BSF Leagues Round-Up: May 2019

Wed 15 May 2019

The 2019 slowpitch softball season is just getting under way for most leagues around the country.  Below are league previews or reports on early season events from several of these leagues.


MANCHESTER SOFTBALL LEAGUE

Manchester Softball League's season kicked off with its now-annual pre-season Firstball Tournament before league play began on 30 April in Division 4, on 1 May for Divisions 1 and 2 and on 2 May in Division 3.

The league has lost four teams over the winter due to merger, reorganisation or non-sustainability, but fortunately has gained four new teams, including two that have developed out of our winter Indoor League and training programmes.  So in net terms we have neither grown nor dwindled.

However, two of the teams we lost were in the top division last season (both were relegated), and so a recent trend by which our league is becoming more "bottom heavy" continues.  For this reason we are considering an overhaul of our league structure at the end of the season and we may be looking to revert to playing on only two nights a week.  This, however, will leave room for other developments, such as fastpitch or single-sex slowpitch.

On the field, Lions will be looking to defend their Division 1 title for a third successive year.  Among the challengers will be the two Mavericks teams, with Mavs II having gained promotion to the top flight last year, five years after starting out at the bottom of the league.

Relegated Mutineers have merged with Division 3 promotees Outlaws to take on Division 2 as the Marauders.

Club Thunder's four teams, all named after different weather phenomena, have rebranded as Thunder I through IV, while Division 4 welcomes the Stingers, Swingers, Los Bandidos and a Tigers second team, Tiggers.

 

SOLENT SOFTBALL LEAGUE

This year the Solent League is commencing its 24th season with 13 adult slowpitch teams competing in our usual three divisions.

Over the off-season we sadly lost two of our Southampton-based teams (the veteran OAPs from Division 1, who had won four league titles in their 11 seasons, and the Mustangs from Division 3).  But on the plus side we have finally managed to establish a team within the relatively new area of Fareham and Gosport. 

Previously, people residing there had to travel to either Southampton or Portsmouth to play, but thanks to the hard work of SSL Committee member Scott Summers and a strong recruiting campaign, we are welcoming the new Vikings team to their inaugural season competing in Division 3.

The league’s annual Spring Training Day, organised by SSL Coaching Officer Kat Carter, was held on Sunday 7 April and brought all SSL teams together for what tends to be the first venture outdoors each year for many Solent players.  Over 80 people attended the various sessions that ran throughout the day.

These sessions were split based on playing ability and therefore provided something constructive for everyone who came along, whether they were hardened softball veterans or complete beginners to the game.

At this year’s Solent League AGM, a new SSL Chairman, Matt Tebb, was elected, with the other Committee posts being filled by a healthy mix of new and old faces.

On the field

In Division 1, the Itchen Knicks (shown above), Portsmouth Dodgers and Solent Sluggers will be competing this year against the newly-promoted Chichester Falcons, a true success story of local softball, and we are expecting to see some very close games involving these four teams. 

The Knicks, who have already won this year’s Solent Firstball, will be looking for their fourth consecutive title, but many believe this will be their hardest season to date.  A particular challenge may come from the Sluggers, who will be led by last year’s male MVP Liam Riddy and who have also acquired 2017 female Rookie of the Year Emma Kennedy.  Every run in every game is going to prove vital by the time September comes around!

Both the Spitfires and the UPSU Shafters are returning to Division 2 in 2019 and will no doubt provide tough competition for the recently-relegated Southsea Sharks, led by league stalwart and Hall of Famer Andrew ‘Beefy’ Burgess.  The Sharks seem to find themselves ‘bungee-jumping’ between divisions on an annual basis, having been relegated from Division 1 last year by a single point.  These teams will also have to contend with the on-form Zombies, for whom Lauren Cummings will be returning from maternity to take over the captaincy, and whose recent promotion from Division 3 was based on a winning formula they hope will continue working for them this season.

Division 3 will have a number of veteran teams competing against each other this year on what many are considering to be a very equal playing field.  The Hursley Hurricanes will start 2019 in Division 3 after relegation last year, where they will face a challenge from the Redbridge Raiders, who finished last season strongly to win the O’Connor Cup (given to the most improved team over the season).

Another Division 3 team, the Baffins Brewers, have benefitted from the folding of the OAPs by acquiring Troy Stanley as their coach ahead of the new season, and they will hope to get the most out of the batting and pitching of last season’s Division 3 male MVP Russ Percy.

The Southampton Supermarines, headed by new captain Michael Elton, have started the season already with a home win over the league’s newest team, the Vikings.  But the brand-new Vikings team are not as ‘green’ as that might seem, having spent the last 12 months or so training and preparing themselves for their first competitive league games! 

 

LIVERPOOL SOFTBALL LEAGUE

The newly-branded Liverpool Softball League will get the season under way this month with a new venue, logo and name.

Previously known as the Sefton Softball League, the Liverpool Softball League (LSL) has moved to Childwall Sports and Science Academy in Liverpool to attract new players to the sport.

The move has meant that there are only now four teams in the league due to some previous players being unable to travel to the new venue.  Reigning champions Crosby Vikings, along with the Sefton Sharks and Formby Fins, managed to make the move while retaining their players, while the Southport Seagulls and St Helens Sabres merged as the Seabears to make up the fourth league team.

All four of the teams competed in a Bank Holiday Mini-Tournament on Monday 6 May which is held annually to kick off the new season.

League games will begin on 13 May, and rookie sessions will be held before games with the aim of building and establishing a fifth team in the months to come.

 

EAST MIDLANDS SOFTBALL LEAGUE

The EMSL started the season with the traditional pre-season Firstball Tournament on Sunday 14 April at Charnwood College in Loughborough.

Although it was a cold and windy affair, the rain held off for once, which is always pleasing for those playing in these early pre-season tournaments.

Firstball Comp

The tournament was split, as usual, between Comp and Rec levels, but with competition for entries from both the GB Open fundraising tournament at Farnham Park and the North West Series opening weekend in Manchester, numbers were down on previous years, having peaked at 20 teams in 2018.  The clash of dates is something that the EMSL organisers are keen to avoid in future.

This year only four teams entered at Comp level, and they played a round-robin, followed by a Plate final between the third and fourth-placed teams, with Sheriffs beating Pyros 13-3 in a dominant display.  Below, Jade Binder picks up the Comp Plate on behalf of the Sheriffs.

In the Comp Final, the Misfits were victorious against the Leeds Terriers with an even more comprehensive 19-4 win, and Nigel Peters is shown below collecting the trophy for his team.

MVP awards were decided over the course of the day rather than just from the final, and went to Pyros’ Adam Saunders, who hit five home runs in one game, and to the Misfits’ Lily Chinn, shown below.

Firstball Rec

In the Rec section, the scheduling became a bit more fun for the tournament organiser, with seven teams having entered and the magic number of eight annoyingly out of reach.

The result was a slightly unusual format, where all teams played in the same round-robin but only faced three of the other six teams.  As it was the Firstball and mainly about getting some pre-season game time, this didn’t seem to be an issue for those involved, and there were enough games played to distinguish between the strong and the not-so-strong teams.

The format led to the top four teams playing off for the Cup via semi-finals and a final, while the bottom three teams played for the Plate, with the sixth and seventh-placed teams playing each other and the winner meeting the fifth-placed team in the Plate final.

In the Plate, the MK Diamonds finished fifth and awaited the winner of the game between the teams finishing sixth and seventh.  Unfortunately, this ended in somewhat disappointing circumstances for all concerned.  Misfits 2 unwittingly fielded a player from their first team as a ringer, but not in one of the positions allowed in the tournament rules, and the umpire was forced to call the game as a forfeit to their opponents, the Redbacks.

In the Plate final the MK Diamonds, having had an hour’s rest, cruised past the Redbacks to take the title.  Jake Clarke is shown below receiving the Rec Plate for the Diamonds.

In the top half of the Rec competition, all four teams ended up tied on two wins and a loss, and the unusual tournament format came back to haunt the organiser as the normal head-to-head rule couldn’t be used as the teams hadn’t all played each other!

It therefore went to overall runs conceded to separate the teams, which again was potentially a little unfair as they had all played a different set of opponents.  But it was the only way to determine how the teams had done.

These calculations gave the Tigers the top spot and a game against fourth-placed Coventry Blitz in the first semi-final, while the second-place Brewers played the third-place Leicester Royals in the other.

Blitz got their revenge on the Tigers for having beaten them in the final round-robin game, which stopped them taking top spot in the group stage, and Brewers had the edge over the Royals in a tight defensive affair that ended with a score of 3-2.

In the final it all came together for the Brewers, who took the Cup with a 12-11 win over the Blitz, who had beaten them earlier in the day by a similar scoreline.  Below, Carl Shape receives the Rec trophy for the Brewers.

As with the Comp section, Rec MVPs were decided over the course of the day and not just for performances in the final game.  But it was players from the two finalists who took the honours, with the awards going to Carl Sharpe from the Brewers and Sally Bynoe from the Coventry Blitz.  Below, Sally Bynoe collects her award.

League games

The EMSL always seems to start a little earlier than most other leagues, with league games following straight after the Firstball.  So most teams played some league games in April, with the exception of the University of Nottingham Arrows due to their extended Easter holiday.

In Division 1 the Misfits were leading the way after winning their first three games, including a nail-biting 21-20 come-from-behind win in the bottom of the seventh inning against the Brewers from Division 2 (in the EMSL teams play some cross-divisional games against teams from the closest division).

In Division 2 it was the Brewers setting the early pace with a 3-1 record, including a defeat of the First Division Pyros. 

This was a game that one of the league’s founding players, Ian Tomlin, described as “one of the best games I’ve witnessed” after Pyros came back from a three-run deficit in the top of the final inning to tie the game at 7-7 on a three-run two-out home run by Josh Peat.  The Pyros held the Brewers scoreless to take the game to an eighth-inning decider and then broke loose to score five runs in the top of the eighth, which they must have thought would be enough.  But in the bottom of the eighth the Brewers scored four quick runs with no outs, and then a one-out hit by Tracy Sharpe with runners on second and third won the game for the Brewers by 13-12.

The Brewers then followed that up with a 22-1 hammering of their divisional rivals Tigers (although Tigers could only field eight players) and a 23-7 win over the Redbacks.  The Brewers’ only loss came against another Division 1 team, the Misfits, in a game in which the Brewers led by three runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning.  But the Misfits, as noted above, then proceeded to do to the Brewers what the Brewers had done to the Pyros!

In Division 3, the Raptors and Misfits 2 both lost to the Second Division Royals, and are tied after taking a win each in the games between them.

The Arrows started their campaign at the beginning of May and the games will now come thick and fast before the winners of the Spring League are crowned in mid-June.  After promotion and relegation are confirmed and following the consequent shuffling of teams, the Summer League will start in July.

 

MILTON KEYNES SOFTBALL LEAGUE

The fourth Milton Keynes Softball League season got off to a perfect start with a thrilling opening game, as the Willow Lakers gained revenge for their defeat in the final last season by beating the Odd Sox 21-20.

The start of the season looked set to be a wet one, with a biblical rainstorm hitting the venue at Woughton-on-the-Green in the lead-up to the game.  However, the league’s dedicated grounds crew ensured a prompt start to the action.

MK Softball League Member of the Year Paul Severn was invited to throw the ceremonial first pitch to start off the season (it was high and outside).

With the rain subsiding, the Lakers batted first and hits from Richie Murray and Lauren Shkurko started a rally that brought in five runs.  Lakers' left fielder Louise Moore, who was returning from injury, did her best to return to the treatment table by being spectacularly taken out running to first, then topped that by fouling off a pitch onto her own helmet. Thankfully, she survived both!

The Odd Sox replied with two runs in the bottom of the first inning and six more in the second and third innings to lead 14-13 after three.  The top of the Odd Sox order was particularly dangerous, with Brad Davidson and Tim Welch repeatedly getting on base.  It was a family affair for the Welch clan, with Tim, Nikki and Robert all playing in the same game for the first time.

Guest player Trev Morley hit a long home run for the Odd Sox in the third inning, and by the end of the fifth inning they had stretched their lead to 20-16.

Umpire Jon Reynolds then took a check on the fading April light and informed the teams it would be a six-inning game.

And in a late twist, the Lakers put five runs on the board in the top of the sixth inning with consistent hitting throughout the line-up, giving them a one run lead.  Pitcher Adam Bee called on his years of experience and shut down the Odd Sox in order to record a memorable victory and get the Willow Lakers off to the perfect start.

Back to news listing


Comments

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

BSF development grants available, apply