Firstly, I'd like to apologise for not getting a team photo from Nationals this year. I thought about it on three separate occasions but never when anyone was near me to ask them to remind me. But apart from that failure, we managed to achieve half of our 2011 goals; prove that our first season wasn't a fluke and get "new less-Legend-like" shirts. The shirts never materialised, they are a high priority for the off-season...

The 2012 season kicked off at Diamonds 1, not an official NSL event this year due to planned ground works but still a fantastic way to open the season and no better place to test out the new recruits after sadly saying good bye to Carly, Jill and Nate, plus a few others as well.  

We opened the season against the Legends and the bats were hot straight away, home runs from new recruit Bryan and Phil plus five RBIs from Claude led to a solid 18 - 4 victory which set the tone for a good day. We ended 4 & 1 with the only loss being against the Pioneers including a noteworthy batting performance from Billy leading the batting average by over a hundred points and knocking 3 long balls over the fence. This put us in the cup and we had to face H2O, Chromies and Dragons on the Sunday. The bats deserted us scoring a total of only 12 runs in these 3 games leaving us to play the Dragons again in the 5th/6th play-off game. Again, we didn't score many but this time, we were able to hold them on defence, the score was tied at 4 - 4 when they went to bat in the top of the 7th, they loaded the bases with 1 out when a 1 - 2 - 5 double play got us out of the inning without conceding a run. We went out in the bottom half knowing a run would win it, we loaded the bases without conceding an out before Steph Kovach hit the game winning RBI for a 5 - 4 victory and a 5th place finish. (Click on the Videos tab for the highlight reel)

We then moved on to BA and probably the best softball fields in the country. We opened the weekend with a 12 - 0 victory over a depleted Misfits team before losing 3 close games in row against the Pioneers (8 - 5), the Slammers (7 - 5) and the Maniacs (9 - 7). We then rebounded to win another 1 run game over the Dragons to finish the day, so despite having a positive run difference, our record was 2 & 3. We opened the Sunday with a pair of 10 - 4 victories over the Legends and the Knights before facing back-to-back games against the Chromies and H2O. The bats were solid and we defended well against the Chromies, we hit over 0.500 as a team and a spectacular 10 - 3 - 5 double play led to us going out in the bottom of the last inning with a 7 run lead to defend. A couple of missed opportunities let them back in the game and with the bases loaded, 2 out, they had the winning run on first but a pop up to the outfield secured our first ever victory over one of the "Big 3" teams. We then lost a close 3 run game to H20 before flipping the line-up and switching the positions in a dead rubber game against BT in the last game of the day...it didn't go well and we'll leave it at that! We ended the weekend with a 5 & 5 record and another 5th place finish.


Celebrating a victory over the Windsor Knights

PSST! was next and highlight of any team calendar...we all arrived on Friday evening for a night in Woody's, the softball community as a whole managed to crash the Domino's computer system so we had to wait an age for the West Gate Kebab House to pick up the slack. The next moring, I woke to find most of the team moaning about the noise from the adjoining house, I hadn't heard a thing, might have been a little more tipsy than I thought! We opened our account for the weekend with a 17 - 2 victory over the Knights with a dominant offensive display. Then the bats went AWOL in a 6 - 3 loss to a full strength Misfits where the hits had to be earned with an athletic player in every defensive position. We rebounded with a solid 10 - 4 victory over the Greensox with Phil putting two over the fence. The penultimate game of the day was on the show pitch against the Pioneers, we got off to a decent start scoring 1 in the top of the 1st and holding them to 3 up/3 down in the bottom of the inning. We were then in the middle of a 2 out rally when Laura broke down lame running between first and second base and getting forced out at second - rally killer! We only had 5 women so Jason ran to find someone who could fill in, we were eternally grateful to Laura Lin for stepping in but we ended up losing 12 - 4. The last game of the day was against the Dragons and another solid performance resulted in a 13 - 4 victory leaving us on 3 & 2 for the day.

After the Saturday games, Phil and Sadie represented us in the Home Run Derby, sadly neither were able to put any out and Laura is still the only Blue Steel player to ever put one out in the 2011 event. This was followed by a team curry, beer pong and the famous Keynes party. We slowly lost players at different intervals of the night, I think Ben was the last to bed at 5am.

This probably had a rather large effect on our Sunday performance for which there's really no silver lining...base hit to death in an 18 - 9 loss to BT, power hit to death in an 18 - 7 loss to H2O and then finally a tired 10 - 8 loss to the Legends to finish in 8th place. Still a fantastic weekend and I'm already looking forward to 2013!

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Back: Kristen Dodd, Beth Bear, Tony Quinn, Sadie Hamilton, Mark Bowman, Laura Vanderbijl, Claude Snape
Front: Bryan Tavares, Ben Woods, Jason Kittinger, Phil Kielthy.

Sadly, the next event in Loughborough was called off due to the torential rain and the ground staff simply wouldn't let us on.

So, it's the beginning of September, we have Nationals in Manchester and we haven't played as a team since the beginning of July in Canterbury. To save some money on hotels, we decided to travel up on the Saturday morning, half of the London based players were on the train, the other half were in my car but thanks to a poorly set alarm clock (Sadie!) and a crash on the M6, we arrived with 5 minutes to spare before the first game. Déjà vu from the 2011 Nationals and again it showed, a sloppy display against the Maniacs with numerous errors and hitless first time through our line-up resulted in an 11 - 2 loss. We were straight back on against the Pioneers, the defending champions, who we had never beaten in our 2 year existence. The bats still weren't hot but a couple of errors from them resulted in us putting a few up on the board, it was a nervy affair but our defense held strong for a 6 - 4 victory. So, we were 1 & 1 but not quite in the way we had predicted.

We then had a game off, a chance to grab some lunch and properly wake up before the Windsor Knights bore the brunt of our eventual arrival at Nationals; 25 Hits in a 20 - 0 victory. The hitting swiftly deserted us against the tournament favourites, H2O, for an 11 - 3 loss combining for only 6 hits. The last game of the day was against the Chromies, turns out victories against these guys are like buses, you wait a whole season and then you beat them twice in a row...it was another tight game where our girls out-hit and out-slugged the boys which ended 6 - 4 to us and capped a good day with us ending on a winning record having played all the "big 3" teams. Phil set to work calculating all the possible connotations of our Sunday results. We were scheduled for 3 games in row and we knew going 3 & 0 would mean we avoid H2O in the semi, 2 & 1 and we'd probably avoid them and 1 & 2 would mean we'd either face them or not make the cut at all.

We started with another tight game (getting boring isn't it, I'm running out of adjectives!) against BT with only one extra-base hit from Jackie which resulted in a 6 - 4 loss, not the start we were after. Straight back on against the Slammers and again it's close but a 7 - 4 victory keeps us in the hunt. The last game of the round robin was against the Legends and we came good, Phil going 4 for 4 and Laura going 2 for 2 with a walk resulted in a team OBP of 0.700 and 14 - 4 victory. There was one round of group stage matches left but we were finished with a 5 & 3 record. Once the final round was finished, we realised we had finished in 2nd place thanks to head-to-head against the Legends which meant we would face them again in the semi final whilst the undefeated H2O would take on the Chromies in the other half of the draw.

We started well, getting some runs on the board early but the bats faded and they were starting to hit the ball harder. We were still a few runs up when they had their big inning in the 5th, the noteable hit was a bases-loaded triple from their pitcher, Kevin Quincey, and we couldn't come back...hardly getting a runner on base in the 6th or the 7th. The final result was 11 - 8 and whilst my desire for the weekend was to make the semi final, we had expected to be facing H2O and losing semi finalists would have been an accomplishment. But intending no disrespect to the Legends, this was a game we could and possibly should have won but they got the big hits when it counted and we didn't. We didn't playoff for 3rd place so we ended up 3rd= with H2O who lost their first game of the weekend in the other semi and were straight out of the competition. The Chromies went on to beat the Legends in the final and regain their place in Europe.

So, the conclusion from the weekend, we are still a solid defensive team conceding the fewest runs in the round robin apart from H2O but our offense lets us down. We left 56 runners on base over the course of the weekend and the boys were definitely carried by the girls; Kristen, Sadie and Laura all with OBPs of 0.400 or higher. The fences were at 300ft compared to the usual 275ft and the only home run all weekend from Bryan was an inside the park shot. Basically we were missing a Billy or a Nate...

But with no one planned to leave/retire before the 2013 season, we are in a strong position with a relatively young team for next year. I'm looking forward to playing a game or two on the new facilities at Farnham Park and there are even quiet whispers that Nate and Jill might be returning to the UK! The new shirts have already taken a step towards completion with Bryan kindly offering to take over this project and I can't wait to see what he comes up with. Thank you to everyone who has taken the field with us this year and I'm can't wait to play with you all again next year...

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