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British Baseball Beat: National Baseball Championships preview

by Matt Smith

bbbHlsqThe National Baseball Championships, British baseball’s premiere event, takes place this weekend at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead.

It is both a cause for joy and a cause for sorrow.  Everything has been building to this point and four teams will come away from the tournament jubilant at their triumphant ends to the season.  The rest will be left with the disappointment of getting so close and just falling short, while we’ll all bemoan the fact that another season has come to an end.

National Baseball League

The London Mets and Bracknell Blazers will be joined by Richmond Flames and Southampton Mustangs at the NBC after they made it through the NBL playoffs on Saturday at the former’s Connare Field.

The third-placed Flames made sure they didn’t slip up at the last by earning a 10-2 win over Croydon Pirates.  The Pirates went 0-24 in 2009 so making it to the playoff stage this year was a notable comeback by an organization that was a fixture in the British final between 2004 and 2007. 

The Pirates’ return to respectability was trumped by Southampton Mustangs who have made it to the NBC at their first attempt in the top tier thanks to a 11-7 win over Mildenhall Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs were seen as a real threat to the Mustangs, but Southampton made sure that their fourth-placed finish in the league would not be un-done by a playoff loss.  Further reaction can be found in Simon Fitzjohn’s report.

The results mean that the NBC will be contested by the top four teams from the regular season and while the Mets and Blazers would be favourites to repeat their final from last year, the Flames and Mustangs should not be discounted from causing an upset. 


As in the NBL, the AAA National Baseball Championship takes the form of a four-team double-elimination event.  There was one space left on Saturday and it was the Herts Eagles who grabbed it after beating Bracknell Inferno 14-3.  Darrin Ward pitched all seven innings for the Eagles, giving up just five hits and three runs in the process, while Inferno’s pitching staff struggled to find the strikezone, handing out sixteen walks. 

The Eagles were due to join Liverpool Trojans, Menwith Hill Patriots and Oxford Kings in the AAA NBC; however, unfortunately the Patriots are now unable to attend due to the team’s obligations at the RAF Menwith Hill airbase.  The BBF will announce confirmation of the team to replace the Patriots in due course.

The presence of the top team from the North and the top two from the South will ensure it’s a fascinating tournament in any case, providing us with a rare glimpse of how the two leagues stack up against each other.


The AA NBC will be a single nine-inning game on Sunday this year, pitting the Leicester Blue Sox against Richmond Knights.

The Blue Sox and the Birmingham Maple Leafs, fierce Midlands rivals, could once again only be separated by a single run at the former’s Western Field.  Leicester opened up a 7-4 lead in the early going only for the Maple Leafs, true to form, to battle back to even the score at 8-8 in the top of the sixth.  The Blue Sox showed they would not be rattled and hit back straight away with two runs in the bottom of the inning and Birmingham could only manage one further run in reply, resulting in a final score of 10-9 in the home team’s favour.  The Blue Sox celebrated the final out with glee and are now just one win away from following a 2009 A Championship with an AA title the following year.

If they are going to do it, the Blue Sox will have to blunt a buzz-saw in the Richmond Knights.  After losing their opening game of the season, the Knights won seventeen straight to take the AA South.  They made it eighteen on the spin with their win over Windsor Bears in the first playoff round and increased their run to nineteen wins with a comfortable 11-4 victory over Poole Piranhas.  Starting pitcher Daniel Lally struck out ten Piranhas over nine innings, while Nick Osborne led the offence with a 4-for-4 day, including a home run.


Like the AA final, the A NBC is a single nine-inning game on Sunday that pits a Midlands team, MK Bucks, against a team from the south, Guildford Mavericks. The Bucks booked their NBC spot by shutting out the Humber Pilots 7-0. 

Meanwhile the Mavericks brought an end to Chelmsford Clipper’s impressive debut season with a 25-7 playoff victory.  A nine-run second inning for Guildford, in which they batted around, put the Clippers into a hole and the Mavericks were ruthless in building on that early advantage, while also keeping Chelmsford’s offence in check with strong pitching and defence.  They led 25-2 heading into the top of the seventh inning, leaving the Clippers needing to plate fourteen runs to avoid a ‘mercy kill’ defeat.  Chelmsford refused to do down with a whimper and were able to score five times, but the Mavericks’ catcher Rob Wheeler caught Adam Commons trying to steal third base to end the game. 

The Clippers were magnanimous in defeat, stating that “No one will begrudge the Mavericks the chance to represent the Southern Conference in the finals as they were superb for their win and showed that they have depth in numbers as well as talent”.

Further details about the National Baseball Championships will be available on the British Baseball Federation website and Herts are sure to put on a great event.  The one personal disappointment is that I will not be able to attend, but I have written an article for the NBC programme so get along if you can and make sure you pick up a copy!

Good luck to all involved.

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Michael Jones September 2, 2010 - 8:43 am

Good luck to the teams at this weekend’s tournament. They all deserve to be there based on their work this season, so good to see representation from across the country.

To put Adam’s caught-stealing in context, it was only our second all year and his first in 51 successful attempts (he’s a freak for stats), but the play was really tight and by his own admission he didn’t expect to get picked off. Great work by Rob, Pete and Kevin to get him.

Michael Jones
Club Secretary
Chelmsford Clippers Baseball Club

Joe Gray September 2, 2010 - 6:46 pm

I’m sure the Patriots are gutted not to be making the trip, and this is totally out of their hands. But this is not the first time a development of this nature will cause complications (to put it kindly) at a national finals. I’m still to be convinced that the pros of having base teams in the league outweigh the cons.

Joe Gray September 2, 2010 - 6:52 pm


I’m loving the biographies on your club’s site (clickable through your name above), and must sned my highest compliments to David Bennett on his taste in music.


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