National Softball League play returned to Britain this summer, albeit in a form still restricted by Covid. Now the BSF’s NSL National Championships will return, for the first time since 2019, when 16 qualifiers from NSL1 and NSL2 compete at Farnham Park on 4-5 September.
The finals from both the NSL2 and NSL1 competitions will be web-streamed by BaseballSoftballUK and can be seen live or later on demand on: https://www.youtube.com/baseballsoftballuk.
The NSL2 final is scheduled to begin at 4.40 pm on Sunday 5 September, and the NSL1 final will follow at around 6.00 pm.
Covid restrictions still in force during the early part of the summer meant that NSL1 and NSL2 league play was restricted to two weekends this year rather than three and was played out over a single rather than a double round-robin, though with longer games.
While NSL2 play took place, as usual, alongside Diamond Series tournaments in June and July, NSL1 played one weekend alongside the Windsor Tournament in July and had a standalone weekend of play at Farnham Park in August.
But the results of league play were the same as in the past: eight of the 12 teams in each NSL division qualified for this weekend’s National Championships.
And while there will be no promotion and relegation this year between NSL2 and NSL1, and no NSL3 Nationals to feed new teams into NSL2, the winner of the NSL1 Nationals will, as normal, qualify for a place in the next edition of the European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup, scheduled for 2023.
The teams that have qualified for the NSL National Championships, in order of seeding, are shown below. The seedings reflect placings after league play.
1 – Pioneers
2 – Chromies
3 – H2O
4 – Travelling Dodgers
5 – KKs
6 – Tigers
7 – Blitz Bombers
8 – Blue Steel
The top three teams in the NSL1 league standings, including the 2018 Champions Pioneers and 2017 Champion Chromies, were no surprise, and most observers expect one of these teams to win this year’s title. If H2O were to win, it would be their first-ever National Championship victory after many years of falling just short.
However, the 2019 NSL1 Championship was won by a different team entirely – the Windsor Knights, who broke a Pioneers/Chromies monopoly that stretched back for many years. Sadly, Covid has meant that the Knights did not have access this year to their core of German National Team players, and they could only finish 11th in this season’s league play, failing to qualify for Nationals.
While the top three teams in this year’s league standings have generally been the dominant teams in NSL1, there has been movement below. Legends, a former NSL1 National Championship finalist, failed to make the Nationals this year and Blue Steel, who have been strong contenders in recent years, just made the cut in eighth place.
Above them, KKs, Tigers and Blitz Bombers are all relatively new to NSL1 and are clearly beginning to make an impact.
If any team is going to challenge the Big Three for the title, however, it will probably be the power-laden Travelling Dodgers. All will be revealed on Sunday!
1 – LNZ
2 – Spittin’ Camels
3 – Tempest
4 – Warriors
5 – Naturals
6 – The Mob
7 – Honey Badgers
8 – Fuzzy Ducks
The NSL2 Nationals should be a more open competition, with any one of a number of teams feeling they have a shot at the title.
LNZ, who were demoted to NSL2 in 2019 after years of NSL1 experience, are probably the favourites, but the Warriors, who also had a long run in the top tier, can’t be discounted.
However, the surprise package in NSL2 this year has been the Spittin’ Camels, who only gained promotion to NSL2 in 2019 and stormed through the league season with an 8-3 record to finish just behind LNZ in the standings and the seedings.
The other team promoted from NSL3 in 2019, the Fuzzy Ducks, also did well to make the Nationals this year, though only as the eighth and final seed.
The format for both NSL National Championship competitions this weekend will be straightforward.
The eight teams in both divisions will play a full round-robin on Saturday and Sunday morning, followed by a Page Playoff for the top four teams and single games to determine places 5-8.
For those unfamiliar with the Page Playoff format, it goes as follows:
- Game 1: Based on round-robin standings, the top two teams will play. The winner goes straight to the final; the loser has one more chance.
- Game 2: Meanwhile, the teams that finish third and fourth in the round-robin standings will play. The loser is eliminated and will finish fourth in the tournament standings.
- Game 3: The winner of Game 2 will then play the loser of Game 1. The winner of this game will play in the final; the loser is eliminated and will finish third in the tournament standings.
- Game 4: The final is then played between the winner of Game 1 and the winner of Game 3.