Despite the fact that Covid is still with us, most slowpitch softball leagues around the country are now in full swing. Below are reports from a number of BSF leagues on the action that took place during June.
Edinburgh Softball League
The Edinburgh Softball League got off to a delayed start due to Covid, with no games being played until 17 May. We lost one team from Division 1 but we’re hopeful that The Forgers will return for the 2022 season.
In the Edinburgh Premier Division, played as a double round-robin format with six teams, Souls are currently out in front with a 5-0 record at the halfway mark and there is a three-way tie for second place with Marabou Storks, Dalmeny Dodgers and Dalriada Demons all with 3-2 records and each having taken a game off each other.
At the end of July, teams will enter a League Cup with seeding being taken from final positions from the double round-robin.
Division 1 has a triple round-robin format with five teams in the division, and it’s currently tight at the top with Dohnuts and the Haar Hitters tied with 4-2 records and Vandals one game back with 3-2 record.
There will be lots to play for in the second half of the season, but everyone is just happy to be back playing the game we love!
Manchester Softball League
The lead at the top of Division 1 changed hands every week during June, with four different teams topping the standings. As the first rotation ended, three teams were tied on 6-2 records.
Most of the remainder are jostling for positions, but at the bottom, newly-promoted Meerkats and the Jammy Dodgers are drifting towards relegation, three wins off safety after nine games. If the Dodgers drop, it will be the end of a top-flight presence that stretches back to 1997.
In Division 2, our guests from Merseyside, the Sefton Sharks, look set to fulfil their ambition of playing Division 1 ball. Although just one game covers the top four, the Sharks are the most consistent, with the Speeders, half a game back thanks to an early season tie (due to fading light), hanging in there.
The early leaders, Marauders, were 4-0 after four games but are now 5-3, which shows how quickly things can turn around. Propping up the table are the Didsbury Bats, whose relegation reprieve at the end of 2019 looks to have done them no favours, with relatively few of their games going the full seven innings.
Meanwhile, the combined Division 3/4 is nearing its conclusion, with only the four middle teams unsure of their fate.
Highlight of the month was the closest imaginable game between the top two, both unbeaten until they met, with the Tigers edging out Bandidos on a two-out two-RBI hit. The return is eagerly awaited.
After the split, the division will welcome not one but two new teams, put together from players who have attended our weekly rookie training sessions by the dozen (record attendance 47).
The month ended with a celebration of our league’s 5,000th game. The scheduled game between two of the remaining four original teams – Speeders and Bats – was designated the 5,000th (though records weren’t accurate enough to give us an exact date for the very first game).
Both teams and umpires wore specially commissioned uniforms (ok, T-shirts), and the game was followed by a party with hotdogs and beer, a cake sale, a raffle, and a few short speeches from founder members still playing 29 years on. The weather gods were kind, and a most splendid evening was had by all.
We look forward to similarly celebrating our 30th anniversary next year.
London Softball League
This year the freshly-minted London Softball League (LSL) – formerly the GLSML -- is hosting a shorter, novel season as we welcome the majority of our teams back after missing last season due to the pandemic. League divisions have been temporarily redrawn (with no promotion or relegation) to ensure balanced competition, with one eye on reducing travel commitments where possible.
What used to be called the Majors Divisions is now the Red and White Grades.
In Division A of Red Grade, the LSL’s very own ‘Evil Empire’, The Mescalitos, have a perfect 6-0 record and are averaging an eye-watering 23 runs per game. Hot on their heels are The Muppets, with three wins out of four and with games in hand. If the Muppets hope to catch the Mescis, they will likely need to beat them on the final day of the season and hope somebody else does them a favour, but stranger things have happened. And don’t sleep on the (wily) Coyotes either, who can beat anybody in the division and also have multiple games in hand.
In Division B of Red Grade, Meteors Black are necking the blue pills as they chase their first top-flight title since 2004 with a perfect 5-0 record at the halfway point. Determined to make them take the red pill are the LSL’s perennial Final Boss, MI6, who are lurking in second place with a game in hand. Base Invaders’ inaugural season in the giddy heights of Red Grade is so far going to plan, with a pleasingly symmetrical .500 record after six games.
In Division A of White Grade, the curiously-monikered Soft Boiled are running away with it so far, with five wins out of five. Only the Pimlico Pirates have managed to put up any real resistance, losing to Soft Boiled by a single run on Opening Day. London Raiders Gold are currently in second place and will be plotting their revenge when they meet Soft Boiled again. If you want value for money, buy a ticket to see The Mob, currently in third place and averaging 20.4 runs for and 15.2 runs against per game. Who knew that Wandsworth had such a high altitude!
In Division B of White Grade, flashing the leather and leading with five wins out of six are the Oddsox. The seasoned campaigners boast the tightest defense in the whole of the LSL so far with a measly 34 runs conceded (5.6 per game). But somebody stop the trophy engraver! The Finsbury Dazzlers are only a win behind them with a game in hand and they already have a win against Oddsox – and also have the advantage of four home games in a row to finish the season, including two Monday games following tournaments. What does all this mean? No idea! But as Rowdy Roddy Piper once famously said: "Just when they think they know the answers, I change the questions." Finally, a shout-out to Game of Throws -- firstly, for the courage it takes to wear those purple jerseys, but mainly for a sterling first half of the season that included the scalps of the Dazzlers as well as a tough-swinging Chargers side. Salut!
Before we even know it, we’re at the halfway stage of the LSL Minors season and it’s clear that teams have taken the time off to improve their social media coverage. We’ve had new Instagram accounts, Twitter accounts, photos from fixtures and even a game livestreamed!
2021 has featured redrawn divisions and a chance for new rivalries to build, and the first half of the season has not disappointed. Only one team currently stands unbeaten: the development squad Battitude, making their league debut!
In Gold Division A, Raiders Red appear to be the leaders at the turn, although a couple of their wins have been narrower than they would have have hoped and their one loss was to the inconsistent Base Jumpers, who could come good with experience. Their 40-39 win this week against Disco Inferno will be one for the ages.
Gold Division B is very evenly matched, with The Mafia taking the early lead before being pulled back by Bat to the Future. The Week 1 game between the two teams went to extra innings, with The Mafia coming out on top. But BTTF achieved their revenge this month, leaving the path to the top open for the Badgers, who unfortunately couldn’t capitalise on the opportunity and gave Banditos their first win of the season. Badgers v BTTF might play a crucial role in deciding the division winners.
Taking the Blue Division by storm, as noted above, is Battitude, including scoring 23 runs in a single inning in Week 2 – but Meteors Mash and Knightsliders will provide a challenging end of the season for the newbies. The two Raiders teams will hope to break their duck for the season, but they may need to wait for the final week and the Raider Bowl Game at Colliers Wood.
Solent Softball League
Division One: The Itchen Knicks continued their relentless march to another title with two wins in June, pushing their win streak to 27 consecutive games! A close 19-16 win over the Spitfires was followed by a 23-8 win over the Knicks’ nearest championship rivals, the Chichester Falcons.
The Falcons and Spitfires faced off at the end of the month, with the Chichester team coming away 11-9 victors to solidify second place.
Division Two: A busy month started with the Portsmouth Pirates securing a season sweep over the Oddballs, taking the latest encounter by 18-9 for their second win of the season, while the Southsea Sharks made a push to the top of the division with a 16-14 win over the Hurricanes followed by a quick two-game sweep over the Vikings. Meanwhile, the Redbridge Raiders had a very closely-fought June. A 13-13 tie with the Sharks was followed by one-run wins over the Pirates (27-26) and the Hurricanes (5-4).
The University of Portsmouth team have made improvements throughout what has been a tough season for them, but losses against the Vikings (14-11) and the Hurricanes (28-3) put them at the foot of the table heading into July.
Bristol Softball League
It was a big day for Bristol Softball as the Bristol Somerball tournament was held for the first time in two years on the weekend of 3-4 July. There were 24 teams, six fenced pitches, wonderfully well-maintained grass and a large bar area serving food and beer.
All this was carried out under BSF and government Covid guidelines, and credit must go to Jo Newton and her small army of helpers for organising the event, Chris Lunn for his umpiring crew and, equally importantly, the Somerdale ground staff, bar staff and office managers who smiled, provided lots of food and beer and were just great all weekend.
For the record, the results were:
Rec Plate Winner: Lucky Secrets
Rec Cup: The Maidenhead v Usual Suspects game was stopped by a serious injury
Comp Plate Winner: Leeds Terriers
Comp Cup Winner: Travelling Dodgers
Meanwhile in league Division 1, Archway Thunder just keep getting better and better and are now joint leaders with the Sliders, both with 7-2 records. Can anyone stop them, and will the Jets (6-3) overtake the top two teams? Time will tell.
The other team making a name for itself in Division 1 is the Greasy Mitts. Having yo-yo’d up and down for a few years, the Mitts now sit proudly in fifth place with a winning record and were the first team to beat Archway Thunder, winning 6-5 in a game where defenses dominated for the 45 minutes it took.
In Division 2, released from the fear of promotion, Victorious Secrets are playing to their ability and lead the league with a 6-1 record, with the ever-improving Flycatchers in second.
In Division 3, Archway Lightning continue to dominate with an 8-1 record, with Friendly Fire quietly going about their business at 7-2.
We look forward to welcoming many of you to the Bristol Wreck tournament in August.
Oxford Softball League
After easing our way back into softball post-lockdown, the Oxford Softball League moved into the competitive stretch of the season in June.
The Spirits finished top of the table in the first phase of the season and have begun their quest for a repeat title. But to keep things more evenly balanced (and a little more exciting!) given the high number of new players in the league, we've kept an inning run limit in place for the rest of the season. The level of play continues to be of a high standard, with home runs, double plays and thrilling base running featuring in every game.
In order to keep momentum going with promotion of the league, the great efforts of our teams and players, and the game of softball, we're actively posting on our our Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/oxfordsoftballleague/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/OxfordSoftballUK ) accounts, and our teams have consistently been submitting their match reports, which appear on our website (https://www.oxfordsoftball.uk/) and our social feeds under each game.
The league also ran a number of training sessions throughout June and plans to continue these sessions during the rest of the season. The sessions provide an opportunity for new players to work on their core skills and for more experienced players to brush up on their techniques.
Milton Keynes Softball League
After a year away, the MK Softball League looks more competitive than ever, with three teams tied with 2-1 records and leading the playoff race.
In the first game in June, the Rhinos continued their strong start to the season with a 27-13 win over last year's finalists, the Lakers. Strong Rhinos batting saw them take an early lead, and while the Lakers pulled some of it back (led by a home run from Adam Bee), the gap was too large. Game MVP honours went to James Bradley (P) and Leah Holmes (1B) for the Rhinos, and to Tilly Jones (3B) and Dave Foster (2B) for the Lakers. It was a fantastic first league game for Dave Foster as well as for Rhinos rookies Kurt Marthinussen and Jason Hulford.
Next up was the DDs against the Odd Sox, with the DDs picking up their first victory, running out 21-10 winners. DDs MVPs were Chris Benton (SS) and Nikita Shkurko (3B), while honours for the Sox went to Loren Reynolds (LF) and Tim Welch (P).
The Towcester Tigers also got off the mark with an impressive 24-8 win over the reigning champion Hornets, led by strong performances from MVPs Hannah West and Josh Rollins. For the Hornets, Chris Borah (after a whopping three home runs) was awarded MVP honours alongside Leanne Reynolds.
The Rhinos then had the opportunity to take their unbeaten charge into the playoffs, but fell one run short, losing 16-15 to the Odd Sox, who were led by MVPs Sean McGinn and Loren Reynolds, who was also celebrating a birthday. One-run wins are nothing new for the Odd Sox, who secured three en route to the 2018 title. Rhinos’ co-captain Steve Lamb led the comeback that fell just short but picked up the MVP award for the team alongside second base player Vickie Robson. Despite losing, the Rhinos became the fastest team to reach 400 runs scored (in 21 games) with their ninth run.
In the final game of June, the Lakers returned to winning ways, scoring 21 runs to the DDs 12, with Jake Clarke pitching a complete game and hitting a home run, all while captain Adam Bee watched the second half of England v Germany from the subs’ bench. The win put the Lakers on top of the all-time win list in the MK League. Their MVPs were Lauren Shkurko (1B) and Richie Murray (SS), while honours for the DDs went to Jon Reynolds and Shosh Dzialoszynski.
With no team unbeaten, the playoffs look impossible to predict and the calculators may be needed come the end of the season. At the moment, the Rhinos top the table ahead of the Lakers and Odd Sox, all with 2-1 records.
Jon Reynolds leads the home run race with six, with Chris Borah close behind on four while rookie Sean McGinn is third with three.
It's also been great to see three new umpires join the roster: Robyn Hillyard, Fyona Shannon and Chloe Love. All of them have done a fantastic job, and we are so thankful to have them volunteer.