After 23 games over 3 weekends in perfect Florida-weather the teams are ready for the 2017 British baseball season. In the HSL Majors Division, Herts Falcons came out on top with a 100% record. In second place were the Taunton Tigers, who will feel a little hard done as they also had a 100% record but missed out on first place due to having played fewer games and thus ending up half a game back on the Falcons. When they entered the HSL we advertised them as the team from Taunton playing in the South West Independent Baseball League, but since then we have learned that this is a brand new team based in Taunton which will be playing in the BBF Triple-A League. They have an array of international talent including several GB Under-23 National Team players. It will be interesting to see how they will do in their debut season going straight into the third league tier of British baseball.
The biggest shock in the HSL came just hours before the first games when rumours started circling around that the South London Pirates are about to withdraw from the National Baseball League. In fact there will be no Croydon-based teams at all as their second team will not be playing in the BBF leagues either. The hope of everyone in British baseball is that this famous baseball club will manage to somehow get back on its feet, especially as it has such a rich history and a high standard baseball venue. It would be a big loss if Roundshaw Playing Fields disappears.
Dennis Grogan on the mound for the impressive Birmingham Bandits
In the HSL Double-A Division the Birmingham Bandits and Herts Hawks ended up at the top of the standings with identical record of 3 wins and no losses. The HSL rulebook came into action as one tie-break rule after another could not separate the teams. They even had the same 0.815 runs per inning conceded over the course of the competition which meant that the winner had to be decided by a toss of a coin. It proved to be the longest coin-toss in history, 3 hours and 21 minutes to be precise. With the final HSL game day coinciding with MLB Opening Day, the HSL organisers announced that the New York Yankees opening day game at the Tampa Bay Rays would be used instead of a coin toss. A 7-2 win for the Rays meant that the Herts Hawks were awarded first place. In fairness, Birmingham Bandits looked impressive throughout the HSL and they wouldn’t have been out of place in the HSL Majors Division.
Herts fans who think they have seen this pitching delivery before, are not wrong.
The HSL also revealed that former Herts Falcons pitcher, Pete Kikel, will be making his come-back in the British leagues but this time with the Essex Redbacks as he has relocated and is no longer close enough to Hertfordshire. He looked impressive making a major contribution in the Redbacks 6-7 loss to the Birmingham Bandits which was arguably the best game of the 2017 HSL.
In the HSL Single-A Division Tonbridge and Herts Raptors finished at the top of the standings with identical records of 2 wins and 1 loss. First place was awarded to Tonbridge on the tie-break rule as they had beaten the Raptors in the head-to-head matchup. This was an exciting division as the top 4 teams in the table were divided only by half a game at the end.
On the final weekend umpire Dr. David Jones set a HSL record umpiring 42 innings at the plate over a 48-hour period. We must tip our caps to him and all the umpires without whom the Herts Spring League would not be possible.
With Spring Training completed, British baseball teams up and down the country will hope that this will be their year. The NBL teams already opened their 2017 season, while the other three leagues commence this Sunday, 9 April. Follow us on twitter and facebook for a comprehensive coverage of the 2017 baseball season.