for the Sheffield Bladerunners over the Humber Pilots in the AA-North, two wins for the Latin Boys against the Sidewinders in the AA-South and the much-anticipated game between the top two sides in Single-A.
Royals reign in the Cambridge rain
The Southampton Mustangs II and Cambridge Royals quickly established themselves as the teams to beat in Single-A this season. After ten attempts against the Mustangs and eight against the Royals, the rest of the league hadn’t been able to inflict a defeat on either. That left it to the first encounter of the season between the two teams to decide who would be dealt their first loss and who would keep alive hopes of finishing the regular season unbeaten.
Gloomy skies and an even gloomier weather forecast couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm as the two teams finished their preparations, talked through the Coldham’s Common ground rules and then took to the field.
Thoughts of a tense, low-scoring affair were quickly pushed to one side as the scoreboard ticked over (or would have if there was one) in the opening exchanges.
Southampton scored twice in the top of the first. Catcher Dan Collins doubled home the opening run of the game against the Royals’ starting pitcher Raj Perera before crossing the plate himself on a throwing error. Cambridge hit back immediately with four runs in the bottom of the frame off Dave Wrigley. Mark Gilley followed up his home-run in the previous home game against the Old Timers with a two-run double to start off a 3-for-4 day.
Back came the Mustangs II. They tabled six runs in the top of the second inning to jump out to an 8-2 lead and forced the Royals into making an early pitching change: Adam Brown taking over on the mound as Perera moved to the outfield. The Royals could have panicked at this point. Instead, they kept their composure and gradually worked their way back onto level terms with two runs in both the second and third innings.
Southampton clearly were not lacking in confidence after their ten-game winning streak and they responded to having their lead wiped out by quickly regaining the advantage in the fourth. Wrigley stroked his second single in two at-bats (finishing 3-for-4) and was driven home by shortstop Doug Sutherland to make it 9-8.
The question then was would Cambridge be deflated by seeing their hard work to regain parity swiftly undone, or would they rise to their toughest challenge yet?
The Royals answered that question emphatically in the bottom of the fourth inning. Gilley, Brown and shortstop Brett Curran opened the frame with three singles in a row as Cambridge mounted a seven-run onslaught to take the lead for the first time since the bottom of the first inning.
It was a lead that they would not relinquish. Brown kept Southampton off the board in the fifth and sixth innings before the teams headed for cover, sheltering under the trees as the heavens finally opened with a vengeance. Both sides wanted to play this important game to a conclusion so they returned to the field as soon as the rain became lighter and Cambridge wasted little time in moving past the all-important mark of a ten-run lead. The Royals added six more runs to their total as Wrigley walked his final four batters, turning the ball over to Blake Finney to get the final two outs.
Two walks to lead off the seventh inning gave the Mustangs II hope of keeping the game alive; however Brown handed the ball over to Curran and his flaming fastball blazed a trail through the top of Southampton’s lineup. Three strikeouts had Cambridge finishing with a flourish and set the home team celebrating a 21-9 victory.
It was a good game between two teams used to playing winning baseball. Both sides deserve plenty of credit for playing through the rain and even if their postponed game from earlier in the season isn’t rescheduled, few would bet on this being the last time the two teams collide this year.
This weekend’s games
Subject to the weather intruding once again, there should be plenty of fiercely contested games this Sunday.
In the NBL, the Flames host the Bracknell Blazers, the D-Backs travel to Finsbury Park to take on the London Mets, the Southampton Mustangs are on the road against the Essex Arrows and the Croydon Pirates host the Mildenhall Bulldogs.
Elsewhere, the Essex Redbacks travel to Bristol to take on the seemingly unstoppable Badgers, Nottingham Rebels and Birmingham Maple Leafs meet for a double-header that may be crucial in deciding which team joins the Bucks in the AA playoffs, Bolton Robots of Doom – fresh off their trip to the Netherlands – return to domestic action away to the Humber Pilots, while in Single-A the Royals are on the road to Tonbridge and the Mustangs II take on the Braintree Rays.
GB Juniors and Cadets make an impression in the States
The Great Britain Juniors and Cadets enjoyed a very rewarding trip to Florida last week. Playing against a high standard of competition at excellent facilities, the players would have learned a tremendous amount at the USSSA Gold Medal Games which can only be good news for the future of the national team. Read all about the trip in BBF National Teams Programme Official Marty Cullen’s report on the BBF website.
Meanwhile the Senior team will begin their campaign to qualify for the next European Championships next Tuesday (26th). We’ll have more on Team GB’s trip to Israel at the beginning of next week.