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British Baseball Beat: Unbeaten no more

by Matt Smith

Two teams entered the latest round of British baseball league games with unbeaten records to protect.

By the end of Sunday, the hopes of a perfect season by the Nottingham Rebels and Daws Hill Spitfires had been dashed.

Daws Hill downed by Hove

In the case of the AA-South Spitfires, they went into their double-header against Hove Tuesday knowing that their unbeaten record was about to be put to its toughest test so far.

That proved to be the case as the league leaders shot down the Spitfires in the first game of their double-header by a score of 12-2, ending Daws Hill’s winning run at seven games.

The Spitfires were missing several players on the day and ended up dropping the second game too, although this was a ding-dong 15-14 affair that could have gone either way, showing that the Spitfires may have lost their unbeaten record but they certainly hadn’t lost their fighting spirit.

The results put Daws Hill in third place in the league, three games behind Hove Tuesday but with several games in hand on those around them. The Spitfires will face another tough double-header this Sunday against the fourth-placed Guildford Mavericks. The Mavericks had a four-game winning streak ended by Hove on 16 July so both teams will be out to put losses against the top team behind them.

Blue Sox do it again

There was always a good chance that Hove might end the Spitfires’ streak, but the AAA-Midlands’ Nottingham Rebels looked well placed to build on their 12-0 start and to make it all the way to the end of the regular season leaving a pristine ‘0’ in the loss column.

Their first game against the Leicester Blue Sox last Sunday suggested that this was likely to be the case, although not due to Nottingham running away with a dominant home win.

The Blue Sox, who came into the double-header with a 2-7 record, pushed their rivals all the way and the two teams could not be separated in the regulation seven innings. The Rebels were able to break the deadlock in the bottom of the eighth to capture an 8-7 win and you could be forgiven for seeing it as a typical champion victory: coming through and winning the game even when they were not at their best.

However, far from being frustrated by narrowly losing the opener, the defeat seemed to galvanize the Blue Sox as they jumped on the Rebels’ starting pitcher, Shannon Henry, in the second game and put eleven runs on the board in the first inning alone. Nottingham’s 13th win of the season proved to be unlucky as they saw their unbeaten run come to an end in an 18-7 5-inning mercy-rule defeat.

The Rebels may have had Yogi Berra’s ‘it’s de ja vu all over again’ quote running through their heads on Sunday evening. They started the 2012 season 11-0 only to have their unbeaten season ended by the same Blue Sox.

Nottingham are still in a strong position leading the division by three games, but it’s sure to rankle a bit that Leicester tripped them up yet again. The Rebels will need to put the loss behind them quickly as they face the second-placed MK Bucks this Sunday and they won’t need reminding that they played the Bucks after their loss to Leicester last year and suffered a second straight defeat.

As for the Blue Sox, last year they followed up their victory over Nottingham with a 15-2 win over the Stourbridge Titans and they will be hoping to repeat the trick on Sunday to put themselves back into playoff contention.

A good day for Southampton

The AA-South Southampton Mustangs II had the reverse experience of the Spitfires and Rebels on Sunday.

Southampton’s second team had started their league campaign with ten consecutive losses, but a trip to Croydon to take on the South London Pirates III team saw them finally break their duck. A narrow 11-10 victory in the first game got them off and running and they followed it up with a more comfortable 13-3 win in the second game, scoring nine of their runs in the first inning.

Results-wise it was a good trip all around for Southampton as the first team picked up two wins against the Pirates in the National Baseball League. The only sour note came from the manner in which they were awarded the second victory, as the game was forfeited by the Pirates when their sole remaining pitcher was ejected.

The Mustangs’ manager Ben Davis expressed his displeasure in the BBF NBL report, stating, “I am not happy about a forfeit win for the second game.  It is a long way to go to play one game and I don’t believe in the top league in the country that this should happen”. His frustration was very understandable, but his team has now won eight in a row and all of those victories have come on the road. They will now finish their regular season with four consecutive home double-headers, the final one coming against the Pirates.

London’s 6-0 Sunday

The London Mets Baseball Club went two better than the Mustangs on Sunday.

Both of their AAA-South teams, the Metros and Mets II swept their double-headers against the Cambridge Royals and Oxford Kings respectively, whilst the NBL London Mets took two wins on Sunday against the Lakenheath Diamondbacks in a rearranged double-header (the Mets were originally scheduled to face the Essex Arrows) to improve their season record to 11-3 and to make it a 6-0 Sunday for the Club.

The Mets’ wins in the top-tier were matched by the Herts Falcons also winning both games of their double-header against the Essex Redbacks.

The results leave the Falcons top of the NBL on 14-4, the Mustangs narrowly behind on winning percentage points on 15-5 and the Mets one game back on 11-3 with four games in hand on the Falcons and six on the Mustangs.

The Harlow Nationals are a further four games behind the Mets on 9-9, so it’s looking like a three-way battle for the top two automatic NBC spots.

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