Lions and Tigers brave Storm Hannah to take Manchester Firstball titles

Wed 1 May 2019

By Mike Goff, Manchester Tournaments Officer

Twenty-four teams came from across the country to play in the Manchester Firstball Tournament over the weekend of 27-28 April and to appreciate the vagaries of Manchester’s weather.

There were 12 teams at Comp level and 12 at Rec, and they each played seven of the other teams in their division before semi-finals on Sunday afternoon.


Enter Hannah

Storm Hannah announced her presence on Saturday morning, and proceeded to hang around all day, walking many batters and causing havoc for batters and fielders alike.  Lovely hits into the gaps became direct shots to fielders and routine fly balls became mad scrambles as the wind took them away from fielders who thought themselves perfectly positioned.

While a clash of schedules meant that the University of Oregon was unable to send a team, Hannah ensured that it was great weather for ducks, soaking all and sundry and making those sensible enough to have brought tents very popular with their teammates and everyone else in the vicinity.

Softball is a great way to meet new people, provided your tent is large enough, but many teams tried to break the world record for fitting the most people into a tent the label said was only good for three.

By contrast, Sunday produced some sunshine and only light winds, so players got the opportunity to gain the softball tournament double: windburn and sunburn in one weekend.

This year saw the trial of a new system whereby the schedule was on a Google spreadsheet shared with all the captains so they could see the scores come in, knew to correct any that were wrong and were able to keep an eye on their rivals and know where their team had to play next and against whom.

It worked brilliantly and will be returning at the Manchester Main Tournament (an entry form is available here), but the success was down to the captains doing their job well.
http://manchester-softball.co.uk/manchester-tournaments/manchester-tournament/)


Comp Tournament (A/B-grade)

There were eight local teams playing at Gold (Comp) level and four from further afield, who were given a 10:00 am start on Saturday in case they wanted to travel in the morning and save on hotel costs.

The teams were: Greensox, Jammy Dodgers, Lions, Mavericks, Mavericks II (Comp debut), Mayhem (Comp debut), Spittin’ Camels, Thunder, Terriers (Leeds), Honey Badgers (Glasgow), Windsor Knights and Souls (Edinburgh).

There were some very close games in the group stage, with the newly-promoted Mayhem (to MSL Division 1) holding their own against many supposedly superior teams and losing by only a few runs in most of their games.

The other new team, Mavericks II, conceded the most runs at Gold level but ended the group stage with a victory, beating Mayhem.  Manchester’s Lions lost only to the Knights, but won the rest of their games to finish 6-1-0 at the top of the group and win home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Their semi-final opponents were the Leeds Terriers, who had the best head-to-head record of the five teams finishing on eight points and squeaked into the final four by virtue of their fielding prowess.

The Lions were unimpressed, however, and disposed of them 13-0 in the first semi-final.  In the second semi-final, the Mavericks scored five runs in the last inning to draw level with the Greensox, only for the score to revert when time ran out.

The final was the same match-up as the 9:00 am game on Saturday morning, where the Lions had beaten the Greensox 16-5.  This time, spectators were treated to more runs and more excellent fielding from both sides, as the Greensox had warmed up slowly over the weekend and unleashed their big-hitting GB kids on the more experienced Lions. 

But the Lions prevailed again and took home the Gold Cup.

The Gold Plate final was contested by two of the visiting teams, as the Souls beat the Honey Badgers in the first Plate semi-final and the Knights beat the Camels in the second.

The Knights won the Plate final 9-8 against the Souls to travel back down south with a trophy, a crate of beer and several reminders to bring more waterproofs if they come back next season.


Rec (B/C/D-grade)

Competition was equally fierce at the Rec or Silver level, with 11 local teams and one from across the Pennines.

The teams were: Didsbury Bats, Camels II, Enforcers, Hackers, Marauders, Meerkats, Renegades, Sefton Sharks, Speeders, Thunder II, Tigers and Bobcats (Leeds).

The teams were so closely matched that there were seven tied games, although the top two teams (Sharks and Tigers) controversially agreed a 5-5 tie in their final game on Saturday so they could get out of the horrible rain and into the bath or straight to the pub depending on individual preference.

Ultimately, the result of this game had no bearing on the standings.

Despite scoring a whopping 92 runs in seven games, the Meerkats could only finish third in the table, having lost to the Sefton Sharks in their opening game.  Thunder II lost to the Sharks 6-5 on Sunday morning, but beat the Hackers in their next game to qualify for the Silver Cup, where they played the Sharks again in the first semi-final.

Once again, Thunder II came up one run short, falling 12-11 to the Fish, who were acclimatising to the drier weather without any problems.

In the second semi-final the Meerkats only added seven to their run total, so the Tigers’ nine saw them into the final to meet the Sharks (for the first time).

A valiant effort from the Sharks wasn’t enough against the Tigers, who triumphed and will have to move the MSL Division 3 trophy a little further down the mantelpiece to make room for the Silver Cup.

In the Silver Plate semi-finals, the Marauders (a new team made up of former players from the Mutineers and Outlaws) saw off the challenge of the Hackers by a score of 8-6, and the Renegades ended the Camels II’s challenge with a massive 21-8 victory.

The final was a lot closer, but the experience of the Marauders meant that the Renegades (many of whom were rookies at the beginning of last season) will have to wait a little longer for their first Manchester tournament silverware.  The Marauders triumphed 17-16, putting home field advantage to good use.


Thanks

I would like to thank all the players who played the tournament in such fantastic spirit despite the weather conditions on Saturday, especially those who travelled so far to join us in the season opener.

Thanks too to the umpires who got soaked and had to cope with questioning stares from both batters and fielders after some calls, the Baseball Outlet who came to sell their wares, Henry Aborele’s food truck and Rachel from Red Patch First Aid who fortunately didn’t have too much to do over the weekend.

I hope to see you all at the Manchester Main Tournament in August!

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