Home British baseball National League: when 7 innings of baseball is 2 too few

National League: when 7 innings of baseball is 2 too few

by Joe Gray

In the British National League, games take place on a single day each week (almost always a Sunday), and 7-inning double-headers are typically played. While there are some players who would rather have a single 9-inning game each week, others are keen for as many innings of baseball to be played as possible. I side with the latter group, with my chief reason being that the more innings that are played, the fairer the comparisons of teams and players over the course of a season. However, to go that step further and make 9-inning double-headers the norm would almost certainly be too much baseball. And, for the most part, 7-inning games are fine.

It’s probably a good time to point out that this post marks my debut as a contributor to BaseballGB, and so I should have been on my best behaviour. Yet in my very first paragraph I’ve already strung two phrases together that could make many a reader baulk: “too much baseball” and “7-inning games are fine”. So some form of an explanation is probably called for.

Well, a 9-inning double-header would be great if a decent break was possible in the middle, but without floodlights in Britain it’s a case of making best use of the sun as possible, which means having almost no time between games. And while there may be a novelty factor to having 18 back-to-back innings of baseball, it’s one that would probably wear off pretty quickly. Also, think of those poor catchers who have no team-mate with whom to share the tools of ignorance. Spending 14 innings crouched behind the plate is a big ask of anyone; 18 would really be pushing it.

As for the “7-inning games are fine” comment, I hope it is sufficient to say that this is an opinion I have formed from observing this format most weekends over the past three seasons. There are some occasions, however, when I do find myself wishing that a particular game could last those extra 2 innings. One such example occurred last Sunday at Roundshaw, where the Croydon Pirates hosted the London Mets on the opening week of the British season. The two had battled it out in last year’s national final, with the Mets triumphing.

Making his debut for the Mets was Brian Essery, who had competed for the Great Britain national team in last year’s European championships, posting an ERA of 3.31 over 16.1 innings’ work. In game 1 on Sunday, he struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced, and 12 of the first 18. At the end of 7 innings, his total had climbed to 15. He had not walked or hit a single batter, and had thrown 93 pitches. While his pitch count might have prevented him going a full 9 innings, he certainly would have been coming out for the 8th. It just would have been good to know how many strike-outs he could have finished with if it was his arm rather than the conclusion of the 7th inning that brought about the end of his game.

Almost as impressive was Troy Kantor’s start for the Mets in game 2. In 5 innings, he threw 68 pitches, struck out 11, walked none, and conceded just one hit, a Ryan Barwick home run. Barwick, last season’s batting champion, also homered during game 1, in his first at-bat. Overall, he amassed 11 total bases in six at-bats across the two games.

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