Twenty-two teams converged on Farnham Park over the weekend of 2-3 September for the largest-ever NSL Nationals competition. Thanks to additional grass fields made available for the event, eight teams each from NSL1 and NSL2 were joined by six teams from NSL3 to battle for the title of National Champion.
After a great weekend of play in hot sunshine, H20 won their second straight NSL1 Championship, The Mob put the seal on a hugely successful season by capturing the NSL2 title, and Storm scored 29 runs in exuberant fashion in the NSL3 final to seal the crown.
None of these results were a certainty going into the weekend.
H20, last year’s NSL1 Champions, looked like they might struggle to repeat, having only finished fifth in league play this year. But they were buoyed by their win in the European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup just the week before.
In NSL2, the Terriers and Tempest looked like they might force a rematch of last year’s NSL2 final that saw the two teams face-off three times in two days, with Tempest pulling out the final victory. But standing in their way were The Mob, who won all three NSL2 league weekends as well as the league title this year.
In NSL3, the field was wide open to crown a first-time champion.
Saturday started with unusual weather for 2023: clear, calm, and dry conditions, enhanced by the hard work of the Farnham Park grounds crew to ensure all six fields were in top condition.
All three divisions kicked off the tournament on Saturday with round-robin play, with the top seeds dominating.
In NSL1, The Pioneers jumped out to a 3-0 record after victories over Blue Steel, Knights, and Legends, while Legends put up the most lopsided score of the day with a 16-0 victory in the day’s final game.
Two teams pulled out to an early lead in the NSL2 standings, as The Mob and Honey Badgers each won their first five games of the competition.
NSL3 saw more even competition, with every team picking up at least one loss on the first day. Play wrapped up just before 6.00 pm on Saturday as long shadows began to form across Farnham Park.
Sunday featured even better weather: warm conditions and cloudless skies, ideal for a fast start -- and as the temperature warmed up, so did the action.
In NSL1, the Pioneers finished round-robin play with a flourish, sweeping their final three games to claim top spot in the standings, while perennial contenders Chromies and H20 were able to push ahead of the Knights to make the playoffs.
The final round-robin standings in NSL1 looked like this, with the top four teams going forward to Page Playoffs.
The deadlock at the top of the NSL2 standings was broken when The Mob drew with Warriors, allowing the undefeated Honey Badgers to secure the #1 seed for the NSL2 Page Playoffs.
Over in NSL3, the Southern Stormers and Storm both won their Sunday round-robin games to finish first and second, with fOXes and Tempest rounding out the Page Playoffs.
NSL1 Page Playoff
In NSL1, the Pioneers and Legends played the 1v2 Page Playoff game, and despite an early lead for the Pioneers, Legends were able to pull away to a 10-6 victory.
Meanwhile, H20, looking to defend their title, faced off against the Chromies in the 3v4 Page Playoff game, defeating them 15-9 to set up a showdown with the Pioneers to see who would join Legends in the final. In that game, H20 flexed their offensive muscles enroute to a 15-4 victory.
In the final, Legends would be trying to win the top prize for the first time, while H20 would be looking to retain their hard-won title.
NSL2 Page Playoff
In the 1v2 Page Playoff game between The Mob and Honey Badgers, The Mob secured their spot in the final by virtue of an 11-3 victory, while the Blitz Bombers squeaked out an 11-10 win over the Terriers in the 3v4 game.
The Honey Badgers and Blitz Bombers then faced off with a spot in the NSL2 final on the line, and both teams scored early and often, with the Honey Badgers eventually pulling away. With their 17-11 victory, the Honey Badgers set up a rematch with the Mob in the NSL2 final – the third time these teams had faced each other across the weekend.
NSL3 Page Playoff
The first-ever NSL3 Page Playoff was a very stormy affair, with the fOXes claiming the only team name not related to the weather!
In the 1v2 game, the Storm defeated the Southern Stormers 11-10, and Tempest 2 put down the fOXes 14-11 in the 3v4 game.
The Southern Stormers then faced Tempest 2 but were able to hold them at bay on the way to a 12-6 victory and a rematch with Storm in the final.
NSL1 Final: Two in a row for H20
The NSL1 final was broadcast on BSUK-TV, the new home to watch British softball and baseball, marking the first time the final had been live-streamed since 2021. You can watch the final here and a report on the game is below:
By Bob Fromer
After waiting 17 years to win their first NSL1 National Championship in 2022, H20 didn’t have to wait long to win their second.
In the 2023 NSL1 final, H20 took on Legends, the team that had finished first in NSL league play this year while H20 had finished fifth.
But H20, fresh from winning the European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup in Bulgaria the week before, held the Legends to just four runs in seven innings with excellent pitching from Roger Grooms and some excellent defensive play. And though H20 didn’t score that many runs themselves against Legends’ pitcher Duncan Waugh, they managed just enough to win the title by a score of 7-4.
It was Legends who got off to the better start.
After H20 failed to score in the top of the first inning, Legends put two runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning, on singles by Kris Hadwin and Tash Humphris, an error, and an RBI double down the left field line by Jeff Swindell.
But H20 came back with three runs in the top of the second inning to take a 3-2 lead, and they stayed in the lead for the rest of the game.
With one out, Chelsie Robison drove a triple to the fence in right centre field and scored on a single by Matt Tomlin. Josie Cherson followed with a single to right field to send Matt to third, Matt scored on a ground ball by Roger Grooms that turned into an error, and Kat Golik’s sacrifice fly scored Josie.
Legends went down in order in the bottom of the second inning, and the teams traded runs in the third.
For H20, Mike MacDowell drew a walk and scored on a single by Laura Hirai; for Legends, Jeff Swindell drove in his second run of the game with a single, and H20 now led 4-3.
But after that, the Legends’ offense went quiet, and they managed just a single baserunner, on a single by Barbara Killer, over the next three innings.
H20’s offense wasn’t doing much either, but they slowly padded their lead, with two runs in the top of the fourth inning and one in the top of the seventh.
In the top of the fourth inning, singles by Matt Tomlin, Josie Cherson, Robbie Studholme, and Kirstie Leach did the damage, despite two fine plays by the Legends defense; and in the top of the seventh inning Mike MacDowell reached on an error and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Joe Grantham.
Legends came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning trailing by 7-3. In many slowpitch games, this would be a minor obstacle, but in this game, with defenses on top, it seemed like a mountain to climb – and so it proved.
With one out, Barbara Killer doubled, and with two out, she scored on a single by Kim Hannessen. But the third out came on a great play that resulted in a force out at second base, and H20 could start to celebrate two National Championships and a European title in a span of just 12 months.
Chelsie Robison and Roger Grooms of H20 were named MVPs for the final.
NSL2 Final gets Mobbed
In the NSL2 final, the Mob and Honey Badgers did battle for the third time in the tournament on Sunday, after meeting in both the round-robin and the 1v2 Page Playoff game.
The final had the largest margin of victory, with the Mob picking up a 21-13 win to claim their first NSL2 Championship title and ending Tempest’s two-year reign at the top.
The Mob’s Dana Granville wrote:
"We came up from NSL3 in 2018, fought like crazy to stay up (which we did by the skin of our teeth) in 2019, played our first-ever NSL2 nationals in 2021, came third in 2022 (in both the Nationals and league play), and now, in 2023, we are finally National Champions.
This past weekend we went undefeated (with only one draw) and played the Honey Badgers three consecutive times on Sunday. The team played their hearts out all weekend and battled through several injuries. The final was a tight one until we broke the game wide open with a two-down eight-run rally in the bottom of the sixth, which exemplifies how tough and resilient this team is.
A case could be made for several of our players, but our MVPs in the final were Yannick Villanueva for several outstanding plays in left field and a two-out three-run home run in the fifth inning to put us in the lead, and Til Dowd, who stepped into the four spot in the order in place of her injured twin sister and went 3-for-4 plus a walk in the final."
NSL3 Final: A howling victory for the Storm
The NSL3 final was the only truly lopsided affair.
While the 1v2 Page Playoff meeting between the Stormers and Storm had seen a one-run contest, the Storm were not interested in a close game this time and scored an astounding 29 runs – the most from any game across the weekend – on their way to a 29-17 victory in the weekend’s highest scoring matchup.
Lewis and Annabel from the Storm picked up MVP honours following their epic finals victory.
In NSL1, H20 has now won the National Championship two years in a row, and coupled with their European Slowpitch Super Cup victory, can lay claim to be one of the best slowpitch club teams in all of Europe.
Meanwhile, the Chromies – 10-time NSL1 winners, dating back to their days as Superchrome in 1997, – finished fourth, but remain in the top echelon of British slowpitch.
Legends, runners-up in the final, can take solace that they, too, will play in the 2025 European Co-Ed Slowpitch Super Cup by virtue of winning NSL1 league play.
With their victory in the NSL2 final, The Mob pulled off an incredible feat: winning all three NSL2 weekends, the NSL2 league, the NSL2 Nationals final, and promotion to NSL1 for the 2024 season.
Promotion and relegation for NSL3 next year will be determined once decisions are made by the BSF about the possibility of adding new teams to the NSL structure.
A huge thank you goes to the BASU umpires, especially Crew Chief and BSF Interim President Lesley Morisetti; to Liz Knight for running Tournament Control; and to Liz Warner for keeping the fields in great condition all weekend long.
Below are the National Championship and NSL winners over time:
NSL1 or A-GRADE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS
2023 -- H20
2022 – H20
2021 – Travelling Dodgers
2020 – Cancelled due to Covid
2019 – Windsor Knights
2018 – Pioneers
2017 -- Chromies
2016 -- Pioneers
2015 -- Chromies
2014 – Chromies
2013 – Chromies
2012 – Chromies
2011 – Pioneers
2010 – Pioneers
2009 – Chromies
2008 – Dragons
2007 – Chromies
2006 – Chromies
2005 – Slammers
2004 – Chromies
2003 – Stingrays
2002 – Pioneers
2001 – Baker Tomkins
2000 – Baker Tomkins
1999 – Baker Tomkins
1998 – Baker Tomkins
1997 – Chromies (then known as Superchrome)
1996 – Windsor Dodgers
1995 – Genies
1994 – Slammers
1993 – Isherwood
1992 – Slammers
1991 – Meteors
1990 – Sliders
1989 – Pirates
1988 – London New Zealand
1987 – Pirates
NSL2 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS
2023 – The Mob
2022 – Tempest
2021 – Tempest
2020 – Cancelled due to Covid
2019 – Tempest
2018 – Manchester Mavericks
2017 – SPAM
NSL3 LEAGUE OR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS
2023 – Storm
2022 – Blitz Havoc
2020-2021 – Cancelled due to Covid
2019 – Spittin’ Camels
2018 – Misfits