Fastpitch softball is more vulnerable to wet weather than slowpitch.
On Sunday, June 12, teams at the Co-ed Slowpitch League All-Star Nationals in Birmingham played through incessant rain for almost six hours and managed to complete the tournament.
But at Richings Park on Saturday, June 18, half an hour's sharp shower, arriving as predicted around 4.30 pm, was enough to end play for the duration at the third London Fastpitch Softball League day of the season. The reason is that it doesn't take much moisture to make the ground slippery in the pitcher's circle, and if fastpitch pitchers can't rely on a firm footing for the leg they plant with considerable force as they deliver a pitch, then they can't pitch at all.
So even though the sun came out as soon as the shower had passed, some players were already winding up the outfield fences while most were heading for the car park.
The less experienced and/or younger mixed-sex Division 2 teams play in the morning at the LFSL, and these six teams managed to get through their schedule on June 18 unscathed.
Hove Tuesday won three straight games to stretch their lead at the top of the division, defeating London Angels 2 by a score of 7-1, winning a 4-2 thriller over East Anglia and then coming out on top by 7-4 in a close encounter with Chalfont.
Hove Tuesday has only lost one out of nine games this season, and now has a two-and-half-game lead over Richings Park, who won twice but drew once on the day and Chalfont, who had a win, a loss and a draw. Both second place teams are on 5-3-1 records.
London Angels 2 managed their first win of the season, 12-7 over Nottingham, behind the pitching of 13-year-old Fran Downes and some excellent fielding. So now every team in the division has a win on the board.
Most of the games in Division 2 were close on June 18, with only one game decided by more than six runs, and this was a big improvement on the previous LFSL session on June 11. But this division still needs more pitchers who can throw strikes on a consistent basis, and if that can be achieved, the quality of play will go up and the skills of some of the young players on these teams will get more expression.
Division 2 standings (wins, losses and draws) after three sessions are:
Hove Tuesday (8-1-0)
Richings Park (5-3-1)
East Anglia (5-4-0)
London Angels 2 (1-8)
The three men's and three women's teams that make up Division 1 at the LFSL play in the afternoons, and these were the teams that fell victim to the rain, completing just one round of games out of three.
But that round was enough to change the standings, with the previous leaders, the men's team Richings Park Red, losing 8-6 to the Richings Park Women and now sharing the top spot with a resurgent London Angels women's team, who rolled over the Oxford Wolverines (missing the league's top pitcher, Celine Lassaigne) by 12-1.
So the Wolverines, who were second in the standings after June 11, slipped to third.
In an all-male encounter, Richings Park Black defeated Berkshire, aka the GB Under-19 Men's Team, by a score of 6-2 and stayed in contact with the league leaders.
There are often fine defensive plays to be seen in Division 1 games, but there were none better on June 18 than a wonderful diving catch of a pop-up on an attempted bunt by Richings Park Women first base player Charlotte Wells, who will soon be displaying her skills, along with the rest of the GB Under-19 Women's Team, at the prestigious Canada Cup Open Tournament in Vancouver.
The Division 1 standings after a truncated day's play are (M=Men's Team and W=Women's Team):
M - Richings Park Red (5-2)
W - London Angels (5-2)
W - Oxford Wolverines (4-2-1)
M - Richings Park Black (3-3-1)
W - Richings Park Women (2-4-1)
M - Berkshire (0-6-1)
One of the most encouraging aspects of this year's LFSL, which exploded from five teams in 2010 to 12 teams this year, is that there seem to be enough players to fill out the teams and play the schedule on each LFSL day, despite all kinds of reasons why individual players are missing.
On June 11, almost a whole team of male players from the LFSL was playing for the London Meteors at the Zeisterslot Tournament in the Netherlands, including LFSL Director Stan Doney, but league games went on without a hitch.
On June 18, a number of slowpitch players who have joined the league this year were playing at the BA Tournament, while some key women fastpitch players were playing abroad in France or Slovenia -- but still the teams had enough players and games were played.
This takes some juggling of players to fill out the rosters on teams that are short, but the main thing is that the games go ahead (there has not been a single forfeit this year) and everyone has a good time.
The problem will arise again at the next LFSL date on Saturday, July 9, because all the players from the GB Under-19 Women's Team, most of whom play for both Division 1 and Division 2 teams, will be in Canada -- but Stan Doney is confident that games will go ahead.