British Baseball Beat: Playoff contenders starting to become clear

BBBThe Richmond Flames maintained their one-game lead over the Southampton Mustangs in Pool A of the National Baseball League after the games last Sunday.

Both teams swept double-headers, over the the Bracknell Blazers and Essex Arrows respectively.  Only the top team will automatically qualify for the National Baseball Championships, so there is more than bragging rights at stake between the sides the rest of the way. 

The Lakenheath Diamondbacks are still on course to make it straight to the NBC from Pool B, but the London Mets split a double-header with the Pool-leaders on Sunday to move into second place and to keep alive their hopes of staging a late charge on the top spot. 

The NBL’s playoffs will be contested between the third to sixth-best teams by win-loss record regardless of which Pool they are in.  Right now, that would pit the Southampton Mustangs against the Bracknell Blazers and the London Mets against the Southern Nationals over the weekends of the 10th and 17th. 

This Sunday, the Diamondbacks host the Southern Nationals, the Arrows host Herts Falcons and – in what may be a NBL playoff preview – the Mustangs host the Bracknell Blazers. 

AAA: Jaguars jump on the A’s, Redbacks split with the Badgers

The AAA-North was the source of a couple of bits of gloomy news over the past week.

The Menwith Hill Patriots have had to withdraw from the league as they are unable to field a team due to U.S. military operations understandably taking precedence.  Meanwhile the Liverpool Trojans are having to contend with their local council – Sefton – proposing to turn their playing field over to housing.  It’s believed that baseball has been played at Bootle Stadium since 1948.  Keep an eye on the Trojans’ website and Twitter feed for news and any ways that the rest of the British baseball community can help their cause.

On the field, the Manchester A’s and Halton Jaguars are now locked in a battle for second place behind the Trojans, with the winner joining Liverpool directly in the NBC.  The Jaguars beat the A’s 15-5 on Sunday to take a 1.5 game lead in the standings.

In the AAA-South, the Essex Redbacks still have an outside chance of catching the Bristol Badgers at the top of the division after the two teams split a double-header on Sunday.  The Badgers took the opener 9-5 to make it seven wins in a row, but the Redbacks fought back in the second game with an 11-3 victory. 

You would still expect Bristol to take the division and move straight on to the NBC. That leaves the Redbacks, London Metros and the Oxford Kings competing for the two playoff spots

AA: North Stars win!

There were a couple of surprises in the AA-North on Sunday.  The Bolton Robots of Doom lost for only the second time this season, splitting a double-header against the Humber Pilots.  And the Oldham North Stars won not only their first game of the season, but their first game since 2008!

In the Midlands, the Nottingham Rebels beat the Birmingham Maple Leafs to move within half a game of their opponents in the standings.  While the MK Bucks look all-but-certain to win the division, the battle between the Rebels and Maple Leafs will determine which team joins the Bucks in the AA playoffs and which goes on to the A playoffs.  The third-placed team is likely to be joined in the A playoffs by Leicester Blue Sox as they condemned the Blue Sox 2 to their fifteenth straight loss on Sunday.  The Blue Sox host the Bucks at Western Park this Sunday.

In the South, the Latin Boys beat the Essex Redbacks 2 by a score of 24-17 to improve their season record to 13-2 and to maintain their 4.5 game lead at the top of Pool A despite the Essex Archers winning their game against Brentwood Stags 10-9.  Croydon Pirates III could still battle with the Archers for second place, but they’ll need to win their games in hand to give them a decent chance.

In Pool B, the race for the top two places looks to still be between four teams.  The Guildford Mavericks’ victory over fellow contenders the Poole Piranhas keeps them in first place and with the best shot at securing a playoff berth.  The Piranhas have games in hand on those around them and would overtake the current second-placed team, the Sidewinders, if they won the four games they have in hand on them. The Thames Valley Bisons also are still in with a shout and the play against the Sidewinders this Sunday. The Mavericks host a double-header against the Stags this Sunday, while the Piranhas face the Richmond Dragons.

A: Mustangs get back on the winning trail

The Southampton Mustangs II rebounded from their first loss of the season against Cambridge the previous Sunday by defeating the Braintree Rays19-9.  The Royals made it ten wins from ten with a 21-1 victory on the road against Tonbridge.  Both of the current Pool-leaders will be heading to the playoffs where initially they will face the second-placed team from the opposite pool.

The Old Timers took two wins against Herts Raptors, one of the games being a make-up date from earlier in the season.  Those victories give them a cushion ahead of Braintree Rays; however the Old Timers decided not to compete in the postseason last year so the Rays may go on to face the Mustangs II regardless of whether they finish the season in second or not.

As for the Pool B race, the Guildford Mavericks II edged past the London Metros 16-15 on Sunday to bring them within 1.5 games of their opponents in the standings.  The Metros host the Cambridge Royals this Sunday at Finsbury Park and the Mavericks II will be hoping that the Royals continue their winning run.

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