While those involved in the National Baseball League (NBL) will inevitably have their thoughts on the approaching National Baseball Championship (NBC) at Roundshaw on 29 and 30 August, the final weekend of the regular season still offers much of interest.
Richmond’s nervous 5-4 victory over Croydon on Sunday ensures that they can still draw level with the Mets if they can sweep the double-header between the two teams at Finsbury Park on Sunday. If this does occur, the league title will be determined by a tie-breaker. Since neither team has forfeited any games – the first decider in the tie-break – the decision will go down to the head-to-head record, which the Flames would lead 4-2 with a sweep. (Note: I had originally incorrectly stated that “the league will be shared, as there is no formal stipulation for a play-off.”)
That 5-4 victory also reduces Croydon’s opportunities to get a first win to just two games. They travel to Bracknell knowing that they really need two wins to get off their 0-fer, as one win would be wiped off owing to an forfeited double-header back at the start of the season. Should Croydon get that sweep, Bracknell will finish tied third with Herts; if not, Bracknell will get third outright.
Individual offensive awards
Ryan Trask went long off the Falcons’ Nick Goetz last Sunday to draw within one home run of Ryan Bird’s league-leading total of five. Bird and Trask, the latter the defending home run champ, should both be in action on Sunday. The two sluggers are also one and two in the runs batted in category, with the Blazers’ Trask driving in four last Sunday to move to 28, two ahead of Richmond’s Bird. Only one other hitter has more than 17 (Kyle Hickson with 21). It is perhaps unsurprising that Bird currently tops the slugging average list, with his .825 looking hard to beat with 1 week left. Another category that Bird looks to have a safe lead in is base hits. His 29 hits are three more than both Lin Yuchih and Darrin Ward amassed for Herts this season, but they have completed their regular-season schedule and the next in the list sits five back.
Robbie Unsell, though now departed for the season, is unlikely to be caught as stolen base leader, with his total of 21 putting him six clear of Rob Anthony in second place. And Anthony looks safe at the top of the runs scored list. The Mets’ shortstop has 32 so far, and the nearest competitor is his team-mate Callum Woods, who has crossed the plate seven fewer times this season.
London’s Carl Randall currently holds the lead in batting average with .511. Only Bird (.460) can conceivably catch him, but based on an assumption that both of the hitters get seven at-bats in the Mets-Flames double-header, that would require the Richmond player to collect three more hits than Randall.
Finally, there is a surprising leader in on-base average: Bracknell’s British youngster Tom Bray. Aided by 18 walks, which tie for the lead with Grant Delzoppo of the Flames, his figure of .644 is so good in fact that it would break Ryan Barwick’s top-tier single-season record of .623. This is the only single-season record that could realistically be broken in 2009.
Individual pitching awards
Reid Wilson’s league-leading earned-run average of 2.16 should be safe, with the nearest competitor on 2.92, unless Cody Cain pitches at least 5.2 innings. This would take Cain to 32 innings – the minimum for qualification – and his earned-run average currently sits at 2.05. Similarly, the London player has a solid lead in WHIP with 0.98, but Cain’s figure of 0.95 lurks ominously near the top of non-qualified players. And the theme continues to strike-outs per 9 innings. This time it is Wilson’s team-mate Jason Roberts (10.94) who leads the list of qualified players but who sits below the Flames’ veteran (13.67).
Darrin Ward will almost certainly finish the season with the most innings pitched (74.2), but his league-leading wins total of six is under threat from two players on five who could be in action on Sunday: Reid Wilson and Henry Collins.
Finally, this Sunday should see Matt Maitland of Bracknell and Jose Sosa of Croydon duel for the strike-out title at Westmorland Park, the former having 57 to the latter’s 54. Richmond’s Michael Osborn is also still in the running, with 53 to his name.
Cody Cain still needs 11 more strike-outs for 500 and Michael Osborn still needs six more for 250, as neither of the Richmond players saw action last week. Matt Maitland struck out six batters last Sunday to move within nine strike-outs of 200, while his Bracknell team-mate Ryan Trask needs three more home runs for 25, as he hit the 22nd of his career on Sunday.
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