UCE Travellers win 21st World Series

Mon 9 Sep 2019

By Bob Fromer

The UCE Travellers from Germany, who in 2015 became the first team from outside the UK to win the BSF’s annual Softball World Series Tournament, did it again on the weekend of 7-8 September, breaking a three-year run of titles won by the USA.

The 21st edition of the tournament was played by 18 teams, including six from outside the country, at the Imperial College Heston Venue near Heathrow Airport on a weekend of sunshine, clouds and wind, and this year’s event was notable for a large number of close games during both the round-robin and playoff phases of the competition.

The team that was favoured going into the tournament was Heath/USA, a strong and power-laden group from the US Air Force base at RAF Lakenheath.  But after cruising through their initial round-robin and then the early playoff stages, Heath/USA suddenly lost two games in quick succession, to the GB Masters and then the UCE Travellers, and found themselves out of the competition.

The USA team that had won the tournament in 2016, 2017 and 2018 had exited the tournament even earlier, weakened by the fact that some of their impact players over the past three years were US base players who played for Heath/USA this time around.
 

Finals

So the final in the top, or Trophy competition, was contested by the UCE Travellers and the perennial World Series bridesmaids, the GB Masters, in a long and attritional seven-inning game in which the Germans kept thinking they had buried their opponents, only for the Masters to fight their way back into the contest.

In the end, however, after being down 18-3 at one stage with a mercy rule ending imminent, then fighting back to get within four runs at 23-19, the GB Masters finally succumbed by a final score of 26-19.

There will be more details on this rather extraordinary final below.

After an initial seeded round-robin on Saturday played by three groups of six teams, the World Series breaks down on Sunday into six-team Trophy, Plate and Cup competitions.

The Plate tournament was won by GB Futures, a team full of exciting young players from the GB Slowpitch Team pool, who were unlucky not to make it to the Trophy playoffs.  In the Plate final, they defeated Waynes Pardubice, a club team from the Czech Republic containing a number of Czech National Team players, by a score of 13-6.

The Cup competition was won by the Anzacs, who are four-time World Series winners and unused to finding themselves in the lowest section of the tournament on Sunday.  But though the Anzacs struggled with injuries over the weekend and the inability of some of their stalwarts to play this year, they still had enough to mount a last-inning comeback and sneak past Latin America in the Cup final by a score of 9-8, aided by a number of consecutive walks at the end of the game from the Latin American pitcher.

Playoff details

Here are the scores from the final stages of the tournament -- the Trophy, Plate and Cup Page Playoffs:

TROPHY PAGE PLAYOFF
1 v 2 Game:  GB Masters 18, Heath/USA 12
3 v 4 Game:  UCE Travellers 15, England 10
5th Place Playoff:  USA 12, Munster 1
Pre-Final:  UCE Travellers 15, Heath/USA 10
Final:  UCE Travellers 26, GB Masters 19
Final MVPs:  Clara Zerhusen and Marc Dutjer (UCE Travellers)

PLATE PAGE PLAYOFF
1 v 2 Game:  GB Futures 13, Scotland 7
3 v 4 Game:  Waynes Pardubice 11, Ireland 6
5th Place Playoff:  Africa 6, Dutch Lions 2
Pre-Final:  Waynes Pardubice 13, Scotland 12
Final:  GB Futures 13, Waynes Pardubice 6
Final MVPs:  Crista Reed-Thomas and Joe Grantham (GB Futures)

CUP PAGE PLAYOFF
1 v 2 Game:  Anzacs 10, Latin America 7
3 v 4 Game:  Belgian Bats 10, Wales 1
5th Place Playoff:  Japan 15, Canada 7
Pre-Final:  Latin America 13, Belgian Bats 12
Final:  Anzacs 9, Latin America 8
Final MVPs:  Andre Rodriguez and Flor Mondsheim (Latin America)

Trophy final

When the Trophy final began before an ever-growing audience that ran down the left field line to the catering station set up by the Home Plate Bar & Kitchen crew from Farnham Park, the vagaries of the Page Playoff system mean that the UCE Travellers were playing their third pressure game in a row, and the GB Masters had had a couple of hours rest.

That might be why, for different reasons, both teams went down quickly and quietly in the first inning.

But after that the fireworks started, and they never stopped, with both teams scoring in every half-inning until the GB Masters, who finally ran out of steam after a heroic comeback effort, sent only three batters to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Initially, however, all the loud and explosive fireworks belonged to the Germans while the GB Masters could only send up a few damp squibs.

UCE Travellers had eight straight hits to start the top of the second inning against GB Masters starter Roger Grooms, including a three-run home run over the distant 300-foot left field fence by Felix Schwann, and when the inning finally came to an end, the Germans had sent 12 batters to the plate and led 7-0.

The Masters could only reply in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run – the first of two -- by Chris Yoxall, and then the Travellers went right back to work in the top of the third.  This time they sent 13 batters to the plate and pounded out nine hits, including home runs by Max Zerhusen and Marc Dutjer, good for nine more runs.

Consistent defensive play and batting by the German women, who had 13 hits in the game, was the key to prolonging these rallies.

The score was now 16-1, and though the Masters scored two in the bottom of the third inning on two walks from German pitcher Wolfgang Walther, singles by Roger Grooms and Kelvin Harrison and a sacrifice fly by Kirstie Leach, the Travellers matched those in the top of the fourth inning on a two-run home run – his second in as many innings – by Marc Dutjer.

And this brought the game to a crisis point for the GB Masters: unless they could score in the bottom of the fourth inning, the game would end then and there on the mercy rule (15 after four).

However, the Masters did more than just score: they exploded for seven runs on nine hits to give themselves hope that the game might not yet be over.  After Claudine Snape led off with a single and Danny Gunn flied out, eight more hits came consecutively – a single by Ruth Macintosh, a double by Roger Grooms, and singles by Kat Golik, Mike MacDowell, Kirstie Leach, Kelvin Harrison, Sherry Kenyon and Chris Yoxall.

The first run that the Masters scored was greeted with a sardonic cry from someone near the Masters’ bench that “now the game can continue” because the mercy rule had been at least temporarily averted, but as the British team sprayed singles around the field and the runs piled up, the tone of the team and the crowds began to change.

The UCE Travellers, who were certainly the best team in the tournament overall and played consistently excellent softball from beginning to end (their only loss was to Heath/USA by 15-14), didn’t wilt in the face of this GB comeback, and they didn’t stop scoring.

But the GB Masters had changed pitchers after the top of the fourth inning, with David Lee replacing Roger Grooms, and now GB was winning the innings, outscoring the Travellers by 7-2 in the fourth inning, 4-3 in the fifth and 5-2 in the sixth.  And after that sixth-inning rally ended, featuring Chris Yoxall’s second solo home run of the game and six sharply-hit singles, the German players were sneaking nervous glances at the BSF’s green wooden scoreboard, which now showed them in the lead by only 23-19.

During the Masters’ final rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Germans replaced Wolfgang Walther in the circle with Max Zerhusen, and he got out of the inning somewhat fortuitously thanks to a base-running error by the British – otherwise, the margin might have been narrower still.

But that was as far as the GB Masters could go.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Germans found the energy for a final three-run rally that was keyed by singles from Jack Seygowski and Lissi Long and finished after a walk to Max Zerhusen by more singles from Marlen Kestel and Marc Dutjer.

That took the score to a more comfortable 26-19 from the Travellers’ point of view, and though Claudine Snape walked with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Danny Gunn then bounced sharply back to Max Zerhusen, who started the 1-6-3 double play that ended the game and the tournament.

Final standings

Final standings in the 2019 Softball World Series were:

Trophy Competition
1 – UCE Travellers (Germany)
2 – GB Masters
3 – Heath/USA
4 – England
5 – USA
6 – Munster (Ireland)

Plate Competition
7 – GB Futures
8 – Waynes Pardubice (Czech Republic)
9 – Scotland
10 -- Ireland
11 – Africa
12 – Dutch Lions

Cup Competition
13 – Anzacs
14 – Latin America
15 – Belgian Bats
16 – Wales
17 – Japan
18 – Canada

World Series history

The list of World Series winners since the tournament began in 1999 is:

2019 – UCE Travellers (Germany
2018 – USA
2017 – USA
2016 – USA
2015 – UCE Travellers (Germany)
2014 – England
2013 – Anzacs
2012 – Anzacs
2011 – Lakenheath Eagles
2010 – Lakenheath Eagles
2009 – England
2008 – Anzacs
2007 – Anzacs
2006 – Rest of the World
2005 – USA
2004 – Africa
2003 – Africa
2002 – USA
2001 – Africa
2000 – Africa
1999 -- England

Photos by Lynda Medwell

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