BSF Leagues Round-Up: July 2019

Thu 4 Jul 2019

With the slowpitch season just about past the halfway point for most leagues around the country, below are reports on what happened in various BSF leagues during June.

 

MILTON KEYNES SOFTBALL LEAGUE

By Chief MKSL Sports Writer Paul Severn

In a key recent game, the Hornets put themselves in a great position to make the playoffs with a vital 25-20 win over the Rhinos.  But they were pushed hard by the Rhinos, who held a one-run lead going into the final inning.

The game was also crucial in the race for the title of Home Run King, where Chris Borah (8) and Trev Morley (5) had been leading the way in the table.  Their record-breaking pace has raised eyebrows among world softball chiefs and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), especially when Chris Borah turned up to training looking like the Incredible Hulk.  Thankfully, it was found they are just very competitive against each other.

Trev Morley got to work early with his first home run of the night, giving the Hornets an early 3-2 lead after the first inning.  In the second inning, the bats for both teams were on fire with excellent base hits from Leanne Reynolds, Laura Wicks, Steve Lamb, Lauren Shkurko and James Bradley, along with a three-run home run from Chris Flynn.

It proved to be the high point of the night for Chris, who was oblivious as a throw from the outfield bounced off his head.  Thankfully, no damage was done, although the ball was checked over by the First Aider.

The exciting action continued with a great outfield catch by Ashley Goodfellow, another three-run home run by Trev Morley and a great double play turned by Rhinos’ infielders Chloe Love and Vickie Robson.

At this point I had no idea what the score was as I was trying to fend off derogatory comments about my chair, which admittedly does look like it belongs on Margate Beach in the 1970s.

The umpiring was, as ever, top notch by Jake Clarke, whose strike call is better than anything seen at the MLB London Series. 

In the fifth inning, the Hornets’ base coaching was all at sea, with no one at third.  This was a point made forcefully by Natalie Davis as she rounded second, though there was at least a pathetic attempt from the sideline to hold the runner.

In the middle of the fifth inning the score was 17-16 to the Hornets after a ninth home run of the season by Chris Borah. 

However, the Rhinos weren’t finished -- although the ball supply nearly was after Carl Billson hit some big foul balls.  In the sixth inning, Lauren Shkurko hit a fantastic triple before falling over third base, and Steve Lamb’s hit made it 20-19 to the Rhinos.

But the lead didn’t last.  A walk was followed by another three-run home run by Trev Morley that moved the score on to 25-20 to the Hornets.  A fine catch by Hedley Bevan and a good catch on first by Leanne Reynolds ensured the Hornets closed the game out.

This was one of the best games of the season and a credit to both teams.

Elsewhere in the MKSL, the undefeated Towcester Tigers continue to top the table and are hopeful of a debut appearance at the League Championship Finals on 3 September.  Several teams are currently vying for the playoff spots to join them, so it’s all to play for as we head into July!

 

OXFORD SOFTBALL LEAGUE

Throughout the month of June, the fight to get to the top had the Mavericks and Spirits chasing the defending champion Angels for first place.

The Angels lead the league with a 7-0 record and 203 runs scored in total.  The Oddsox, Knights, Tigers and Beavers were looking to improve their records after a number of close games between them were won by just a handful of runs. 

The month also showcased a number of new players, with plenty of home runs and great fielding plays by the rookies.

The league ran a series of training sessions in June for those new to the game, led by the Angels’ Jen Edis, who earlier in the year was shortlisted for BSUK Softball Adult Coach of the Year for her work with the Oxford Brookes University Softball Club.

A number of league players competed at Diamond Series 2 in June, playing for a variety of teams at all levels.

Like most baseball fans, many Oxford League players also took advantage of the opportunity to watch the MLB practice and games at London Stadium at the end of June.

For up-to-date information and league results, visit the new Oxford League website: https://www.oxfordsoftball.uk.

 

MANCHESTER SOFTBALL LEAGUE

After some beautiful weather in May, June turned out to be as soggy as you might expect Manchester to be (but we weren’t alone).  Although, of course, the month ended in a blaze of sunshine appropriate for the excitement surrounding the two MLB games in London, which provided a splendid weekend break for plenty of Manchester folk. 

On our more modest diamonds, which feature neither dirt from Pennsylvania nor Astroturf from France, and with nine out of 17 games played, the champion Lions are working their way back from their surprising two-loss start to the season in Division 1 and are now in second place behind the Greensox, but still two games back -- as are Thunder, who sit third only on aggregate head-to-head scores with the Lions.

All eyes are now on the top-bottom cut after the second rotation, with Mavericks and Camels either side of that dividing line, both with 5-4 records.  The three remaining teams – Dodgers, Mayhem and Mavs II, all on 2-7 records -- look set to fight to avoid the drop, which only one of them will manage.  But they will hope that with the season still just past its half-way stage, there is still time for fortunes to turn.

In Division 2, Tigers edged into a one-game lead after Meerkats lost a thriller to the Speeders, a surprise given their respective records, while the Sefton Sharks, who are enjoying their weekly trips along the M62, are one game further back.  Those three are setting the pace, battling for the two promotion slots, but there are still plenty of games left. 

With only one team to be relegated, one of presumably the Marauders (2-6) and Bats (1-6) may yet survive, though whether either or both would actually be happier to drop down to a level where they can be more competitive is an obvious question.

In Division 3, the former Manchester Drizzle (great team name, but now Thunder II) are the only team in the league with a still-perfect record (9-0), with only the Hackers, at two-and-a-half games back, anywhere near.

The next three teams have only three wins each, with Thunder III (nominally last year’s Division 4-winning Hurricanes, but much changed) bottom on a 2-6 record.  But with three promotion places available thanks to restructuring and only one team to be relegated, it could turn out to be quite a bun fight, with the added incentive of trying to ruin Thunder II’s perfect season.

Also unbeaten (but having started the season with a tie) are Division 4’s Bandidos, about half of whose roster were last year’s champion Hurricanes. 

With a very strong roster that is causing some controversy, they lead the division, though the next four teams are all within two-and-a-half games of the Bandidos, so the back end of the season promises some excitement, especially when school holidays start depleting the rosters.

The 11-team division will split for the second rotation, so in the middle there will be an interesting tussle between Rippers on a 4-5 record and three teams on 3-5 to see who will get the last spot, along with, presumably (though not certainly) Enforcers just above them.

The remaining five teams will form Division 5 again, with any of three teams well-placed to hope for medals and a trophy at the End-of-Season Ball.  Only the two newest teams are struggling, with Swingers unfortunately still on course for a fruitless summer.

 

LIVERPOOL SOFTBALL LEAGUE

June kicked off with the defending champion Crosby Vikings picking up a narrow 17-16 win over the Formby Fins.  It was the Vikings’ first win of the season after losing to the Sefton Sharks the week before.

The Fins then bounced back from that defeat to comfortably beat the Sharks, 16-4, to improve their record for the season to 2-1.  The Crosby Vikings also improved to a 2-1 record by easily beating the Southport Seagulls 21-7, which meant there was a three-way tie at the top of the table.

Seagulls, who had previously been winless, picked up their first win in the third week of June.  In a high-scoring game, new captain Mike Connolly was delighted with his side’s 31-29 win over the Sefton Sharks.  That result meant that the Crosby Vikings were the outright league leaders after their tight 13-12 win over the Formby Fins, the second close encounter in a month between the two sides.

June ended with the reigning champions losing their lead at the top of the table, however, as the Sefton Sharks regained that position with a 26-5 six-inning mercy rule win over Chris Jones’ side. 

Meanwhile, the Southport Seagulls gained back-to-back wins, including a dominating 30-3 five-inning win over the Formby Fins, which saw them rise to third place and close the gap on the leaders.

 

EAST MIDLANDS SOFTBALL LEAGUE

The end of June brings the end of the East Midlands Spring League, with the Summer League now starting in earnest.

Division Three

In the Third Division, it went to the final game when the Raptors took on Second Division opponents Tigers in a cross-divisional match-up.  The Tigers were already relegated but a win for them would have left the University of Nottingham Arrows as Division Three Champions.  A win for the Raptors, though, would have seen them leap-frog the students and win it themselves in their inaugural season.

An understrength Tigers team took the field with only nine players, including a spectator who had just come down to see a friend play for the Raptors but ended up standing in the field with a glove on his hand.  How many softball careers have started that way?

The game was close all the way and finished at 9-9 after seven innings.  EMSL rules mandate that a deciding inning is played to try to find a winner, and the Tigers managed to get two runs in the top of the eighth inning.  This looked good for the Tigers, as they had restricted the Raptors to two or fewer runs in all bar one inning so far.

However, the Raptors were having none of it and managed to load the bases with no outs.  Despite the Tigers’ pitcher trying to throw something wide and high that would be unhittable, a huge swipe to the vacant right field area resulted in a grand slam home run for Michael Hallam, his second grand slam of the night, which won the Raptors the game and the division title and won Michael Hallam, not surprisingly, the game MVP award.

Division Two

Division Two also went to a final-game decider, with the Leicester Royals (6-2) meeting the Brewers (5-3) in the last fixture of the Spring season.  Clearly, a Royals win would see them win the title but if the Brewers could take the game, both teams would be on 6-3 but the Brewers would take the title on head-to-head record as the teams would only have played each other once.

As it turned out, the latter was exactly what happened, with the Brewers winning 14-9 and sealing the Division Two title and promotion back up to Division One.

Division One

In Division One, things were already decided at the top, with Sheriffs having wrapped up the title up a few weeks ago and going on to be unbeaten at 8-0 for the season.

At the other end of the division, Pyros v Misfits was a final-day relegation battle.  Misfits (4-3) could avoid relegation, with the Pyros (3-4) already a game behind them, providing that even if they lost, they did so by only conceding 11 or fewer runs (the teams were tied 1-1 on head-to-head). 

As it turned out, it was a tight game, with the Pyros almost scoring the runs required to relegate their opponents, but ultimately losing the game 11-9 anyway.  This left them on 3-5 and demoted them to Division Two for the second half of the season.

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