The British Baseball leagues get ever more fascinating as the regular season reaches its final stages.
There’s something to play for in each division, whether that’s teams going for a league title, a play-off spot or simply wanting to end the season on a high note.
And we now know where the season finale will take place. It has been announced this week that this year’s National Senior Baseball Championships (NBC) event has been awarded to Herts Baseball Club. Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead will stage the marquee tournament over the 4-5 September weekend.
National Baseball League: Pirates win two, Bulldogs and Falcons split a double-header
Sunday’s NBL action brought together the bottom four teams in the league and the Croydon Pirates (9-11) came out of the day with the most to celebrate. They faced an “under-strength” Essex Arrows (3-21) side and picked up two comfortable wins, while their rivals for the final two playoff spots split a double-header. Herts Falcons (7-15) edged a close game in the opener by a score of 6-5, but Mildenhall Bulldogs (6-14) fought back in the second game with a commanding 19-8 win. More details can be found in Simon Fitzjohn’s report.
The upshot of those results is that the Pirates are in fifth place, one game ahead of the Falcons and Bulldogs with Mildenhall having the handicap of several forfeited games against their name. The Pirates and Falcons meet for a double-header at Roundshaw Field on Sunday and a sweep would almost certainly see them book their playoff place. If Herts win both games, the battle will continue. The Bulldogs have the tough task of playing against the league-leading London Mets (21-3) at Finsbury Park, the third-placed Southampton Mustangs (13-11) host the second-placed Bracknell Blazers (17-3) and Richmond Flames (12-10) host the Arrows.
AAA: A “grand day out” for the Trojans, seven straight wins for the Eagles
The battle for two playoff spots in the North reduced to three teams after the confirmation that Harrogate Tigers have pulled out of the 2010 competition. Sunday’s results may have gone a long way to deciding which of those three remaining teams will miss out. Menwith Hill Patriots (15-7) and Manchester A’s (14-10) met for a double-header at Menwith Hill Park and the home team came out on top in both games. That made it five wins in a row for the Patriots, a sequence started with a win against the A’s, and the run has pushed them into second place, two games ahead of Manchester and two behind the league-leading Liverpool Trojans.
The Trojans (18-6) made the long trek up to Glasgow (1-21) and, as the form book suggested, duly won both games by a comfortable margin. “A grand day out for all” was how the Trojans described it as they scored eight runs in the fourth inning of the opener, leading to a 14-4 win called after five innings, and then scored ten runs in the second inning of the second game, leading to a 18-0 win. Of course, it wasn’t such a “grand day” for Glasgow, but the Trojans were sympathetic to their Scottish rivals, stating that their 1-21 record “does not reflect the ability of the the team, who have been unlucky to lose several closely fought contests”. The Patriots host Glasgow this Sunday, the A’s face the Halton Jaguars and the Trojans will presumably be handed two forfeit wins from their scheduled game against Harrogate.
While the playoff race in the North may be close to being settled, the situation in the South is anything but. Herts Eagles’ Paul Auchterlounie passed on the news that they did indeed play their scheduled double-header against Bracknell on 25 July. Both games went the Eagles’ way and they followed up that sweep with another two wins against Bristol Badgers (7-11) on Sunday, scoring nine runs in the first inning of both games. Herts’ (15-5) seven-game winning streak has moved them up to second place, two games behind Oxford Kings (17-3), and two ahead of Bracknell Inferno (13-7), who split a double-header with Essex Redbacks (9-9). The Kings and Inferno meet for a double-header on Sunday, while the Eagles are at home to London Metros (4-12).
When all’s said and done, the top team will go straight through to the AAA National Baseball Championship, while second and third will meet in a single-game playoff. The Kings, Eagles and Inferno look like being the three teams in the mix, but the Redbacks have two games in hand on all three, plus a final day double-header against Kent Mariners who have withdrawn from the league, so they could still cause an upset.
AA: Knights beat Piranhas, two wins apiece for Bladerunners and Bolton
Richmond Knights already had their playoff spot sewn up in the AA South, but they put down an early marker for the postseason by beating the Pool A-leading Poole Piranhas twice on Sunday. The Knights have dropped just one game all season long and will be one of the favourites for the AA NBC crown. They lead Pool B by three games after Sidewinders won both games of a double-header against the second-placed Essex Archers. Croydon Pirates III moved to a 7-9 record after a forfeit win over Horsham Hurricanes, another team sadly to have pulled out of the competition this year, and their target now is to win their last two games to finish at .500. Those games are a double-header this Sunday away to the Knights, so it will be a notable achievement if they manage it.
In the North, Sheffield Bladerunners (13-7) got two away wins against Manchester Torrent (9-11) on Sunday, the second a narrow 5-4 victory, to leave them two games behind the league-leading Bolton Robots of Doom (15-5), who earned two victories over the Oldham North Stars (0-22). The Bladerunners currently sit third in the league with Humber Pilots (12-6) also two games behind Bolton in the standings, but having played two games less than Sheffield. The Bladerunners and Robots meet for a double-header in Bolton this Sunday, while the Pilots host Manchester Torrent.
There were no games in the Midlands league last Sunday, but it is going to be the centre of attention this week. Leicester Blue Sox (14-4) are hosting Birmingham Maple Leafs (11-4) in a double-header at Western Park in what they are billing as “the biggest Baseball game in Leicester Blue Sox’s 4 year history”. The Blue Sox will win their first league title if they get at least a split against their local rivals and the club have done an incredible job of promoting the big event. Flyers have been distributed around the city and the local press, radio and TV are all taking an interest in the game, with ITV Central planning to send TV cameras down to Western Park to film some of the action. It should be a great day and, needless to say, one you should get along to if you can.
A: Dragons win Pool A, Clippers end on a winning note
Richmond Dragons (11-2) sealed the Pool A title with a win over Bracknell Pyros (4-7), but it was a close-run thing. The Dragons jumped out with six runs in the top of the first inning, but the game was tied 7-7 after two and when the Dragons moved ahead with three runs in the top of the third, the Pyros came back yet again with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. Richmond finally got some breathing space with three runs in the fourth and despite a two-run rally in the bottom of the sixth and final inning, the Dragons held on for the 13-12 victory. Hopes were high for an important game in Pool A as the second and third placed teams were scheduled to meet. Unfortunately, Southampton Mustangs II (7-4) had to forfeit the game, handing a 9-0 win to Guildford Mavericks (8-3).
There’s still all to play for in Pool B. Braintree Rays (6-6) arrested their recent decline courtesy of a forfeit win over Tonbridge (3-8), moving them back into second place, a single game behind Old Timers (6-4). Chelmsford Clippers (6-7) are in third having completed their debut regular season in winning style, beating London Marauders (4-6) 12-8 at Melbourne Park. The Clippers had lost four in a row heading into the game, but this victory means that they still have an outside shot at making it into the playoffs and few would disagree with the statement in the Clippers’ game report that they “can be tremendously proud with their efforts so far”.