Home British baseball National Baseball League: Return of the seamed sphere

National Baseball League: Return of the seamed sphere

by Joe Gray

Going into this weekend, the last remaining question in terms of qualification for the National Finals in the NBL was the second-place spot in the NBL North, but the Liverpool Trojans forfeited their games against the Menwith Hill Patriots, meaning that the Patriots’ cushion for that qualifying berth has grown to 6.5 games. Manchester had a weekend off and so remain on top with a 13-2 record.

Assuming there are no more forfeits (and the reason I say that is because teams get docked wins from their season total as a punishment for forfeiting games), the best Liverpool can now finish is 9-13, while the worst Menwith Hill can do is 8-14, so the Patriots’ magic number for qualifying is 2 (or, if you prefer, 2 is the Trojans’ tragic number).

In the NBL South, the Richmond Flames’ double-header against the London Mets was postponed, meaning that the games between the Croydon Pirates and the Bracknell Blazers at Roundshaw were the only ones played in the top tier; that is where I spent my Sunday. Owing to the mid-season break, I hadn’t seen a seemed sphere thrown in four weeks, but the baseball god(s) eased me back into the game with a feast fit for any lover of the sport.

The Blazers plated the first run of the game in the bottom of the 5th (note that they were technically the home side although the game took place at Croydon’s ground). A scoreless 6th meant that Croydon needed to score to keep the game alive in the top of the 7th. The Pirates strung together two hits and a base on balls to load the sacks with one out. Pinch hitting, Alex McGregor was then kind enough to connect for a potential double-play ball and set in motion what is possibly my favourite play in the sport: with one down and runners on first and third, and optionally on second too, the fielding team attempts to turn a double-play to end the inning on a force out and thus prevent the run that crosses the plate from third counting. If one run has a major bearing on the course of the game, then it can be great to watch this play unfold.

Returning to the game, McGregor hustled down the line and beat the throw, meaning that the game was tied 1-1, and it stayed that way going into the bottom of the 7th. Fittingly, this tense match was won on another great play, a squeeze bunt, with Bracknell’s Mike Cattermole scoring the run off the bat of Paul Vernon (out of retirement for the game).

It’s a rarity to have such a low-scoring game in this country, and so contests like this one should be savoured. As if the aforementioned baseball god(s) needed to remind me of this, the next game was radically different. Croydon had scored just 44 runs in their first 17 games of the season but managed to add 28 more to that total in their 18th game, on 20 hits (and ensure that these teams split the series for the third time in as many double-headers). Bracknell managed eight runs of their own, on 12 hits, and early on the contest was shaping up to be just as close as game one. Both teams scored two runs in the first and three runs in the second, and things swung Bracknell’s way in the third with Ryan Trask’s solo home run (number four of the year, which is good for the joint lead in the category) giving his side a slender advantage. Croydon opened up a gap with a four-run 4th inning, but Bracknell answered with another run in the bottom of that inning to reduce the margin to two. It was only after that point that Croydon started to ease to victory.

The batting performance of the day belonged to Croydon’s Ty Touchstone, who went 6-for-7 with two doubles, a triple, and three walks. The winning pitcher in game one was Henry Collins (7 innings, 1 earned run, 5 hits, 4 walks, and 7 strike-outs). Kieran Clackett got the loss (6 innings, 1 earned run, 2 hits, 5 walks, 10 strike-outs). Jared Uys got the win and Cattermole the loss in game two.

To finish with a statistical oddity, Croydon took their total number of left fielders this season to 17, which is just under one new player at the position per game.



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1 comment

National Baseball League: Patriots close in on National Finals - News - British Baseball Leagues - Mister Baseball July 28, 2008 - 1:54 pm

[…] For a more detailed story on the CROYDON-BRACKNELL match-up, check out BaseballGB. […]


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