By Harold Somers

The Manchester softball season got underway last weekend as the now traditional Firstball tournament attracted 24 teams at Gold, Silver and Bronze level to a weekend of softball at Wythenshawe Sports Ground. Alongside several MSL teams we welcomed the now familiar Yorkshire Dales, Bobcats and Coyotes from Leeds, BAM from Bristol, and the Liver Birds, Sharks and Seagulls from Merseyside. And making their first appearance in Manchester for many a long year was an elite team from Ireland – hopefuls and fringe players from their national squad using the tournament as training.

Saturday’s weather was brisk but sunny as teams took to the newly relocated WSG fields. The three eight-team groups each played a round-robin through Saturday and on to Sunday lunchtime, followed by semi-finals and a final at each level.

Slowpitch Ireland's first base makes a catch

Overnight rain had left the fields decidedly soggy, and intermittent light rain showers persisted throughout Sunday morning, eventually giving way to alternating cloudy and sunny weather, but with temperatures plummeting, fleeces, snoods, beanies and gloves were the uniform of the day for most teams.

Mossley Mayhem make a play on second base against Camels

The Irish visitors dominated the Gold competition winning six of their seven round-robin games – losing only to Mayhem.  Manchester Dodgers and Mavericks with 4-3 records, and Mayhem on 3½-3½  were the semi-finalists. Ireland were due to meet the Mavs in the Gold final to be streamed live, but had to leave early to catch their flight back to Ireland (from Birmingham) and so forfeited the final.

In Silver, Bats went undefeated with five wins and two ties, with Bobcats (5-2) and Camels II (4 wins, 2 ties) close behind. There was a three-way tie for 4th place with Speeders taking the final semi-final berth on runs conceded. Bats and Camels II contested the Silver final, live-streamed in place of the Gold final, in a one-sided run-ahead win for Camels, 21-1 in 4 innings.

A Bobcat turns for third base in a Silver tier game agaist Tigers

In Bronze, the Dales (6-1), the Liverbirds and BAM (both 4 wins, 2 ties) and Screwballs (3½-3½) were the semi-finalists. In the final, BAM overcame the Yorkshire Dales fairly comfortably, winning 17-6.

A Hacker takes a catch at second against Bronze tier Yorkshire Dales

All in all, the cold weather was the only complaint. Our visitors from Ireland were particularly impressed with the facilities, especially that there was so much open space. All participants expressed their huge thanks to NJ Dyson (organizer), Paul Fagan (crew chief) and everyone else involved for yet another immensely successful Manchester softball event.

Bronze tier: A Screwball reaches for the tag at home against Bristol BAM!

All photos: Manchester Softball League
Original article from: Bases Loaded Review 30.1