Fastpitch League gets off to a great start

Fri 9 May 2014

It has been a really good first two weeks for the Great Britain Fastpitch League (GBFL) in 2014.  The league has been blessed with sunshine, plenty of players, enough good pitching, some brilliant visiting umpires, close games, great atmosphere, the excellent pitches at Farnham Park – and some strange results!

This year, in an attempt to stay clear of significant slowpitch tournaments, the GBFL, once again run by Stan Doney with support from the GB Management Committee, has crammed its entire season into a six-week period from 26 April through 31 May.  During that time, the league is playing on every Saturday except the weekend of 10-11 May, when the first Diamond Series tournament took over Farnham Park.

This kind of crowded schedule is good for consistency, but for those players who will be playing for GB Fastpitch Teams in overseas competition this year in July and August, stopping competitive games at the end of May may not be the best idea.
 

Good vibes

Although there were fears that there might not be enough pitchers to provide quality games throughout the league this season, and that pitching machines might have to be used, that hasn't been the case so far.  And on the league's second day of play, on 3 May, two experienced Australian women umpires who are going for their ISF qualification turned up, augmenting the British umpires marshalled by BASU Fastpitch Officer David Hurley.

Also present on 3 May was food for the players, in the form of rolls, potato salad and chocolate cake provided by members of the GB Management Committee.  The money raised will go back into GB Softball.  Or the players could walk across to the baseball diamond, where the second week of play in the GB All-Star Series was taking place, and buy hot dogs from GB Baseball!

The atmosphere and the games during the first two weeks of play has been excellent, and all the teams appear to be enjoying themselves.  Which of course is what it's all about....

You can see video footage from GBFL play on 3 May by clicking here.

 

DIVISION 1

The GBFL in 2014 is composed of two four-team divisions based on ability and experience, and some of the teams in both divisions are a mixture of male and female players.

In Division 1, and currently leading the standings with only one loss, is a Great Britain Combined Team, made up of GB Women, GB Under-19 Women and GB Men's Team players, while Oxford Fastpitch, currently in third place in the division, also mixes male and female players. 

The sole women-only team in Division 1, the London Angels, have so far managed only a win and a draw, but have played a large number of close games.  The sole men-only team, the London Meteors, is currently in second place, a couple of games behind GB Combined.

At the start of GBFL play, on Saturday 26 April, a new rule was introduced that made games better straight away.  The rule is that the lower-seeded team in each game gets to start each inning with a runner at second base.

The effect was seen immediately in the very first game in Division 1, where the London Angels drew 6-6 with London Meteors, a team they have rarely if ever beaten.  The Angels took full advantage of the rule, scoring most of the runners that started at second base, and if they had realised the rule was in place in the very first inning, they might have won the game!  The next time the two teams met, on 3 May, the Angels did defeat the Meteors by a score of 7-6.

The new team in Division One this year, GB Combined, started off in good form, winning comfortably, 13-0, against Oxford Fastpitch with John Brown pitching and Chiya Louie at shortstop.

But the Oxford team came good in a game against London Angels.  Oxford did not win a game in the GBFL in 2013 and London Angels (admittedly with some different players), were European B Pool Cup champions last season. So it was quite a surprise when Oxford beat the Angels 8-4.

Meanwhile, the London Meteors suffered their first loss in the GBFL in three years, losing 4-1 against the GB Combined team. It was a good game and both teams had opportunities to score runs.  The following week, on 3 May, the Meteors had their revenge, beating GB Combined 5-1 in another excellent game to keep themselves in the hunt for the division title.
 

Division 1 standings going into the next round of games on 17 May are:

TEAM W L D RF RA
GB Combined 5 1 0 40 12
London Meteors 3 2 1 43 27
Oxford Fastpitch 2 4 0 30 59
London Angels 1 4 1 30 45


Full results and standings from the first two weeks of Division 1 play can be seen here

DIVISION 2

The leader in Division 2 after two weeks of play is currently its only all-male team, the GB Under-19 Men, who are also the only undefeated team in either division with a 6-0 record. 

Stan Doney commented: “Damon Brown and Matt Tomlin have learned how to throw strikes in the off-season and what a difference it makes – not only to the team but to the league.  It is not European-level pitching yet, but if the hard work is put in the GB Under-19 Men may have more competitive games in Europe in 2015.”

Until this year, the GB Under-19 Men had never beaten the Under-19 Women, but now the Under-19 Women are behind them in second place.

Stan Doney's view: “The GB Under-19 Women look good in patches and can make some great plays.  I don't think the Under-19 Women are finished with the Men once they get their full squad out.”

Third place in Division 2 is currently occupied by a GB Under-16 Combined team with male and female players.

Stan Doney said: “The highlight of the GBFL so far has to be the GB Under-16 Combined Team.  They keep turning up fearless and have managed to scramble a record of two wins, three defeats and a draw.  Starting with a runner on second every inning helps, but they have done well and look to be constantly learning from their mistakes. GB Under-16 coaches Jeremy Thomas and Joss Thompson along with Larry Rushin have done a great job so far keeping the enthusiasm up and a big thank you must go to the bigger 'Under-16s', Robbie Robison and Ryan Martin, for pitching on behalf of the team.  Without these two, we would have had to revert to pitching machines in order for the games to be played.”

This year, the GBFL has been augmented by East Midlands Fastpitch, a combination team from the East Midlands Fastpitch League [http://www.britishsoftball.org/news/view/east-midlands-fastpitch-league-gets-under-way], now in its second season. 

East Midlands are the only team yet to win a game and sit at the bottom of Division 2 after two weekends of play, mainly due to the fact that other teams have more pitching strength.  But they are gaining valuable experience to take back to their teams in Leicester and Nottingham.
 

Division 2 standings going into the next round of games on 17 May are:

TEAM W L D RF RA
GB Under-19 Men 6 0 0 59 16
GB Under-19 Women 3 2 1 52 28
GB Under-16 Combined 2 3 1 27 32
East Midlands Fastpitch 0 6 0 11 73


Full results and standings from the first two weeks of Division 2 play can be seen here.


Photos by Jan Grafton.

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