The British Baseball postseason is underway and the sense of anticipation and excitement around the country can hardly be contained. After five months and 521 games in the British baseball leagues, the best teams in the country are now battling in the playoffs to book a place in the National Baseball Championships (NBC) which will take place on the weekend of 4 and 5 September to decide the 2010 champions.
Bad News Bird – 2009 MVP Ryan Bird is back in form and this can only be bad news for Richmond’s opponents in the postseason (photo by www.event-photos.co.uk)
Mildenhall advanced to the postseason with two wins against direct rivals Herts Falcons on the final day of the regular season. This sets up an intriguing playoff line-up in Britain’s top baseball league.
Both NBL playoff games will be played at Richmond’s Connare Field this Saturday. First up is the clash between Mildenhall and Southampton. The problem that has plagued the Bulldogs all season long is the fact that most of its players are US servicemen whose unpredictable working schedule can sometimes leave their squad down to bare bones. If their top performers are available then they will be a very awkward opponent and the Mustangs will have their work cut out, as they found out two weeks ago when they lost 0-6 and 2-3 to Mildenhall.
In the second game of the day starting at 3:30 pm, the Richmond Flames will meet the Croydon Pirates. After a slow start the Flames have picked up speed just at the right time. 2009 MVP Ryan Bird is back firing on all cylinders. He was the wining pitcher in the 13-0 win against 2009 champions Bracknell and that can only be bad news for the Pirates. Also returning for the Flames is Robbie Unsell, who was last year’s stolen base leader but missed several games this season after a freakish head injury trying to field a ground ball.
Despite Richmond’s recent return to form, Croydon have proven this year that they are capable of beating any NBL opponent. They have some very dangerous players in their line-up, most notably Home Run Champion Maikel Azcuy.
Oxford’s win against the Bracknell Inferno on Sunday confirmed them as the AAA (South) winners and they go straight through to the AAA NBC. This leaves the Bracknell Inferno and Herts Eagles fighting for the last remaining place in the AAA National Finals. They will meet this Saturday at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead. The two teams have been involved in some epic encounters so far this year so this playoff game is a mouth-watering prospect.
Catcher Dave Westfallen is expected to be one of the key men for the Eagles as they play the Bracknell Inferno for a place in the NBC (photo by www.HP2photographic.com)
Can the Blue Sox repeat their walk-off win against Birmingham or will the Maple Leafs get their revenge
While the National Baseball League (NBL) and AAA League completed their regular season schedule on Sunday, teams from the AA and Single-A Leagues were already going head-to-head.
The Leicester Blue Sox appear to be carrying a great deal of momentum into the postseason. After winning the AA (Midlands) divisional title earlier this month they met the Sheffield Bladerunners who were the runners-up in AA (North). The Blue Sox eased to a 19-9 win with Shannon Henry picking up another win on the mound, while Oscar Martinez provided the highlight of the game with a towering two-run home run.
Meanwhile, a second team from the Midlands booked a place in the AA Semi-Finals. The Birmingham Maple Leafs produced the most dominating performance in the 2010 postseason so far with a 18-1 blowout win over the Bolton Robots of Doom, which is the best team in AA (North). Birmingham and Leicester will clash once again at Western Park this Saturday at 12.00 noon in a repeat of the Midlands title decider. The Blue Sox came out on top that time, but the Maple Leafs will feel that have been given an opportunity for sweet revenge.
The team with the best record in the AA League, Richmond Knights, booked their place in the Semi-Final with a 10-6 win over the Windsor Bears. A two-run home run by Windsor slugger Clint Milner was not enough for the team from Berkshire. The Knights will meet the Poole Piranhas in the Semi-Final, after they overcame the Essex Archers by a score of 17-3. Shannon Hall was the winning pitcher, while Archers Manager, Darren Ludlow was saddled with the loss.
Despite the loss, Essex can be very proud of reaching the AA League playoffs in their first year after promotion from the Single-A League. And so, in accordance with the formbook, the Poole Piranhas will be travelling to Ham Ground to face the Richmond Knights. They Knights have the upper hand as they won convincingly when the two teams met in the first week of August in the regular season.
AA Playoffs (Semi-Finals) Saturday, 28 August 201012:00, Birmingham Maple Leafs (15-5) @ Leicester Blue Sox (15-5) (Western Park, Leicester). 12:00, Poole Piranhas (13-5) @ Richmond Knights (17-1) (Ham Ground Richmond).
The Chelmsford Clippers stunned British Baseball with a 16-12 win over the Richmond Dragons, who went into the playoffs as the favourite to go all the way and win the A-League title.
The Clippers clinched a place in the postseason in the last minute after the Old Timers dropped out. They may have had an average regular season with a modest 6-7 record, but that doesn’t seem to have affected them and their win over Richmond was an amazing achievement for a team in their first year of existence.
In the semi-final Chelmsford will play against Guildford, who produced a dominant performance to beat the Braintree Rays 22-14. Matt Bruce pitched a complete nine-inning win, recording 10 strikeouts for the Mavericks. Their better regular season record has given them home field advantage in the Semi-Final.
The other Semi-Final will be between the Humber Pilots and the MK Bucks, both of whom progress after convincing wins in their quarter-final games. Humber beat the Leicester Blue Sox in a high-scoring 36-12 win. MVP for the Pilots proved to be Lee Evans, who was the winning pitcher and also contributed offensively with a home run. MK Bucks beat Manchester Torrent 22-3. Tom Lloyd was the winning pitcher for the Bucks and his teammate Ross Barnes scored an inside-the-park home run. Barnes’ may have played his last game of the season as he is due to be posted to Afghanistan imminently. Will this setback prove to be decisive when the Bucks host the Pilots this Saturday?
A Playoffs (Semi-Finals)Saturday, 28 August 201014:00, Humber Pilots (14-8) @ Milton Keynes Bucks (13-7) (Woughton on the Green, Milton Keynes). 14:30, Chelmsford Clippers (6-7) @ Guildford Mavericks (9-4) (Broadwater School, Guildford).
Matt Bruce pitched a 9-inning complete game as the Mavericks knocked Braintree out of the postseason
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