However, that created opportunities for other teams to make a leap in the standings and the games that were played certainly didn’t lack any drama.
Liverpool’s winning streak comes to an end
The result of the week came in Triple-A where the Liverpool Trojans’ incredible winning run was finally brought to an end by the Cartmel Valley Lions.
Liverpool (13-1), the reigning Triple-A National champions, hadn’t lost a league game since 25 July 2010 and after starting this season 12-0 it looked like another perfect year might be on the cards. However the young Lions (9-5) have impressed in their debut senior season and they saw their opponent’s record as less a thing to be feared and more an opportunity to make a mark.
They did just that, with GB Under-23 pitcher Ben Pearson striking out nine Trojans over seven one-run innings and backing his effort on the mound with a three-run home run in the second inning. Cartmel took the opening game of the double-header 7-1, yet Liverpool responded in the way you would expect.
‘Let’s start the next winning streak’ was the cry and sure enough they quickly found their way back in the win column with a shortened five-inning victory by a score of 12-0 in the second game. Paul Smith put an exclamation point on the victory with a game-ending Grand Slam, while GB U-23 player Rob Vondy picked up the pitching win with five shut-out innings, making it an impressive day for the national team prospects.
The Trojans now have a four-game lead over the Lions at the top of the North. This Sunday, the Lions host the Halton Jaguars, the third-placed Menwith Hill Patriots host the Bolton Robots of Doom (still looking for their first win of 2012) and the Trojans look to keep their new winning streak going with two games on the road against the Manchester A’s.
Meanwhile the AAA-South is arguably shaping up to be the most competitive division in all of British baseball.
The Cambridge Royals (11-7) swept a double-header away to the Essex Redbacks (13-7) to move within one game of their rivals in the Pool B standings. Brett Curran and Raj Perera once again led the way for the Royals with some strong pitching. Curran’s 12 strike-out effort in the opener was particularly impressive as the Redbacks pitched a combined no-hitter in the game, although Cambridge’s offence was able to get runs on the board due to the Redbacks’ starter Phil Chesterton not having his normal control and walking 12 over five innings.
The Latin Boys and London Metros (both 7-8) are 3.5 games behind the Redbacks after they split a double-header, and wins were shared between the Bristol Badgers (13-5) and Richmond Knights (12-8) in the other double-header. That left the Badgers leading Pool A by one game over the Oxford Kings (10-4), with the Knights one further game back.
This Sunday, the Knights host the Redbacks while the Royals are in Croydon taking on the Latin Boys.
AA: Rebels and Mavericks keep their winning runs going
The AA-Midlands division is also challenging the AAA-South as one to watch. The Nottingham Rebels (10-0) currently look a class apart from the rest and they added two more victories to their tally last Sunday at the expense of the Stourbridge Titans (0-7). However, there’s a great battle developing for second spot between the MK Bucks (5-4), Leicester Blue Sox (5-6) and Birmingham Maple Leafs (2-5). The latter were dealt a blow last weekend when the Bucks defeated them 18-6; however Birmingham has games in hand and so they have the opportunity to get back in the race quickly. Ruining the Rebels’ winning streak this Sunday would be a great way for the Maple Leafs to start their comeback.
In the North, there was a top of the table double-header clash between the Sheffield Bladerunners (13-1) and Harrogate Tigers (9-5) last Sunday. Honours were even at the end of the day’s play and although the Tigers will be happy to have inflicted the first loss of the season on Sheffield, they may feel a little disappointed that they couldn’t take the chance to close the four-game gap that the Bladerunners have on them. The Hull Scorpions (8-6) and Manchester Torrent (5-5) also split their double-header to keep those two teams in third and fourth place and separated by a single game in the standings. The Tigers host the Scorpions this Sunday, while Sheffield are playing away to the Oldham North Stars.
The Guildford Mavericks (13-0) still have a perfect record so far this season in the South, but they were pushed all the way last Sunday by the Daws Hill Spitfires (4-4). The teams couldn’t be separated after nine innings before the Mavericks finally managed to shake off the Spitfires in the tenth inning to take the game 11-9. The Mavericks will look to continue their winning run against the Kent Mariners (3-7) this Sunday. The Mariners took an 18-9 loss against the Southampton Mustangs II last Sunday in their debut at their new home ground.
The games were just as close in Croydon where the Pirates III edged both games against the Latin Tigers 8-7, the second of which being an extra inning win. Those victories took the Pirates III up to a level 5-5 record, albeit still a way off the Pool A-leading Mavericks and second-placed Piranhas (10-1).
The Pool B-leading Sidewinders (7-3) were held to a split by the London Mammoths (6-4) and that leaves the Pool wide open, with the Sidewinders holding a one-game lead over the Mammoths and Herts Hawks (5-3) and the Spitfires just one further game back. The Mammoths are due to play against the Richmond Dragons on Saturday, with the Sidewinders hosting the Hawks on Sunday.
Single-A: More mores for the Marauders and Hove Tuesday
In Single-A the London Marauders (4-0) and Hove Tuesday (3-0) continued their winning starts to the season. The Marauders improved to 4-0 with an 18-5 win over the Richmond Dukes, while Hove hit the Guildford Mavericks II hard in a 29-4 win.
Herts Raptors (3-2) were also in the runs on Sunday as they put 35 on the board against Tonbridge in a convincing victory.
It will be a tougher test for the Raptors this Sunday as they host the Pool-A leading Essex Archers. the Dukes will head to Brighton to take on Hove Tuesday, Herts Eagles face Braintree Rays and the Essex Redbacks III host Tonbridge.
NBL: Harlow make hay while the sun shines (or at least while the rain stays away)
Harlow Nationals (15-4) took full advantage of the double-header between Herts Falcons and London Mets being postponed by sweeping the Southampton Mustangs and maintaining their place at the top of the NBL.
The pair of victories, by scores of 11-5 and 7-3, have given the Nationals a 1.5 game lead over the Falcons (12-4), which relatively speaking is a decent cushion considering how close it has been at the sharp end of the top-tier so far this season.
The Mustangs (12-7) had been leading the league with a 12-3 record, but four consecutive defeats at the hands of the Falcons and Nationals have put them on the back foot in the title chase, both in terms of adding losses to their total and in the negative impact of just coming up short against their main rivals. Southampton has this Sunday off to regroup before trying to get back on track on 8 July with two games on the road against the Essex Arrows.
The Arrows (7-13) are playing through a rough patch of their own having lost their last six, the first two coming at the hands of the Mustangs on 10 June and the latest two being suffered last Sunday against the Lakenheath Diamondbacks (7-8). Essex will feel that luck has deserted them as the D-Backs took both games by a single run, the second game being an extra inning defeat.
Lakenheath are scheduled to play a double-header against the London Mets this Sunday and the Mets will surely be itching to get out on the field after being denied by the weather once again last weekend. The other NBL action will see the Arrows and Croydon Pirates meeting for a single game before both teams play against the GB Juniors.