BSF Leagues Round-up: June 2017

Sun 11 Jun 2017

The 2017 season is now well under way for most slowpitch softball leagues around the country.  Below are reports on what’s been happening in some of these leagues during the first few weeks of play.

 

PUBLISHING SOFTBALL LEAGUE

The Publishing Softball League has inducted Mike Messam of the Simon & Schuster Sharks into its Hall of Fame for an outstanding contribution to the league over several years.  Mike is the one holding the trophy in the photo below.

In league play, the Piranhas currently sit at the top of Division 1, and the Super Heroes are leading Division 2, but both divisions are being keenly contested.

The league is also in talks with a potential sponsor, so fingers crossed.

 

MANCHESTER SOFTBALL LEAGUE​

The 2017 season started in here in Manchester during the first week of May, and for the first time ever we have expanded to play to three nights a week.  Division 4 teams play on Tuesdays and Divisions 1 and 2 play on Wednesdays, with Division 3 moving to Thursday.

In Division 1, Greensox and Thunder are currently at the top as this is written, each with a perfect record, but Thunder are narrowly edging it due to having played an extra game.  Hot on their heels are defending champions Lions, whose sole defeat so far was to Thunder.   At the bottom, Lightning and Meerkats are both still looking for a first win.  How the Meerkats handle the loss of two key players who last week joined the Sox will have a big impact on their season.

In a highly competitive Division 2, Mutineers, Speeders and Camels lead the way with only one defeat each.  With no relegation from the division this year as we expand the numbers back to eight teams, the currently winless Sharks can be sure of their place next year and target improvement during the season.

In Division 3, an even spread of ability is creating a very competitive race.  Tigers and Bats lead the way with three wins from three, with the Outlaws hot on their heels at 2-1.  Recent games have been incredibly close: Bats beat Drizzle 33-31, Pirates defeated Rippers 18-16 and a two-run walk-off home run allowed the Tigers to outlast Storm 23-22.

The 12-team Division 4 will split after a full rotation, with the bottom six teams forming a Division 5.  After recent games the Hackers are looking good for a quick return to Division 3 with a perfect five wins from five.  The battle behind them is intense, with the Hurricanes, Rebels and Phoenix all at 4-1.  At the bottom, the newly-formed Meteors are still finding their feet but are improving all the time and that first win will surely come soon.

As you will all have seen, the terror attack on 22 May sent a shock throughout the city.  We very quickly decided that we would not be cancelling games and letting terror win.  We did have to postpone one game as the Enforcers could not field a team due to several of their police force members being called into service.  We are also very thankful to our league members from all the emergency services for the tremendous service they provided to those affected.  They may feel they were ‘just doing their job’, but we feel a great sense of gratitude to all of them.  As you may have seen elsewhere on the BSF website, a minute’s silence was held before all games in the week following the attack.

On a high note, though, the league is delighted to see five of our young members selected to the GB Under-19 Men’s Fastpitch Team for the upcoming European Championship in Prague.  We send our congratulations to Nathan Barratt (Lightning), Daniel and Jonathan Downes (both Tigers), Max Fagan (Bats) and Tom Russell (Thunder).

 

EAST MIDLANDS SOFTBALL LEAGUE​

It’s a very different picture for the East Midlands Softball League as we embark on our first season with three divisions.  It has proved a difficult job for our fixtures secretary, who has not only taken on a new league format but also had to include two university teams who need to take exam periods and holidays into account.  So a big thank you to Harvey Pryor (and Charlie Hallam) for making the league happen this season.

Play began on 6 April, and there have been 15 games as this is written within Division 3, resulting in a three-point lead for the Beeston Beavers, with five wins and three losses. 

In an inter-divisional game with the Misfits, the Beavers defended well and only lost by a single run.  The game was close all the way, with the lead changing hands throughout.  At one point the Beavers were ahead 9-6, but despite four runs in the final inning from the Beavers, the Misfits came through and won 14-13.

Still within Division 3, the Nottingham Rebels are two games behind but only three points away from the Beavers.  Having beaten the Beavers by one run in April, they are in with a chance of winning the division and getting promoted at mid-season.

Meanwhile, the Misfits have taken Division 2 by storm, and have a clear lead of 12 points.  Their inter-divisional games have been impressive, including their game against the Brewers, where they took the lead after the second inning and extended it inning by inning, going on to a 31-19 win after just six frames.

Behind the Misfits are the Tigers, who are six points clear of third place in Division 2 with four games in hand.  However, the University of Nottingham Arrows, in fourth place, have only played three games to date, which means they could come through and take second place, especially after the talent they displayed in beating the Leicester Royals 22-4.

Finally to Division 1, where last year’s champions, the Nottingham Pyros, remain at the top of the league, closely followed by the club’s other team, the Pyros Juniors.  Both teams sit on 13 points, but having played one more game and with one loss under their belt, the Juniors find themselves second at this early stage.  When the two teams played each other the result was a 19-19 draw, so it will be interesting to see how this inter-club battle for the top plays out.

Occupying third and fourth place in Division 1 are the Sheriffs of Nottingham and the Nottingham Brewers respectively, both equal in terms of points, wins and losses.  However, due to run difference, the Sheriffs are currently just ahead.

Although seven points behind the Pyros Juniors, the Sheriffs beat them 25-9 early in the season, with some outstanding batting that racked up runs in the later innings of the game.  With five games to go for each team before the mid-season re-shuffle, things could still change.

 

SOLENT SOFTBALL LEAGUE​

This year the Solent Softball League monthly updates will be done slightly differently.  Along with our usual round-up of any major happenings, we will also be giving one team each month the spotlight treatment. 

This month, the attention focuses on the Chichester Falcons, where club chair Dave Morris has diversified the club into youth and fastpitch activity.

Alongside coaching and playing in the Falcons’ SLL slowpitch team, Dave has taken on a massive amount of work in starting the league’s only current youth set-up.  Here’s what the Falcons have been up to during April and May.

Senior Slowpitch​

The Falcons’ rookie team continues to flourish as they prepare to start the Sussex & Surrey Softball Series in mid-July.  Meanwhile, the first team had a shaky start in the league, losing to UPSU Shafters and Portsmouth Dodgers in their opening games, but then got back on track with a good win over Baffins Brewers.  With the Falcons’ regular pitching staff unavailable, Ben Sawkins stepped up to pitch the game against the Brewers, while rookies Anne Rutherford and Hettie McNeil both earned starts in right field and second base respectively.  

Two home runs from junior Oliver Howley and a grand slam from shortstop Dave Morris gave Chichester a comfortable cushion, and the Falcons’ defense held up well, notably with  an athletic running catch from Hettie McNeil and a full-stretch tiptoe grab at first base by Lucy Morris to keep the bases clear.  The Brewers maintained good discipline at the plate and kept themselves moving but did not trouble the Falcons outfield enough, as a good-humoured and friendly game ended 27-8 to Chichester.

Men’s Fastpitch​

Entering Week 4 of the Great Britain Fastpitch League (GBFL) season, the Chichester Falcons, playing in the league for the first time, were still looking for their first win – but then three straight victories on 20 May lifted them off the bottom of the table.  Fastpitch softball is a more athletic and challenging form of the sport, where the ball is pitched in an underarm windmill motion at speeds of up to 70 mph (though not generally that fast in the GBFL!).  Runners can steal bases and advance on passed balls so the pace of the game makes things frantic and fun.  GBFL Men’s Division games are played on six Saturdays in April, May and June at the purpose-built fields at Farnham Park near Slough, with six men’s teams competing at a very high level of play.

In Week 4, the Falcons started with a tight 4-3 win over Meteors Blue, as pitcher Matt Zelina worked hard on locating his fastball, leaving the Blues hitters to whiff and wave at the plate.  Next up were Meteors Red, who themselves had only one win to their name.  With their new-found confidence, Chichester swept the London team aside with a 4-0 win, thanks to Peter Martin flagging down several fly balls in centre field and Cary Chen’s pinpoint throws to first from third.  After a short break the Falcons took on the Tigers, and had just taken a slim 7-6 lead when the rain took hold and gave the teams a breather.  When the rain stopped, the Tigers turned on their bats and knocked five runs across in the top of the third inning.  But the clock ran out on the timed game as the Falcons came up to bat and Chichester heaved a collective sigh of relief as the score reverted and the Falcons took the win.

Junior Fastpitch

Chichester’s youth fastpitch programme is now in full swing, with 20 boys and girls aged 11-16 working hard on their game in Oaklands Park every Thursday.  They are looking forward to the club’s second annual Junior Fastpitch Tournament in August following the success of last year’s event.  The tournament is open to any junior player aged 13-16 from around the country, and will include coaching and games supervised by both Falcons’ and GB coaching staff.

Meanwhile, Falcons junior Oliver Howley (16) has been selected for the GB Under-19 Men’s Fastpitch Team to play in the European Junior Men’s Championship in Prague in July.  He continues to pitch well at the Great Britain Fastpitch League under the watchful eye of GB Under-19 Manager Ian Tomlin.

Teeball

The Falcons are expanding their junior section in 2017 by starting the city’s first teeball club.  Teeball is a modified version of baseball and softball for younger players, where the batter hits the ball off a tee instead of hitting a pitched ball.  Enrolment is now open for the programme, which starts on 1 July and is for boys and girls aged 7-10.

Anyone who wants to find out more about the Falcons or who wants to try softball should email chichesterfalcons@gmail.com or visit www.chichesterfalcons.com.

And the rest of the news….

In other league news, the SSL season started with the annual Tom Prince Cancer Trust indoor charity tournament.  Ten teams came along to raise money and play a bit of indoor softball, and over £900 was raised on the day.  The Portsmouth Dodgers came out on top in the final.

The outdoor league season has now started, with one new team this year: the national champion Southampton Mustangs baseball team has entered the league for the first time.  But we lost one of our founding teams, the Portsmouth Dodgers West, who could not fill the gaps where players had left the sport.

Last season’s SSL champion Knicks have started out strongly this year, along with the UPSU Shafters, who have defeated every team they have faced so far in Division 3.  As the team is made up of students, they will have to get all their games finished before the end of term, so we could see them crowned Division 3 champions before other teams have even played half their games.

The SSL sent a team to the Guernsey Recreational Tournament on the May Bank Holiday.  In the round robin, all four teams won two and lost one, so straws were drawn to see who came where. Fortunately, the SSL Grockles came top and then went on to win the tournament.

Next month our spotlight will be on the aforementioned UPSU Shafters, where we will find out if they managed to take the Division 3 title.

 

CARDIFF SOFTBALL LEAGUE

The Cardiff League is made up of nine teams in 2017, and the schedule got under way at Llandaff Fields in the first week of May.

In Week 1, the reigning champion Valley Wet Socks were defeated by last year's runner-up, the Hammers, by 21-9.  Elsewhere, the league’s new team, the Sentinels, won a thriller in their first-ever game, staging an extraordinary comeback from an early 15-run deficit to finally sneak home 23-22 against the Red Sox.

Week 2 featured four more tight games, including Chaos beating the Giants 21-20 and six runs being the biggest winning margin.

After a washout in Week 3, the Red Sox lost by one run again in Week 4, this time edged out 11-10 by Chaos.  As they did last season, the Hammers have proved the early pace-setters, winning their first four games.  However, plenty of close games suggests that the fight to finish in the top five -- and thereby qualify for Division 1 for the second half of the season -- will go down to the wire.

In Week 6, the only two unbeaten teams, Hammers and the fast-improving Teirw'r Taf, will face off to see who can maintain their 100% record.

 

MILTON KEYNES SOFTBALL LEAGUE​

The Milton Keynes outdoor league had a fantastic inaugural season in 2016.  This year, the league has expanded from four to seven teams, with the Northants Praetorians, Herts Buzzards and Roundabout Rhinos (from Milton Keynes, of course!) joining the Willow Lakers, Double D’s, Towcester Tigers and the reigning champion Homerun Hornets.

On Opening Day, the Willow Lakers overcame the Double D’s by 15-12 in a tense encounter. The D’s welcomed Sophie Shkurko and Brad Davidson back from long-standing injuries, but home runs from Adam Bee, Katie O’Toole and Dan Pritchard put the Lakers in charge and they were helped by some juggling catches by outfielder Paul Severn who appeared to be auditioning for the Moscow State Circus. 

In the second game the Hornets beat the Praetorians 23-7.  Kim Davies deserves a special mention for two singles and a walk in her first-ever competitive softball match, and after securing a perfect 1.000 average in her debut game, there was concern that she might announce her retirement.  Thankfully, she didn’t!

There were plenty of home runs in the game, with the Praetorians’ Aaron Maine helping himself to two.  And there was amusement in the pub afterwards when the topic turned to base coach Hedley Bevan inexplicably holding a Hornets runner at third.  Hedley protested his innocence during the inquest, but it is understood his position as third base coach is under review, with Lauren Ratcliffe’s sausage dog Steve tabbed to replace him.

In Game Three, the Roundabout Rhinos overcame the Herts Buzzards in the battle of the newbies.  Unfortunately, the weather was poor and showers descended on the two teams at Woughton Playing Fields.  The Rhinos certainly came prepared, looking more like models for the new North Face 2017 waterproof collection.  But a full Gore-Tex outfit didn’t stop Leah Holmes getting on the home run leaderboard with two home runs early on as the Rhinos lurched into life.

This season will be very much a learning exercise for the Buzzards, who are playing softball for the first time.  A squad of over 20 new players is building up and for all new players, league matches are the best place to hone their skills.  Ben Caron took on the responsibility of pitching the early innings, while Daniella Phillips showed great versatility in her catching, hitting and then pitching in the later innings.  Both received MVP accolades for their efforts.

However, the Rhinos ran out 31-4 winners and look set to make a strong run for the playoffs.

In the next report, we’ll catch up on the first of our doubleheader nights -- and hopefully have enjoyed some warmer weather.

For more information on the Milton Keynes Softball League please visit: www.mksoftball.co.uk.

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