BSF celebrates record Single-Sex Nationals

Wed 16 Jul 2014

Records were broken at the BSF's 2014 Single-Sex Slowpitch National Championships on the weekend of 12-13 July in Birmingham, with 34 teams and eight title winners making it the Federation's largest-ever Nationals.

In the top competitions, The Hoggs from Manchester won the Men's Platinum title with a thrilling comeback win over Blue Steel from London, while the Women's Platinum final, played between London teams Cupcakes and No Balls, resulted in an unexpected but fully-deserved mercy-rule win for the Cupcakes.

The East Midlands led the way in terms of titles, with teams from the region capturing the Women's Gold (Bunnies), Men's Silver (Pulse) and Women's Bronze (Sheriffs) Championships.  London took two titles, with the Cupcakes winning the Women's Platinum competition and the Raiders taking the Women's Silver, while the other three titles were shared among Manchester (the Hoggs taking the Men's Platinum crown), Leeds (the Teabags capturing the Men's Gold) and Oxford (the Gargoyles winning the Men's Bronze).

The weekend was blessed with minimal rain (just some heavy drizzle for an hour on Sunday morning), a good deal of warm sunshine (especially on Saturday) and a number of exciting finals.  Four of the eight finals were decided by a single run, two others were close and only two were blowouts.

Altogether, it was a wonderful weekend of softball attended by teams from all over the UK (plus teams from Ireland and Guernsey), and a clear demonstration that single-sex slowpitch remains a format that British softballers want to play.
 

Format

With eight slots available for Men's Comp, Women's Comp, Men's Rec and Women's Rec teams, places for the tournament filled up early, and extra demand from women's teams forced the BSF to secure a ninth pitch at Birmingham City University's Moor Lane Sports Ground and enlarge the Women's Comp section to 10 teams.

The eight-team Men's Comp, Men's Rec and Women's Rec sections each played a full round-robin on Saturday and Sunday morning, with the top four teams going to the higher playoff bracket (Platinum for Comp and Silver for Rec), while the bottom four teams went to Gold for Comp or Bronze for Rec.

However, the 10-team Women's Comp section played round-robin games in two groups of five with cross-over games, and the top two teams from each group went to Platinum playoffs, the third and fourth-placed teams to Gold playoffs, and the fifth-placed teams (Hooters from Leeds and Diamonds from Oxford) finished with a ninth-place playoff game that ended, appropriately, in an 8-8 draw.
 

Platinum Playoffs: Men

With all eight finals going on simultaneously on Sunday afternoon, it wasn't possible to get full details for each of them (the scores of all eight finals are given below).  Inevitably, the greatest interest was in the outcome of the Platinum competitions.

In the Men's Comp division, the two best teams over the course of the round-robin were clearly Guernsey and the Puppies from London, both of them losing only a single game, and both dominating opponents with heavy hitting and sharp fielding.  So these two teams were odds-on favourites to meet in the final -- and neither made it.

Guernsey's lone round-robin defeat had been inflicted by the Hoggs from Manchester by a score of 11-10, and this must have given the Hoggs confidence when the two teams met in the semi-finals.  After a tight couple of innings, the Hoggs' offense was ignited by a massive three-run home run to left field by Luis Arrevillagas in the third inning and the Hoggs led 12-3 by the end of the fourth.  A grand slam home run by Shane Taylor in the bottom of the fifth for Guernsey closed the gap, but the Hoggs ran out comfortable 14-8 winners and advanced to the final.

The Puppies had defeated Blue Steel easily by a score of 14-5 when the teams met in round-robin play, but their semi-final was a different story.  In a game that was close throughout, Blue Steel held on for a 14-12 win, stranding the tying runs on base for the Puppies in the final inning.

So the underdogs from both semi-finals met in the final, and what followed was an unexpected slug-fest.  Blue Steel led 10-6 after two innings, 18-14 after three and 24-18 after five.  But suddenly, Blue Steel's offense dried up, with no runs over the final two innings, while the Hoggs extended their streak of scoring in every single frame.

The Hoggs added five runs in the top of the sixth inning to leave Blue Steel with a slender 24-23 lead, and that was still the score as the Hoggs came up to bat in the top of the seventh.  For a moment, it looked like Blue Steel might successfully defend that lead -- but a correctly-changed umpiring call turned the game in the Hoggs' favour.

The leadoff batter for the Hoggs reached on a single, but the next batter grounded sharply to shortstop and Blue Steel appeared to have turned a 6-4-3 double play.  But the Hoggs queried whether the relay throw to first had pulled the first baseman off the bag, and they asked the field umpire, Hans Daanen, who had made the call but didn't have the best angle on the play, if he would consult plate umpire Chris Moon.  Hans agreed, and Chris, who had a better angle, advised Hans that the runner at first was safe and the call was overturned.

And what a difference it made: instead of having two out and no one on base, the Hoggs had a runner at first with only one out.  And then the Hoggs' power hitters came to the fore as Luis Arrevillagas doubled home two runs and Ben March belted a three-run homer.  Six runs scored in all, and a demoralised Blue Steel went three-up, three-down in the bottom of the seventh to give the Hoggs a 29-24 win and the Men's Platinum Championship.


Platinum Playoffs: Women

In the Women's Comp division, the Manchester Minx and the Cupcakes from London both went undefeated during round-robin play, and were favourites to get to the final.

The Cupcakes duly did so with a routine 13-3 win over the Besoms from Scotland in one semi-final, but the Minx ran into the London team No Balls in the other semi-final and didn't survive the experience.  With a number of current and former GB players, but some only recently returned to the game after having babies, No Balls had put up an undistinguished 3-4 record during round-robin play and just made it into the Platinum playoffs.

But their defense held the Minx to just three runs over five innings, and No Balls took a lead they never relinquished in the second inning when the first three batters all hit identical ground ball singles between third and short and three runs came in as a result.  The final score was No Balls 6, Minx 3, as Liz Keaveney got the better of Areej Elmaazi in what was, in effect, a kind of pitcher's duel.

In the final, however, No Balls reverted to their indifferent round-robin form while the Cupcakes scored early and often in a win that ended during the bottom of the fifth inning on the mercy rule.

No Balls pitcher Liz Keaveney struggled with the wind all game, walking eight Cupcake batters, and No Balls threw in four errors as well.  Meanwhile, the Cupcakes played efficient and errorless softball behind pitcher Jen Cruickshank, who gave up only five hits and no walks.  Liz Warner and Amy Rice had two hits each for No Balls, but that was just about the extent of their offense.

For the Cupcakes, Jax Strey had four hits and three RBIs, Sadie Hamilton had three singles and three RBIs and Ro van Heerden had a triple, a single, a walk and three RBIs and earned the Most Valuable Player award for the game.  On defense, Kim Hannessen made a fine running catch in left field on a drive by Gelske Huyer in the final inning and had five catches over the course of the game.  The Cupcakes were worthy winners of the Women's Platinum title and the final score of 18-3 reflected their complete superiority over the course of the game.


Single-Sex Nationals Champions
 

Men's Platinum
Winner: Hoggs (Manchester)
Runner-up: Blue Steel (London)
Final: Hoggs 29, Blue Steel 24
MVP: Michael Lott (Hoggs)

Women's Platinum
Winner: Cupcakes (London)
Runner-up: No Balls (London)
Final: Cupcakes 18, No Balls 3
MVP: Rolien Van Heerden (Cupcakes)
 

Men's Gold
Winner: Teabags (Leeds)
Runner-up: Godzillas (London)
Final: Teabags 15, Godzillas 14
MVP: Tyler McGoveran (Teabags)
 

Women's Gold
Winner: Bunnies (East Midlands)
Runner-up: Lady Heath (Lakenheath)
Final: Bunnies 9, Lady Heath 8
MVP: Samantha Henley

Men's Silver
Winner: Pulse (East Midlands)
Runner-up: Barbarians (Birmingham)
Final: Pulse 18, Barbarians 2
MVP: Shannon Henry (Pulse)

Women's Silver
Winner: Raiders (London)
Runner-up: Chavs (London)
Final: Raiders 9, Chavs 8
MVP: Sarah (Chavs)

Men's Bronze
Winner: Gargoyles (Oxford)
Runner-up: Pyros (East Midlands)
Final: Gargoyles 16, Pyros 15
MVP: Pete (Gargoyles)

Women's Bronze
Winner: Sheriffs (East Midlands)
Runner-up: Batting Divas (Leeds)
Final: Sheriffs 9, Batting Divas 4
MVP: Jenny Pooley (Sheriffs)

 

Round-Robin Standings
 

Men's Comp
Guernsey (6-1)
Puppies (London) (6-1)
Blue Steel (London) (5-2)
Hoggs (Manchester) (5-2)

Teabags (Leeds) (2-5)
Godzillas (London) (2-5)
Rebels (London) (1-6)
Bristol (1-6)
 

Men's Rec
Barbarians (Birmingham) (6-1)
Knights (London) (5-1-1)
Pulse (East Midlands) (5-2)
Bobcats (Birmingham) (4-2-1)

Pyros (East Midlands) (3-3-1)
Gargoyles (Oxford) (2-4-1)
Shafters (Portsmouth) (1-6)
Double Dunkers (Leeds) (0-7)
 

Women's Comp

Group 1
Minx (Manchester) (7-0)
Besoms (Scotland) (5-2)
Lady Heath (Lakenheath) (4-3)
Bluebirds (Bristol) (3-4)
Hooters (Leeds) (0-7)

Group 2
Cupcakes (London) (7-0)
No Balls (London) (3-4)
Bunnies (East Midlands) (3-4)
Diamond Divas (Ireland) (2-5)
Diamonds (Oxford) (1-6)
 

Women's Rec
Chavs (London) (6-1)
Raiders (London) (6-1)
Pink Panthers (East Midlands) (4-3)
Pitch Slap (Manchester) (3-3-1)

Bobcats (Birmingham) (3-3-1)
Sheriffs (East Midlands) (3-4)
Banshees (Birmingham) (2-5)
Batting Divas (Leeds) (0-7)

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