GBFL titles go to Angels and Meteors Red

Sat 2 Jun 2018

An exciting final day in the 2018 Great Britain Fastpitch League  season on Saturday 2 June at Farnham Park produced winners in the Women’s and Men’s Divisions – but only after both title races came down to the wire.

Entering the final day, the perennial champion London Angels and last year’s winners, The Mix, were in a virtual first place tie in the Women’s Division.  The same was true in the Men’s Division, where the defending champion Meteors Black held the smallest of leads over Meteors Red.

It looked very much like the games between these teams on the final day would produce the divisional winners.

And that is indeed what happened in the Men’s Division, with Meteors Red and Meteors Black playing a thrilling final game of the day and the season with the title on the line.

In the Women’s Division, however, it wasn’t quite so straightforward.


Women’s Division

What looked like the title-deciding game between The Mix and the Angels was scheduled for the middle of the day, at 1.00 pm -- but of course the game would only retain its relevance if both teams could win their games leading up to the big clash – and then their games afterwards.

In the event, nothing like that happened.

In the first game of the day, The Mix took on the third place and steadily improving Oxford Diamonds, and for the second weekend in a row, the Diamonds outlasted The Mix by a score of 8-7.  Meanwhile, the Angels were making short work of the Free Agents by a score of 15-5.

So The Mix were already behind the eight ball when they took on the Angels in that 1.00 pm game, and they had thrown their #1 pitcher, Silvia Garzon, against the Diamonds while the Angels had saved their #1, Kylie Marshall, for The Mix.

The Mix and the Angels had played close and competitive games all through the season, but this one was simply a blowout, as the Angels won 17-3.  Even losing Kylie Marshall to a hamstring injury in the second inning made little difference, as the Angels battered starter Sian Wigington, a reluctant pitcher at the best of times, for 16 hits and 17 runs in four innings.

The Mix took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Sian Wigington’s lead-off double and an RBI groundout by Louisa Scott, but after that it was all Angels.

Nadya Pavlova and Megan Allen had three hits apiece; Joelle Whitley, Sylvie Varadi, Nadine Clarke and Chris Macleod each had two, and The Mix helped the Angels along with five errors.  The game was eventually called on the mercy rule, and the Women’s Division title race was over.

Or was it?

In the very next pair of games, The Mix righted their ship behind the pitching of Silvia Garzon for a 10-4 victory over the Free Agents, while the Angels, now with only Sylvie Varadi to pitch after the injury to Kylie Marshall, succumbed to the increasingly unstoppable Oxford Diamonds by 8-4.

But the Angels would surely dispel any final doubts by winning their last game against the Free Agents, a team that had only two wins all season, one on a forfeit and one on a reversion in a game cut short by a serious injury.

But the Free Agents, too, had been improving, Sylvie Varadi was exhausted after already pitching two-and-a-half games, and the Free Agents put a young 15-year-old player from Arizona, Carys Lynch, who was in the UK to visit her British family and to try out for the GB Under-16 programme, in the circle.  And while Carys doesn’t throw hard, she does throw strikes.

So the Free Agents had a jubilant end to their season with an 8-5 win over the champions-elect that sent the Angels back to their calculators to confirm what they already thought: that even this unexpected loss couldn’t cost them the title.

It didn’t (see the standings below), but it certainly made things close.

Meanwhile, three more wins for the Oxford Diamonds on the closing day of the season got them ever so close to The Mix in the final standings (again, see below) and ensured that the Diamonds had a very successful 2018. 

However, one of those wins – surprisingly over the Free Agents – required a last inning comeback by the Diamonds.  Trailing 11-9 as they came up for their last at-bat, the Diamonds loaded the bases, scored one run on a walk, and then won the game on a two-RBI single by Ysa Urquiaga.

In 2017, The Mix, new to the Great Britain Fastpitch League and composed largely of GB Women and Under-19 players, also had the best pitcher in the league in Canadian Andrea Williams, and ran away with the title.  This year, no one had a dominant pitcher, and the result was a lot of close games and a close divisional race that was only decided on the final day.

It doesn’t get better than that!

Here are the scores from the final day of GBFL play in the Women’s Division, and the final standings:

London Angels 15, Free Agents 5
Oxford Diamonds 8, The Mix 7
Oxford Diamonds 12, Free Agents 9
London Angels 17, The Mix 3
Oxford Diamonds 8, London Angels 4
The Mix 10, Free Agents 4
Free Agents 8, London Angels 5

TEAMS GP W L D PCT RF RA
London Angels 21 13 7 1 .634 175 95
The Mix 21 12 7 2 .600 182 112
Oxford Diamonds 21 12 8 1 .585 168 141
Free Agents 21 3 18 0 .143 107 260

 

Men’s Division

In the Men’s Division, if Meteors Black and Meteors Red could win all their other games on the day, everything would come down to the last game on the schedule between the two of them.

And so it came to pass.

For Meteors Red, the prologue was problem-free, with wins over the Lions, made up mostly of GB Under-19 Men’s Team players, by 11-1 and Bracknell by 14-0.

Meteors Black took care of the Lions without much trouble by a score of 9-2, but almost came a cropper against Bracknell, who featured guest pitcher Josh Peat from Meteors Red.

Going into their final at-bat, Meteors Black were staring into the abyss, trailing by 3-0.  But their bats finally came alive, and with score at 3-2 and plenty of runners on the bases, Darryl Herrmann drove a line drive double to right centre field to plate the winning runs and keep the idea of a title-deciding game alive.

Back on 21 April, the GBFL Men’s Division season had begun with a game between Meteors Red and Meteors Black, pitting the Reds’ hard throwing ace, Gareth Jooste, against the Blacks’ brilliant veteran pitcher John Brown.  The Reds had won fairly easily on that occasion, but now the same two teams – and the same two pitchers – were closing out the season with everything on the line.

The result was a brilliant game in which both pitchers were pretty much in control, supported by generally excellent fielding.  Gareth Jooste throws harder, but John Brown throws with more variation, excellent location and occasionally a devastating rise ball.

Yet it was John Brown who was to emerge as the slightly hard-luck loser.

The first two innings were scoreless, though both teams had baserunners in each inning.

The deadlock was broken in the decisive third inning.

In the top of the frame, Meteors Black took a 1-0 lead when Robbie Robison drove a double to right centre field, forced an error on the throw-in that let him take third, and then scored on a wild pitch.

In the bottom of the third inning, however, Meteors Red scored four times on four hits and two errors made on the same play.  The hits were: an infield single on a ball chopped up the middle, an inside-the-park home run by the blazingly quick Matt Tomlin on a long drive to centre field that just might have been catchable, a bloop double to short left field and another chopped infield single to shortstop. 

Four runs was more than John Brown had deserved to give up, but in a timed game like this, a 4-1 lead for Meteors Red looked huge.

But Meteors Black had come back from the brink in their last game, and now they almost did it again.

In the top of the fourth inning, Tom Priscott slashed a one-out triple to centre field and scored on a ground-out by Aaron Thomas.

In the top of the fifth inning, with the clock winding down, Jack Nielan led off against Gareth Jooste with a double and scored on Robbie Robison’s single to centre field.  Robbie was the tying run, and he moved to second on Damon Brown’s ground-out, stayed put while Wes Knapp flied out to centre field, and moved to third on a wild pitch with clean-up hitter John Brown at bat.

Gareth Jooste clearly wanted no part of John Brown in that situation, and walked him on four pitches, bringing Darryl Herrmann, the hero of the Blacks’ previous come-from-behind win, to the plate.

But lightning did not strike twice.  Darryl popped up a 2-1 pitch to shortstop, and with no new inning about to be called, the title was signed, sealed and delivered to Meteors Red.

The Men’s Division has had much higher quality pitching than the Women’s Division this year, but a similar result: a lot of close games and a title race that could not have been tighter.  That decisive 4-3 win by Meteors Red over Meteors Black was the icing on a very rich cake.

Here are the scores from the final day of GBFL play in the Men’s Division, and the final standings:

Bracknell 10, Lions 9
Meteors Red 11, Lions 1
Meteors Red 14, Bracknell 0
Meteors Black 9, Lions 2
Meteors Black 4, Bracknell 3
Bracknell 15, Lions 7
Meteors Red 4, Meteors Black 3

TEAMS GP W L D PCT RF RA
Meteors Red 21 15 6 0 .714 138 80
Meteors Black 21 14 6 1 .683 143 77
Lions 21 6 13 2 .300 106 160
Bracknell 21 5 15 1 .244 92 164

 

MVP Awards

In addition to the winner’s trophies presented to the London Angels and Meteors Red in a closing ceremony held at Farnham Park’s Home Plate Clubhouse, MVP trophies for the season were presented to one player on each team nominated by their team captain.

The 2018 GBFL MVP Awards went to:

Women’s Division
London Angels – Sylvie Varadi
The Mix – Silvia Garzon
Oxford Diamonds – Ysa Urquiaga
Free Agents – Emma Rhodes

Men’s Division
Meteors Red – Josh Peat
Meteors Black – John Brown
Lions – Oliver Howley
Bracknell – David Morris

The GBFL will be back in April 2019, and new players and teams are always welcome.  For information about how to get involved, contact Johanna Malisani: johanna.malisani@bsuk.org.

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