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by BSUK Special Correspondent Simon Fitzjohn
Richmond Flames won their first national title since 2006 when they defeated Bracknell Blazers in the final at the National Baseball Championships played at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead over the weekend of September 4-5.
The London Mets and Southampton Mustangs, the other National League teams to qualify for the Championships, had bowed out earlier in the weekend.
Aside from the main NBL action, there were three other National Championship titles up for grabs, with the Oxford Kings taking AAA honours, the Richmond Knights earning the AA title and the MK Bucks winning the Single A championship.


Herts Baseball Club hosted the 2010 National Baseball Championships at their picturesque two-diamond venue in Hemel Hempstead (photo by

It was a day of surprises as the Richmond Flames, who finished third in the National Baseball League regular season standings, advanced straight to Sunday's final by dumping both the London Mets and Bracknell Blazers.
Both Bracknell and the Mets eased past Southampton on Saturday, eliminating the Mustangs in the process and setting up a winner-takes-all semi-final showdown on Sunday.


The NBC got off to an entertaining start as Richmond disposed of Bracknell by a score of 6-3. The Flames jumped out to an early lead, and with a strong pitching display from Ryan Bird, held on despite a Bracknell rally. Cody Cain clubbed a home run for Richmond, and Michael Osborn slapped a two-run single to pace their offence. For the Blazers, Reiniel Martinez was the tough-luck loser, giving up four runs in six innings of work, while Henry Collins singled in their only earned run.
There was no such surprise in Game Two, as the London Mets cruised past the underdog Mustangs by 8-2. Southampton actually took the lead in the top of the second inning thanks to a Ben Davis RBI, but that merely stunned the league leaders into action. With Alberto CascielloDan Williams and Alex Pike all contributing two RBIs each, London moved into a 7-2 lead after three innings and never looked back. Reid Wilson pitched the first known top-tier postseason no-hitter (according to the GBBSA archives dating back to 1994), which was a complete game win for the Mets.  Mustangs pitchers Chuck TruelsonLee Ralph and Dave Wrigley each had two innings of work, and each were hit around by the mighty London offense.  Wilson's no-hitter was achieved despite throwing nine walks!
In the second round of Saturday games the Flames tangled with the Mets, with London expected to move to the final by disposing of Richmond. But the Flames jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and with Michael Osborn pitching a gem they continued to keep the Mets at bay. Carlos Manchino went 3-for-4 for Richmond, launching a home run in the process as the Flames kept picking away at London starter Bryan Anderson. The Flames scored runs in five of the seven innings to earn a fully-deserved 8-2 verdict.


Cody Cain was the 2010 National League MVP, striking out 12 in his complete-game victory over Bracknell (photo by

 With Richmond and London having advanced, the final game of Saturday was a do-or-die struggle as Bracknell clashed with Southampton with the losers set for an early exit. The game began as a pitching duel between Matt Maitland and Gary Davison and was tied at 1-1 after four innings. But Bracknell broke through late on, scoring six runs in the final innings thanks to home runs from Mike TraskRyan Trask and Matt Maitland as they finally prevailed by a score of 7-3. 

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The NBL's top two sides as far as the league standings were concerned opened Sunday's action as Bracknell and London met with a final spot open for the winner and a hasty exit for the loser.

And befitting the occasion, the teams produced a thrilling contest, which required ten innings to find a victor.

The Blazers got off to a fast start, scoring two runs in the top of the first, thanks in part to a Mike Trask triple that drove in Leo Nogami. But the Mets responded with four runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, with a two-run throwing error from Ryan Trask aiding their cause.

Both sides began to settle down after that, but Ryan Trask got Bracknell back on the board in the top of the third with a two-run blast, only for the Mets to respond with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning, pitcher Jason Roberts stroking an RBI double.

Back and forth the game went, with Jason Roberts and Henry Collins matching each other pitch for pitch. And once again the Blazers hauled themselves level at 6-6 in the top of the sixth, scoring two runs triggered by Ed Jeffrey's RBI double.

And it was Jeffrey at it again in the top of the seventh, beating out an RBI single on a bang-bang play at first base to put Bracknell ahead by a score of 7-6.

So Bracknell had the lead, but Henry Collins couldn't close out the game and Jonathon Cramman lifted a sacrifice fly to the outfield to score Dan Williams with the tying run.

On to extra innings it went, with both pitchers continuing to produce the goods on the mound.

It was the tenth inning before there was any further scoring and it was Ed Jeffrey once more, smashing a solo home run to deep centre field to take the score to 8-7 in Bracknell's favour.

This time Collins was able to hold the lead, striking out the Mets' Will Lintern to end the game.

Bracknell coach Rob Rance – ejected mid-game for arguing with the home plate umpire – said: “We certainly did it the hard way. But to be honest I do not think these guys know any other way. We were a little bit flat and I got a little bit upset, but I hope my ejection put a bit of fire in their belly.

“There are no real words to describe what Henry did on the mound for us,” Rance continued. “He is a real machine and he pulled us through when we needed it.”

Alex Pike, the dejected London Mets coach, said: “It is bitterly disappointing to not even make the final, but the fact that we went down fighting takes away some of the bitterness. We really wanted it today and I think that performance showed it. We had opportunities, but we left far too many people on base and that killed us.

“Obviously we came here thinking we could win,” Pike added, “but baseball is a funny game and today showed how unpredictable it can be.”

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So after two days of thrilling action, the Flames met the Blazers in the final, with Cody Cain and Brendan Cunliffe facing off on the mound.
Bracknell were looking to secure back-to-back titles, while Richmond were seeking their first championship since 2006.
Richmond had a great chance to take an early lead when Cain launched a deep fly ball in the bottom of the first inning, but Bracknell centre fielder Mike Traskmade a superb throw to the plate to nail Rob Unsell.
Both sides were relying on strong pitching and defence, with Cain and Cunliffe keeping the scoreboard blank through the first two innings.
But a succession of walks allowed the Flames to load the bases in the third, and Ryan Bird laced a two-RBI single to give Richmond the lead.
The Blazers immediately ate into that deficit when Ryan Trask doubled home Mike Trask in the fourth inning.
The Flames were growing in confidence, though, and they opened up a 4-1 lead with a succession of hits in the bottom of the fourth. With Cody Cain in dominant mood, Bracknell were struggling to get anything going and their exertions earlier in the day seemed to be taking their toll.
Richmond moved further ahead as pinch-hitter Chris Cook singled home Grant Delzoppo in the fifth inning, and a wild pitch allowed Richmond to tack on another.
With the light fading, the Blazers were unable to make any further impression on the scoreboard, while the Flames helped themselves to four more runs in the sixth inning to run out 10-1 winners.
Cody Cain claimed MVP honours after a dominating pitching display that saw him register 12 strikeouts.
Victorious coach Grant Delzoppo said: “It feels great. London and Bracknell have been the form teams all year so to come through as underdogs was great. We hit form at the right time and doing well on Saturday gave us that extra rest which was important.
“We have some older guys here,” Delzoppo continued, “and I think that experience pulled us through. We had some great pitching, especially from Cody, and we are absolutely delighted to be back on top.”
Bracknell coach Rob Rance said: “I think the London game pretty much killed us and the final was a game too far. We were carrying a couple of injuries and that really hurt us.

 “But we should not be too disappointed,” Rance concluded. “We have had the best regular season in our history and if we had come through again and did what we did last year it would have been amazing.” 

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The Liverpool Trojans made themselves the team to beat with two wins on Saturday based on fundamentally sound baseball, easing past both the Herts Eagles and Oxford Kings with a combination of strong pitching and timely hitting.
The Kings and Eagles were also to advance to Sunday's sudden-death showdown after both sides saw off the Bracknell Inferno.
In the first game of the day, Martin Godsall pitched a beauty for the Trojans as they dispatched the Herts Eagles 4-0. Godsall tossed seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits.
To his credit, Darrin Ward also pitched well for the Eagles, allowing just four hits and two earned runs.
Having scored a run in the first, the third inning proved decisive as Liverpool tacked on two runs to open up what proved to be a match-winning lead. Harry Wrenproved to be the offensive difference as far as the Trojans were concerned, claiming two RBIs with a single and a sacrifice fly.
Game Two was the exact opposite, a run-fest, as Oxford squeezed by Bracknell 11-10.
The Kings broke out to a 6-2 lead early on, feasting on Leigh Coke's pitching.
But the Inferno kept chipping away, with Shayne Wagner going 4-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs.
Bracknell struck four times in the top of the sixth inning, chasing Oxford starter Masaharu Egawa, and when the Inferno added a run in the top of the seventh inning, they actually had the lead.
But there was one final twist, as Oxford scored twice in the bottom of the frame for a thrilling win.
Oxford were obviously drained by their efforts in that encounter, and they came unstuck in slipping to a 3-2 defeat to Liverpool in the next game.
Once again Martin Godsall produced the goods on the mound, but this time he was matched by Chris Oates, with the score tied at 2-2 after six innings.
As in their previous game, a run in the final inning was to prove decisive, but this time it counted against the Kings as the Trojans moved into Sunday's final.
The battle of the losing sides saw the Herts Eagles face the Bracknell Inferno, with elimination the price for the defeated team.
Both sides struck early, with the score 3-2 to the Eagles after three innings.  Pitchers Louis Hare and Connor Vernon then began to trade zeros as both offences were shut down.
But with the scores still tight, relief pitcher Shayne Wagner was victimised to the tune of four runs as the Eagles eventually eased home 8-2.
Louis Hare and Jon Lewys were the batting stars for Herts, going 2-for-3 and 2-for-4 respectively.
Herts met Oxford in the semi-final showdown, and the Eagles looked on their way to victory when they broke out to an early 5-1 lead, thanks in the main to Darrin Ward's two RBIs.
But the Kings piled on the pressure in the middle innings, with Masaharu EgawaJorge Pinto Machadoand Chris Oates all starring at the plate. Egawa was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Pinto Machado 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Oates contributed two sacrifice flies as Oxford stormed back to earn an 8-5 win, eliminating Herts in the process.
The Kings moved on to face the Liverpool Trojans in the final, with Chris Oates and Rob Vondy on the mound for their respective sides.
Oxford jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning, only for Paul Smith to reply with a two-RBI single.
But the Kings broke things open in the fourth inning, scoring 11 runs in an amazing outburst before limiting the Trojans to one run in reply to earn a 13-3 mercy-rule triumph.
John Lebreglio was the big hitter for Oxford, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs, while Masaharu Egawa claimed the MVP prize.


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The Leicester Blue Sox tangled with the Richmond Knights in an incredible struggle in the AA League final on Sunday afternoon.
Richmond struck early, scoring three times in the bottom of the first inning off Sox pitcher Shannon Henry. But Leicester responded with a mammoth second inning, producing 10 runs and chasing Knights starter Dan Lally.
And the runs kept coming, with Leicester tacking on another five to move 15-5 ahead after five innings. There was even the possibility of a mercy-rule finish, but Richmond chipped away with three runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to stay in the contest.
Back came the Blue Sox, with Ken Chapman launching a long home run to left field in the eighth inning.
And though the Knights added a further three runs in the bottom of that frame, Adam Brown's RBI single padded the Leicester lead to five.
Into the ninth and, and Richmond were far from finished. They scored twice and then, with reliever Richard Hu struggling with his command, Nick Osborne smashed a three-run home run to tie the score.
So the game went to extra innings and the Blue Sox immediately jumped back in front, bringing home two runs in the top of the tenth.
But, amazingly, the Knights came back again and Nick Osborne's two-RBI double in the bottom of the tenth secured a 20-19 triumph for Richmond.
Unsurprisingly, Osborne's five RBIs earned him the MVP title.


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The MK Bucks and Guildford Mavericks served up a thriller in Sunday's Single A League final.
The two sides matched each other step for step over the first six innings, with the score tied at 3-3 going into the seventh.
But after Guildford starter Kevin Zanes departed, reliever Matt Bruce coughed up seven runs in the ninth inning.
Ben Alexander laced three RBIs and Jim Kerr added another two, making a winner out of pitcher Tom Lloyd as the Bucks eventually romped to a 10-3 win to claim the title.

 Fittingly, Tom Lloyd was to claim MVP honours for his efforts on the mound.



For complete box scores from the 2010 National Baseball Championships, please visit:

National Baseball League



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