Home British baseball British Baseball Beat: 2011 opening games

British Baseball Beat: 2011 opening games

by Matt Smith

BBBThe 2011 British baseball season got underway on Sunday.  All but the AA-North division started out prior to this weekend’s Easter break, setting the opening agenda before we get right back to the action on Sunday 1 May.

The new British Baseball Federation (BBF) website provides a variety of ways in which you can catch up on all the Opening Day scores.  This includes some excellent division round-ups for the AA-Midlands, AAA-North and AAA-South. 

Our focus this week is on the teams that are either new to the league or who have changed divisions over the offseason.

Contrasting fortunes for D-Backs and Nationals

There are two teams new to the National Baseball League (NBL) and they experienced mixed fortunes on Opening Day. 

Lakenheath Diamondbacks couldn’t have hoped for a better start, winning both games of the ‘Battle of the Bases’ double-header against Mildenhall Bulldogs.  They were two close contests and the Bulldogs will already have 26 June circled on their schedule, eagerly awaiting a chance to turn the tables on their United States Army Air Force rivals.  Meanwhile at Finsbury Park, Southern Nationals suffered a pair of one-run defeats at the hands of the London Mets. 

In fact, the main story from Opening Day in the NBL is that it looks like being an extremely competitive division.  The Essex Arrows gained a split against the reigning champion Richmond Flames, while Croydon Pirates let a 12-5 lead slip only to grab a 13-12 walk-off win to split a double-header with Bracknell. Southampton Mustangs opened their season with an impressive two-game sweep away to Herts Falcons, although the latter will be encouraged by their battling performance in the second game while coping with a long list of injuries.

Kings reign over Knights

In the AAA-South league, last year’s AA Champion Richmond Knights started life in the higher league with a double-header against the AAA Champion Oxford Kings. 

The Kings wasted little time in imposing their authority on the newcomers, taking the opener 13-2 with the game being called after five innings. So ended the Knights’ regular season game winning streak at 20 games and they took the loss in the second game as well; however they recovered from an early 7-0 deficit to take the game to its full seven innings, eventually succumbing by a score of 14-6.  The Kings showed why they are considered the team to beat, but it shouldn’t be long before the Knights get another patented winning streak going.

While there are no new teams in the AAA-North, it’s certainly worth pointing out the double-header wins by Liverpool Trojans and Manchester A’s, over the Halton Jaguars and Menwith Hill Patriots respectively.   The Trojans’ 2011 goal is clear: win the AAA-North and then take the AAA title that so narrowly eluded them last year.  With the type of strong pitching that Martin Godsall and Rob Vondy showed against the Jags, they’ve got every chance of doing just that.  The question is whether any of their North or South rivals can stop them?

Bucks beat the Rebels, Mavericks slay the Dragons

In the AA-Midlands, the newcomer Nottingham Rebels faced a similar fate to that of the Southern Nationals and Richmond Knights.  They lost both games to an established rival, in the Rebels’ case the Milton Kenyes Bucks, but showed they are more than worth their place in the division and that they have plenty of potential. 

The same can be stated for the Essex Redbacks 2 in the AA-South.  They were involved in one of the top games on Opening Day, leading the Brentwood Stags 7-3 heading into the seventh inning only to suffer a heartbreaking 9-8 loss with the Stags scoring three times in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off win. 

Guildford Mavericks took an 11-5 debut win in the AA-South against the Richmond Dragons.  The Mavericks’ pitcher Kevin Zanes recovered from conceding three runs in the first inning to limit the Dragons to only two more runs the rest of the way.  The offence did the rest, with third baseman James Guerra leading the way with five RBIs.

Regal start for Royals

The Cambridge Royals celebrated their return to the British leagues in A-South with a comprehensive 33-5 win over Herts Raptors.  The Royals’ next scheduled game is due to mark the return of baseball to Cambridge’s Coldham’s Common; however their opponents, Tonbridge, had to forfeit their opening contest due to a lack of players so we await confirmation that the game will go ahead as planned.

Tonbridge were scheduled to face the other A-South newcomers, the Guildford Mavericks 2, on Sunday.  Both teams were keen to get their seasons underway so they did play a game with the Mavericks lending Tonbridge a few players and coming out on top by a final score of 16-8.  It goes into the BBF books as a 9-0 forfeit in favour of the Mavericks 2, meaning a winning start for the new team, but it was good to see the teams enjoying a game regardless of the official outcome already being known.

Don’t miss our BSUK podcast

Following Opening Day, Joe Gray and I spent some time chatting to BSUK’s Jason Greenberg about the 2011 BBF League structure, our opinions on the new BBF website, and offered some thoughts on teams and players to keep an eye out for during the season ahead.  Why not take a listen to the podcast?

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Matthew Crawshaw April 21, 2011 - 10:40 pm

Really enjoyed the podcast hope it becomes a regular feature.

How is it recorded as the audio seems way off?

Michael Jones April 22, 2011 - 9:32 am

Great round-up, again, Matt.

Just a thought – how much do you think the umpire situation may affect the games in the coming season? Most of us have had to umpire ourselves anyway over the past few years, so I can’t see it proving a massive issue, although it weakens the position of the game a little.

One of our players only started playing baseball after his enquiry to become an umpire was dismissed!


Luke Foley April 22, 2011 - 12:49 pm

Hey Matt,

I agree that the NBL is going to be really competitive this year, I don’t know whether Richmond were missing any players but ourselves (Arrows) should have another 4 players due back in the coming weeks from various maladies such as eye surgery and a broken jaw. So hopefully our good start can be maintained. I enjoyed the games at the weekend.

I have a question for you or Joe, on Sunday we had an official scorer from the GBBSA come down that we paid called Charles. Should we have expected him to put the stats from the game on the new bbf website?

Matt Smith April 22, 2011 - 8:29 pm

Matthew – we do it via Skype. It’s only our second time at it and we’re learning a lot as we go along to improve it each time. The plan is to do one a month.

Michael – I think that remains to be seen. Hopefully a solution can be found because it’s a frustrating situation.

Luke – The Arrows’ getting a split was a very positive way to start the season, particularly with the injuries you mention. The 1st year in the NBL in 2010 must have been an excellent learning experience and fingers crossed Essex can go from strength to strength. I’ll leave Joe to answer your scorer question when he’s next able to catch up with it.

Joe Gray April 22, 2011 - 8:55 pm

Luke — Charles is a very reliable scorer and he supplied me with full stats promptly after the game. We are currently reviewing whether stats will go up on gbbsa.org.uk or britishbaseball.org this year — this is the reason for the hold-up. If it is the latter we cannot do anything much until teams have put their full rosters up.

Joe Gray April 22, 2011 - 9:00 pm

Another point to add on that is that Charles was helping out there as he was the away team’s scorer but was covering the game in the absence of a home team scorer.


Luke Foley April 23, 2011 - 12:18 pm

Thanks guys,

I was just wondering because I wanted to make sure that we wasn’t supposed to get a copy and put it up on the site ourselves. Thanks for the quick replies.


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