Ducks, Pyros and Rattlesnakes win at Nationals

Thu 16 Aug 2018

Miraculously, the forecast rain held off all weekend on 11-12 August, and the 2018 BSF Co-ed Slowpitch League National Championships, with 20 teams taking part, were played on schedule at Farnham Park, climaxing in finals on Sunday for Gold, Silver and Bronze divisions.

Interestingly, all three finals pitted North (or at least Midlands) against South, and even more interestingly, five of the six finalists all came from just one of the four round-robin groups that started play on Saturday morning.

Less interestingly, at least for spectators, was that none of the finals was close.

In the Bronze final, the Rattlesnakes from the Windsor and Maidenhead League scored heavily in virtually every inning to defeat the Fockers from Glasgow 24-9 in a game that ended after six innings on the mercy rule.

The Silver final, between the Pyros from the East Midlands and the Chichester Falcons from the Solent League, was briefly competitive late in the game, but the score still ended up 26-11 to the Pyros. 

The Gold final was never close, as the Fuzzy Ducks from the Greater London Softball Mixed League, unbeaten over the weekend, piled it on from the start against the Spittin’ Camels from Manchester, especially after the Camels’ pitchers started to lose the strike zone, and won 26-8 on the mercy rule in five innings.


Format

The 20 teams started play on Saturday in four round-robin groups of five teams each, and at the end of Saturday the top two teams in each group progressed to the Gold division, the third and fourth-placed teams to Silver and the fifth-placed teams to Bronze.

On Sunday, the eight Gold and eight Silver teams split into two round-robin groups of four, and after those games had been played, the top two teams from each group contested semi-finals, followed by finals.

In the Silver semi-finals, the Pyros defeated the Crosby Vikings from the Sefton League by 18-4 and the Chichester Falcons squeezed by the Milton Keynes Home Run Hornets 15-14.

In the Gold semi-finals, the Fuzzy Ducks eased past the Misfits from the East Midlands 11-5, and the Camels took care of the Raiders Gold from London by 15-8.

Meanwhile, the four teams in the Bronze division played a round-robin on Sunday morning, with the top two teams from those games playing the final.
 

Bronze final

This game was close for an inning or so, as the Rattlesnakes got off to a modest start with just two runs in the top of the first inning – but they came quickly.  Anthony White opened the game with a double and the next batter, Sarah Cramond, lashed a ball into the left field corner and made it all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

The Fockers cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the first inning with some power of their own: a double by Tony Smith and a triple by Ross Murray.

After that, although both teams scored runs in the next two innings, the Rattlesnakes scored more, ‘winning’ the second inning by 5-3 and the third inning by 6-2, giving them a 13-6 lead.

Three runs by the Fockers in the bottom of the fourth inning, scored with the help of two Rattlesnake errors, made the score 14-9, but that was as close as the Scottish team was to get.

In the top of the fifth inning, the Rattlesnakes put up six runs, opening the inning with consecutive hits by Anthony White, Sarah Cramond, Billy Bryce, Michelle Shaw and Paul Lawless, and the Fockers had no reply.

Four more runs for the Snakes in the top of the sixth inning, including consecutive triples by Billy Bryce and Michelle Shaw, took the score into mercy rule territory, and the Windsor team closed out the Fockers in the bottom of the sixth on a double play.

MVPs for the final were Sarah Cramond and Billy Bryce from the Rattlesnakes.
 

Silver final

The Falcons had only got to the Silver final after a walk-off 15-14 semi-final win over the Homerun Hornets, with Bronte Harvey driving in the winning run.  They then had to start the final almost immediately and quickly fell behind by 10-1 after two innings.

David Morris beat out a ground ball to shortstop to open the game for the Falcons, but three ground ball outs followed.

By contrast, the first batter for the Pyros in the bottom of the first inning, Matt Tomlin, streaked around the bases on a fly ball to short right field for an inside-the-park home run.

The Pyros only added one more run in the first inning, but then put up eight in the bottom of the second, including a three-run inside -the-park home run by Phoebe Mulligan.

Late in the game, the Pyros led by 14-3.  But at that point, the Falcons staged a spirited rally, and pulled the score back to 14-11. 

However, that was the signal for Pyros, who had hoped to be playing in the Gold final rather than Silver, to pull a 12-run inning out of the bag for a 26-11 win.

MVPs for the final were Phoebe Mulligan from Pyros and Oliver Howley from the Falcons.
 

Gold final

The Fuzzy Ducks started this game as they meant to go on, with four runs on five hits in the top of the first inning, and the Spittin’ Camels were never able to get to grips with the accurate and challenging pitching they saw from the Ducks’ Nick Collins.

Four consecutive singles in the top of the first inning, by Natalie Woolley, Adam Haywood, Donna Gregory and David Peters, did most of the damage.

The Camels’ best inning of the game was definitely the second.  The bottom of the Ducks’ line-up went down in order – it was the only inning of the game in which they didn’t score – and the Camels then had three straight singles, by Dan Jarman, Julie Lott and Ant Boffey at the bottom of their own order to cut the deficit to 4-2.  They might have made even more inroads but for a great catch of a line drive over second base by Ducks’ second baseman Palmer Hestley, who turned it into a rally-killing double play.

After that, it was all Fuzzy Ducks.  They scored five runs in the top of the third inning, eight in the top of the fourth and nine in the top of the fifth.  Although this onslaught featured a three-run home run by Adam Haywood that tipped off the left fielder’s glove and over the fence, and a three-run home run by Che Porteous that soared well over the barrier in left field, a contributory factor was the sudden inability of the Camels’ pitchers to throw strikes.

Starting pitcher Adam Hugill walked two consecutive male batters with two out in the third inning (which brought on automatic walks to the following women), and when he walked another four batters in the top of the fourth inning, he switched places with shortstop Andy Lott.  But Andy fared little better, and after he issued five walks to grateful Ducks in the top of the fifth inning, Adam Hugill returned to close out the inning.

By that time, however, the Fuzzy Ducks had amassed 26 runs, and in the bottom of the fifth inning, a well-executed 1-6-3 double play by the Ducks closed out the Camels without scoring and brought the mercy rule into play.

MVPs for the final were Natalie Woolley and Adam Haywood, both from the Fuzzy Ducks.


Looking ahead

Next up in three weeks’ time are the NSL Nationals at Farnham Park, on the weekend of 1-2 September.

The top eight teams from NSL 1 will battle for the National Championship and a place in the next European Slowpitch Super Cup, the top eight teams from NSL 2 will battle for the NSL 2 title and one promotion place to NSL 1, and eight teams that have signed up for an NSL 3 tournament will play for two spots in NSL 2 in 2019.

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