There were celebrations this week as a pair of teams wrapped up their league titles, while others made sure of a playoff spot in the British Baseball Federation 2010 season competition.
National Baseball League: Falcons and Bulldogs set for a showdown
Baseball schedules have an uncanny knack of setting up thrilling finales and that’s going to be the case this Sunday in the NBL. Five of the six playoff qualifiers are now known, but there is one place still up for grabs after Mildenhall Bulldogs (8-16) swept a double-header against Southampton Mustangs (13-15) and Herts Falcons (9-17) could only manage a split against Essex Arrows (4-24).
The Arrows will be extremely pleased to have added a fourth win to their final record in what has been a challenging first year in the top-tier and they did it in style by turning around a 3-2 deficit into a 7-3 victory in the final inning. A great comeback for one team is a devastating blow for the other, so credit Jason Greenberg’s men for showing ‘bouncebackability’ and winning the second game 15-4.
Those results set up a playoff decider at RAF Feltwell this weekend between the Bulldogs and Falcons. A sweep for the home team will see them jump over Herts to claim the final playoff place, while the Falcons need just one win to hold off the Bulldogs’ challenge. The teams that finish 3rd to 6th will meet in an NBL playoff day and that will take place at Richmond’s Connare Field after the Flames (15-11)earned a split with the league-leading London Mets (24-4) to secure third place in the standings. Second placed Bracknell Blazers (21-3) won two games against Croydon Pirates (10-18). Reaction from the games can be found in Simon Fitzjohn’s report.
AAA: Trojans take the title
Liverpool Trojans (19-5) are celebrating their first AAA North title since 2007 after winning both games of a double-header against Menwith Hill Patriots (16-6). The Trojans went into the game knowing that only a sweep would do if they wanted to be crowned as champions. It looked like the chance had passed them by in the first game as the Patriots scored four runs in the fourth inning to take a 4-2 lead, but Liverpool hit straight back with a run in the bottom of the inning and then won the game in the seventh and final inning 5-4 as starting pitcher Ron Vondy stroked home the game-winning hit.
That gave Martin Godsall the opportunity to pitch his team to the title in the second game and he didn’t disappoint. He limited the Patriots to a solitary run as the Trojans won 5-1, sparking scenes of jubilation among the Liverpool players and the home supporters at Bootle Stadium. The Patriots still have two regular season games to play away to Glasgow (1-21), but they will join the Trojans in the AAA NBC regardless of the results in those two contests.
The champions are still to be crowned in the South as Oxford Kings (18-4) and Herts Eagles (18-6) split a double-header in “two very competitive and closely fought games”. The Kings now need to win one of their two games this Sunday against Bracknell Inferno (15-7) to win the league. If Inferno sweep the Kings, the Eagles will take the title. Whoever finishes second will face Bracknell Inferno in a single-game playoff after they took two hard-fought wins over London Metros to guarantee them third place in the standings. Essex Redbacks (14-10) added 3-1 to their season record after they split a double-header with Bristol Badgers (8-14) and were awarded two forfeit wins over Kent Mariners (0-22). Inferno’s wins meant that the Redbacks missed out on a playoff berth, but they can be extremely proud of their efforts in their first BBF season.
AA: Bolton win the AA North
Bolton Robots of Doom (18-6) edged two games over Humber Pilots (14-8) to win the AA North. The Pilots had swept a double-header over Bolton on 4 July, so it would have been a particularly sweet way for the Robots to win the league. Sheffield Bladerunners (16-8) leap-frogged the Pilots into second place after they won both games of a double-header against Oldham North Stars (0-24). Humber still have two games left to play at home to Manchester Torrent (9-13). If they win both games they will equal the Bladerunners’ win-loss record and it looks like the Pilots would take second spot on account of Sheffield’s forfeited game against Bolton on 27 June.
Milton Keynes Bucks (13-7) outscored Leicester Blue Sox 2 (4-16) by a combined score of 51-6 as they took both games of a double-header on the road. The Bucks and Blue Sox 2 will both head on to the A playoffs, while the champion Blue Sox (15-5) and Birmingham Maple Leafs (15-5) compete in the AA playoffs. They are all waiting for the final standings in the AA North before knowing who their opponents will be, but Leicester and Birmingham are sure to be confident whoever they meet after their starring roles on ITV Central Tonight this week.
In the South, Herts Hawks (5-13) signed off their season with two victories over Brentwood Stags (2-16). The Hawks called up a few players from their Single-A Raptors team, for the British equivalent of an end-of-season ‘cup of coffee’ (surely a ‘cup of tea’ over here?!), and the players acquitted themselves well as they won by scores of 9-1 and 13-11.
A: Mavericks make it to the playoffs
Guildford Mavericks (9-4) will join Richmond Dragons in the A playoffs as they secured second place in Pool A by beating London Marauders (5-7) 22-2. Southampton Mustangs II (8-4) picked up a forfeit win over Bracknell Pyros (4-9) to keep within half a game of the Mavericks and they could equal Guildford’s season record if they win their final game at home to Braintree Rays (6-6). However, the Mustangs II have a forfeit against their name (coincidentally a game against the Mavericks) and that means the Mavericks will finish second on the tie-break rule regardless of the Mustang II’s final result.
As explained by Chelmsford Clippers’ Club Secretary Michael Jones in the comments on last week’s column, the outcome of Pool B is still up in the air and it will be fascinating to see how that plays out.