We have a mix of domestic and international news this week, as the usual British Baseball Federation action is joined by the start of a major international baseball tournament.
The Senior Great Britain National Team has enjoyed unprecedented success over the last three years: a silver medal finish in the 2007 European Championships and a Second Round appearance in the 2009 World Cup.Â With those achievements behind them, Team GB head out on the tournament trail yet again this week for the 2010 European Championships in Germany, with the teamâ€™s first game scheduled for Friday.
Great Britain face a significant challenge in repeating their 2007 success but guided by a new Manager, Pat Doyle, and General Manager, Jason Greenberg, you can be certain that the half-hearted, lamentable performance of Englandâ€™s football team this summer will not be repeated in the ballparks of Stuttgart, Heidenheim and Neuenberg.Â The roster for this tournament contains a number of current or former BBF league players alongside British-eligible players intent on representing the country with pride.Â Â
The group stage consists of two groups of six teams, with each team playing a game against the other five teams in their respective group.Â Great Britain are in Group B and the team’s schedule is as follows:Â
Friday 23 July
10:30 Croatia (Stuttgart)Â Â Â Â
Saturday 24 July
14:30 Sweden (Stuttgart)Â Â Â
Sunday 25 July
10:30 Italy (Stuttgart)Â Â Â Â
Monday 26 July
13:00 Spain (Heidenheim)Â Â Â
Tuesday 27 July
17:00Â Greece (Neuenburg)
Times are listed in Central European Time, so take one hour off to get the British Summer Time start (e.g. Fridayâ€™s game is 9.30 BST).
The top three teams from each group will go through to the next round.Â Italy and Spain are ranked 12th and 17th respectively in the International Baseball Federationâ€™s world rankings and are strong favourites to book two of those spots.Â If so, that will leave Team GB battling with the remaining three teams for the final place.Â
A winning start on Friday would really set Great Britain on their way and Pat Doyleâ€™s men only need to look back to last yearâ€™s World Cup for inspiration.Â Team GB faced Croatia in Zagreb in a do-or-die game, knowing that a loss would send them home at the end of the first round.Â The team played brilliantly under pressure, with Chris Berset launching a two-run homer and former London Met Brian Essery pitching five scoreless innings as Great Britain prevailed 4-1.Â Essery is on the roster once again and Pat Doyle may be tempted to begin the EC campaign by sending him out there to pick up from where he left off last time.
All members of the playing squad and coaching staff are profiled on the Great Britain Baseball website, where you will also be able to find post-game reports.Â The only first round game being broadcast on Eurosport is the Italy-Spain encounter on Friday, although the Confederation of European Baseball will almost certainly be providing a way to keep track of every game, most likely via a play-by-play account.
NBL: Pirates earn a split with the Mets
Back on the domestic front, the London Mets (19-3) were on course to seal a top two spot after winning their opening game of a double-header 11-1 against Croydon Pirates (7-13) at the formerâ€™s Finsbury Park base last Sunday. However, the visiting team stunned the league-leaders with a 11-1 win of their own in the second game.Â Richmond Flames (11-9) could only manage a split against the Herts Falcons (6-12), allowing Southampton Mustangs (12-10) to continue their impressive march up the NBL table into third place with a double-header sweep over Essex Arrows (3-17).Â The Mustangs and Flames are scheduled to meet this Sunday for a double-header in Richmond, Bracknell Blazers travel to Herts to take on the Falcons, Croydon Pirates will be at RAF Feltwell to face Mildenhall Bulldogs and the London Mets look to finally book their National Baseball Championship place with a win or two away to Essex Arrows.
Further details and reaction from last Sundayâ€™s games can be found in Simon Fitzjohnâ€™s report.
AAA: Trojans and Kings extend their leads
Liverpool Trojans (15-5) extended their lead in the North to two games thanks to a pair of wins against Manchester Aâ€™s (12-8).Â Pitcher Rob Vondy continued his excellent season for the Trojans by holding the Aâ€™s scoreless over the first five innings of the second game.Â Liverpool are set to travel to Halton for a double-header against the Jaguars (5-15) this Sunday, Harrogate Tigers (10-4) are scheduled to host the Menwith Hill Patriots (13-7), while the Aâ€™s travel to Glasgow (1-17) looking to bounce back from their two losses to Liverpool.
In the South, Oxford Kings (17-1) increased their commanding lead at the top of the table as Kent Mariners (0-18) forfeited their two games.Â Bristol Badgers (5-9) and London Metros (4-12) split a double-header, with the Badgers winning the opener on the back of a 10 strikeout outing by Gian Jimenez and the Metros walking off as 5-4 victors in the second game.Â Herts Eagles (11-5) and Essex Redbacks (6-8) also took a win apiece in their double-header.Â The second and third placed teams meet this Sunday as Bracknell Inferno (12-4) travel to Herts Eagles, while Oxford Kings host Essex Redbacks.
AA: Two wins each for the Bucks, Torrent and Bladerunners
MK Bucks (7-7) moved to a .500 record in the Midlands by taking two wins against Leicester Blue Sox 2 (2-12) by a combined score of 43-6.Â They are due to host Mildenhall Bulldogs 2 (1-8) this Sunday, although the Bulldogs have struggled to get a team together in recent weeks.Â Thereâ€™s unlikely to be a shortage of players in Leicester as the Blue Sox (10-4) and Blue Sox 2 meet for an intra-club derby.Â Thatâ€™s sure to be a competitive and entertaining day of baseball, so get along to Western Park if you are in the area.
In the North, the league-leading Bolton Robots of Doom (11-5) were flying the British baseball flag abroad by finishing fourth in a tournament in the Netherlands.Â While they were away, Manchester Torrent (10-6) and Sheffield Bladerunners (11-7) closed to within one game of the top spot.Â Torrent took two wins courtesy of forfeits by Oldham North Stars (0-17), while it was a case of Bladerunnersâ€™ revenge in Sheffield as they defeated Humber Pilots (9-6) twice, one week after the Pilots had inflicted two defeats on them. Bolton and Manchester meet this Sunday, while the Pilots host the North Stars.
In the South, the big double-header failed to materialise as Sidewinders (7-6) had to forfeit their two games against Poole Piranhas.Â That moved the Pool A-leading Piranhas to 12-2 and they will increase that to 13-2 if Horsham Hurricanes (0-13) forfeit their scheduled fixture this Sunday, as is likely.Â Richmond Knights (12-1) earned an 18-4 victory over Herts Hawks (3-9) to keep a 1.5 game lead over Essex Archers (11-3) in Pool B.Â The Archers travel to Windsor this weekend for a double-header against the Bears (9-5), who sit second in Pool A.
A: Mavericks strike against the Rays, Dragons keep ahead
The Braintree Raysâ€™ (5-5)Â have now lost three in a rowÂ asÂ Guildford Mavericks (7-2) beat them 32-3 on Sunday in the A South.Â That loss allowed Old Timers (5-4) to jump ahead of the Rays to the top of Pool B despite not playing on Sunday.Â Guildford stay in second place in Pool A as Richmond Dragons (10-2) maintained their 1.5 game lead thanks to a 24-4 win over Herts Raptors (1-10).Â The games scheduled for this Sunday are: Southampton Mustangs II (6-3) @ Chelmsford Clippers (5-6), Old Timers @ Guildford Mavericks, Braintree Rays @ London Marauders (3-5), and Bracknell Pyros (3-6) @ Herts Raptors.