2013

2013 kicked off in a similar way to 2012, we lost the Astro Series final to the Mescalitos but the big difference was; we (mostly Bryan) finally fulfilled our 2011 promise of ordering new shirts. The transfer market was fairly quiet too, no one left/retired although Billy did announce his leaving date as early July. Steph Kovach and Paul Wallis were signed up to long term deals after helping us out for a few days last season. We also welcomed two new players; Cassie Woodard who was Jackie's friend from the States and Adam Mullins who had taken over Carly's job here in the UK. Carly had given Adam our email addresses when they made the switch almost 1 year ago but he never got in touch, but as fate would have it, we got stuck with him anyway...we gave him squad number 99 so he knows we aren't impressed!

Diamonds 1 was the first NSL event of the year in Slough and whilst the new development fields weren't ready to be played on, the poor spring weather meant that everyone was chomping at the bit to get out there and start playing. Then I got the schedule. Firstly we had two 9am starts and no one wants to see that! Secondly, we had H2O and the Chromies in our group and also had to face the Pioneers in one of two randomly selected inter-league match-ups. So we had to face all of the "Big Three" whilst still finishing in the top 2 of our group to have a shot at the final. 

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Back: Adam Mullins, Josh Peat, Paul Wallis, Mark Bowman, Jason Kittinger, Bryan Tavares
Front: Kristen Dodd, Steph Kovach, Claude Snape, Sadie Hamilton, Jackie Strey Missing: Cassie Woodard

Our first game was against the Maniacs, a team who have frustrated us in the past. I lost the toss (I'll mention at this point that I think I only won one toss all weekend) and they put us in to bat. We scored 4 runs in the top of the first and they replied with 3. In the top of the second, the flood-gates opened, we sent 17 batters to the plate scoring 12 runs with home runs from Jason and Bryan. They plated 4 in the bottom of the inning to keep them just about in sight but any hopes of a comeback ended when we batted around twice in the top of the third, this time scoring 16 runs. Another home run from Jason but the majority of runs came on the 12 singles in the inning. They plated 1 more run in the bottom of the inning for a final score of 28 - 8. Special mention should go to Cassie who went 4 for 4 with 3 RBIs in her first ever NSL game. So the bats were hot, the only thing we were really lacking from last season...could we keep them hot?

The second game was against the Mariners, returning after a break from the NSL last year. The bats did stay hot and we batted around our lineup in the first inning plating 11 runs finished off with a 2 RBI triple by Kristen in her second AB of the inning. They held us in the top of the second after scoring 2 in both the bottom of the first and then 2 more in the bottom of the second. I lead off the top of the third with a ground out to the pitcher and Steph followed me with a ground out to the short stop and we were quickly 2 down but the top of the order was now up. 8 straight hits including another home run from Bryan put 7 runs on the board. We held them in the bottom of the third before tacking on 4 more in the fourth. A scoreless bottom half and scoreless fifth meant the final score was 22 - 4. So we had scored 50 runs in the first two games but now we had to face the Chromies and H2O...

Chromies were first and we looked nervous with a 3 up, 3 down first inning. They had one runner on when Brett Gibbens hit a bomb off Jason who was pitching this game, he never saw another decent pitch for the rest of the game and was basically intentionally walked in his other 2 ABs of the game. They scored 1 more run after the home run before a tag play at 3rd base got us out of the inning. We loaded the bases in the second but couldn't score any one so the score stayed at 0 - 3 until the top of the fourth when we scored our first two runs of the game with yet another Bryan home run. Paul led off the next inning with a solo shot and whilst the game never really felt out of reach, they got a few key outs when they needed them to finish with a score of 5 - 9 and our first loss of the weekend.

Next up was H2O and we were still waiting for our first victory over them since we formed. I managed to help us by actually winning a toss and we held them for the first three innings which is an accomplishment in itself. We scored a single run in the second and the third to make the score 2 - 0. Then came their big inning, a lead-off home run from Steve Hazard started a run of 8 consecutive hitters coming around to score before a 4-6-3 double play broke their rhythm. Bryan hit a solo shot of his own to open our half of the fourth before we loaded the bases for Jason to hit a grandslam to tie the scores, we still only had 1 out and time was fast approaching. We needed to score another run and try and drag out the inning as I didn't want to let them hit again. We were being selective with pitches and I sent Adam up to pinch hit for me, Adam hit a valuable RBI single after about 15 practise swings but the Umpire still wasn't ready to call it, Steph got the final 2-out hit before the Umpire finally called time for our first ever victory against H2O by a score of 12 - 8.

The final game of the day was against the Slammers and the base-hitting returned. 9 runs in the top of the first set the tone for a game in which we scored in every inning whilst keeping them off the board. The final score was 24 - 5. The Chromies had a 3&2 record after losing to H2O and a surprise defeat by the Maniacs, both us and H2O had 4&1 records but although we had the head-to-head over H2O, we were the only ones who had to face the 2011 National Champions in the morning, the Pioneers.

The morning came and it was a strange game, we got a team warning for someone "slamming" his bat down after he popped up...didn't know that was a rule, guess you learn something new every week! Our hitting continued to be strong and although I gave up 3 home runs, 2 of them were solo shots so the Pioneers weren't scoring too many. We scored at least a run in the top half of every inning and each time we held them to one run less resulting in us winning every inning for an 11 - 7 victory. The final round robin game was against the Windsor Knights and we knew going into it that a victory would mean we ended up at the top of our group. They held us in the top of the first and scored 2 runs in the bottom half. Then the bats returned scoring 5, 8 and 12 runs in the next three innings whilst shutting them out for the rest of the game making the score 25 - 2.

We knew we had won the group with our 6&1 record, now we had to wait to see how the other group finished up. Manchester Thunder had stormed to victory in the other group in their first ever A-comp outing beating Pioneers and the Chromies along the way so they had to face H2O for the second time that day having already lost to them in an inter-league match-up. I didn't get to see much of the game as we were fighting with my car tyre trying to change a flat. I think at one point, there were at least 5 guys all trying to get this wheel off but it didn't budge, but we definitely loosened it for the AA man who had it off in under a minute. We decided that he just had the right tools. H2O beat Thunder by a score of 11 - 8 so we had a rematch with the Pioneers for the honour of playing H2O in the final. We started well sending 11 to the plate in the top of the first to score 7 runs. They retaliated in the bottom half with 4 of their own, shut us down in the top of the second and scored 4 more in the bottom so the score was 7 - 8. We tied the scores in the top of the third before what probably made the difference in the bottom half, a lead-off double from Tom Withers was erased when a miscommunication with the base coach saw him get back-picked at second by a great throw from Jackie. They still scored 2 runs that inning but it could have been lot more. The top of the fourth was very similar to the top of the first, 11 hitters scoring 7 runs including a timely home-run from Claude and few fielding errors from them. No new inning had been called and we needed 3 outs with a 5 run lead to defend. Gary Hoxby lead off with a double and scored on a Laura Brockman single but then a fly out and double play ended the game at 15 - 11 and we were in our first ever Comp final.

Now I'm not going to lie, my first goal was to avoid getting mercied. We have a history of Sunday implosions and running out of steam, especially in 7 inning games. We got off to a decent start, as we did in most games over the weekend, scoring 4 in the top of the first. They responded by batting around and scoring 6 runs. We followed with a 3 up, 3 down half inning including 2 strikeouts. We got 2 quick outs in their half of the inning but 5 straight hits added another 3 runs to their tally. Kristen led off the third inning with a triple and scored on a single from Jason. Claude hit a single for herself before Jackie scored them both on an inside the park homerun to right field, as if it would have been anywhere else?! We were 8 - 9 down but they had a bat in hand, again 2 quick outs weren't enough to keep them off the board posting another 3 runs in the bottom of the third. The fourth was when the momentum shifted, the two big hits were 3 RBI triple from Jason and a 2 RBI single from Sadie scoring 7 runs in total to take the lead for the first time since the top of the first. They responded with a single run in the bottom of the fourth to make it 15 - 13. At this point, I remember pulling Jason aside and saying that at least we haven't embarrassed ourselves! We scored 3 in the top of the fifth and they replied with 2 to make it 18 - 15. After they shut us out in the top of the sixth, it was squeaky bum time...Steve Patterson led off the bottom of the sixth by scalding a line drive towards centre-left when I saw Jason lay out and make a superb catch. Muireann Walshe then hit a single but we made an error on a possible double play ball to put runners on 2 and 3 with only 1 out. After a shallow pop up to left field, the runners decided not to test Kristen's arm and then a ground out to me ended the inning. Escaping the sixth without conceding any runs was huge! The score was 18 - 15 going into the last inning. I didn't have a number in my head that I thought would be enough to defend but I didn't think 3 was enough, every additional run we could tag on was going to be vital. Jason scored on a clutch triple from Claude that she probably could have scored on but there's no point testing Steve Hazard's arm on 1 out when a SAC fly would score her. 5 straight singles from the bottom 5 in the order plated Claude and then Jackie and then Adam, so the score was now 22 - 15 going into the bottom of the last. 2 doubles to start their inning didn't do anything to calm the nerves. A life-preserving grab by me on a Vicky Chapman line drive was the first out of the inning. I can't remember the 2nd out of the inning but after they had scored 3 runs, the final out was a routine fielder's choice from Jason to Josh for our first ever A-Comp victory

H2O Box Score

There was really only one choice for male MVP, he went 5 for 5 in the final with 6 RBIs and he made a fantastic diving play in the sixth. The choice for the female MVP could have been anyone, the combined gals OBP for the final was higher than the combined guys OBP. Every girl had at least 2 hits in the game but the crucial triple in the top of the seventh is probably what tipped the balance in her favour. Congratulations to Claude and Jason!

The tournament reports aren't usually this detailed but I wanted to document as much as I could remember/decipher from the scoresheets and get it in the history books as a record of our first ever tournament win, hopefully, the first of many. Nine games, five of which were against the "Big Three" and we ended up with an 8&1 record. Our victory was described as a "mild surprise" on the BSF website but nothing more than that. We have been knocking on the door for a while now and we might have just kicked it in. We have always been able to defend, we just haven't been able to back it up with the bats but 164 runs (the stats say 165 but I think I'm right!) over the 9 games should act as a huge confidence builder going into the rest of the season...

We had a month off before returning to Diamonds 2 and our debut on the dedicated (and dusty!) softball and baseball fields. I was slightly concerned how we'd react to the weight of expectations after our victory and we didn't have an easy first game against Manchester Thunder. The new team this year who won the other group at Diamonds 1. The game didn't feel like the 18 - 8 score might suggest and it felt close all the way but I was relieved to see the bats were still there! Next up was the Legends and we stayed hot winning 21 - 6 after a few crucial errors from them. So we'd maintained the run rate from Diamonds 1, hitting over 0.575 as a team and scoring 39 runs in two games. 

Then the wheels fell off! Big time! We were keeping the Chromies off the board, helped by a superb diving catch in right field by Jackie and then doubling up the runner who had left first but we weren't scoring any ourselves. We were down 2 - 1 when they had their big inning, scoring 13 runs on 2 out, they got a few bloop hits but generally just base hit us to death to win 15 - 1. It didn't destroy our chances but we had to rebound against the Maniacs and the Knights to stay in the running. I really can't supply too many details of the next two games as I've blocked them from my memory. An 8 - 6 loss to the Maniacs followed by a 4 - 3 loss to the Knights meant we ended the day on 2&3. Due to our high seeding from Diamonds 1, we had to face the two lowest seeds from the other half of the draw on Sunday morning and we were looking forward to the McMahon's coming out for the day. We won a close game against the Mariners by a score of 7 - 6, they had the tieing run on third in the bottom of the last but couldn't score it. We then beat the Warriors 12 - 0 in our last group game of the weekend to finish the group 4&3. We had a two hour wait whilst the other teams finished their games, there were brief moments when we thought we might scrape into the cup competition but this ended up not being the case and to be honest, we didn't deserve it anyway! We had to face the Slammers in the Plate semi-final and it was a disappointing affair with the guys combining for a 0.231 batting average. We lost 9 - 4 but even if we had scored our hits against their runs, we'd have still lost 9 - 7! After scoring 39 runs in the first two games, we only scored 33 runs in the final six games. No Diamonds 2 photo as we were all a little disappointed...

We were in the middle of three weekends in a row and we headed off to the BA tournament hoping to improve on our showing at Diamonds 2. We started with revenge against the Slammers, this time getting 20 hits and winning 17 - 5. We followed this with a 15 - 1 victory against the Warriors and then we had to face the Maniacs who appeared to be on a roll having already beaten H2O and Pioneers. It was a close game and I don't want to make excuses but we got screwed by the Ump. It was the top of the 3rd or 4th and the score was tied when we loaded the bases with 1 out for Jason, he smoked a ball up the middle which tipped off the pitchers glove and into the middle of Adam's back who was running from 2 to 3. I was expecting a "Time" call to deal with the injury but the next thing I heard was "Dead ball". The umpire said that the pitcher doesn't count as a fielder and the runner from 2 was out and the runner from 3 doesn't even score. We were pretty sure we had been screwed but none of us knew the exact rule, they got the final out of the inning without conceding a run and that's when the game turned. We ended up losing 8 - 6 and we now had a chance to find out the exact rule. When confronting the umpire, he must have realised he got it wrong because he decided that the ball never hit the pitcher, he changed what he saw to match the decision he gave...so why did he tell us during the game that the pitcher didn't count as a fielder if he never touched it in the first place?

Again, we needed to rebound to keep our hopes on track but again we couldn't, losing 12 - 3 to the Knights after scoring all 3 of our runs in the 1st inning. We finished the day with a 8 - 2 victory over the Mariners to end the day 3&2 but the tournament format was a full round robin with the top two playing off in a final so we couldn't afford to lose on the Sunday and we had a 3 games in a row starting at 9am against H2O.

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Back: Rob Geary, Jason Kittinger, Adam Mullins, Jackie Strey, Laura Vanderbijl, Billy McMahon
Back (cont): Bryan Tavares, Phil Kielthy, Liam McMahon, Josh Peat
Front: Mark Bowman, Sadie Hamilton, Claude Snape, Meghan McMahon, Kristen Dodd 

Sunday morning came and our girls stepped up going 9 for 16 at the plate. Unfortunately our guys couldn't back them up only contributing 4 hits during the game but they weren't scoring either. We were the home team and were 1 run up when they got the 3rd out in the inning. The umpire called "No new inning" and we thought we'd won when he said that were going to play one more. They scored 3 more runs and we couldn't retaliate so ended up losing a game we briefly thought we had won. We followed this up to an 8 - 4 loss to the Pioneers and a 7 - 7 tie against the Legends so we were now definitely out the running with one game to go against the Misfits. We scraped a 7 - 4 victory against a team who would have made the final had they beaten us so it's nice to know that even when we're not firing on all cylinders, we can still beat decent teams.

Then we headed to Canterbury with a little less gusto than normal...yes, it was time to get PSST! but it was also Katie and Billy's last tournament in the UK before heading back to the States. After the usual Friday night fun in Woody's, we congregated on the pitch at 9am to face the Slammers, a fairly mediocre 8 - 4 victory was apt given the overcast and drizzly weather, it was looking like the heavens could open at any point. Fortunately it never did, we beat Mariners 12 - 11 before facing the Dragons, it was close until the top of the last when we put on 10 runs making the bottom of the last much more relaxed. We finished the day off with a 9 - 3 victory against the Warriors to finish the day 4&0 but the important game of the group was Sunday morning against the Chromies. But before that...FLIP CUP!

The team made the final with relative ease where they had to face the Blitz, the drinks had changed from shots of beer to pints and the Blitz took an early lead. Our middle order narrowed the gap and actually gave Rob a shot at the Championship but with the added pressure, he missed his first cup all tournament and that was the only chance he got as Blitz then finished for us to finish in a respectable second place.

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Sadie Hamilton, Bryan Tavares, Laura Vanderbijl, Rob Geary, Jackie Strey, Adam Mullins, Kaite McMahon

Sunday morning arrived and with the wind blowing out, Chromies came to play. We played well, hit 0.593 as team and scored 10 runs against a typically strong defensive team but unfortunately, they scored 27. We then played Maniacs in a cross-divisional game and beat them 17 - 4 to get a bit of revenge after the Diamonds 2 and BA defeats. So the group games were now over and we finished second in our group so had to play H2O (the winners from the other group) to stay in the winners bracket. After them going 3 up, 3 down in both the first and second innings, we took the lead and held on for a 12 - 5 victory. Chromies also won their 1st vs 2nd game so we had to play them again go to straight to the final. They put a few runs up early and after switching Jason in to pitch, the game was much closer losing 11 - 12. We then had to wait for the other teams to fight it out to face us again for the another chance at the final. H2O fought their way back out of the group to face us again and again we lost 11 - 12. We had two chances to make the final and we lost both games by a run to finish in third place. Whilst it was a definite improvement from Diamonds 2 and BA, it felt like we had a real chance to make another final.

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Back: Kristen Dodd, Jackie Strey, Sadie Hamilton, Claude Snape, Katie McMahon, Liam McMahon,
Back (cont): Ryan McMahon, Billy McMahon, Laura Vanderbijl
Front: Bryan Tavares, Meghan McMahon, Jason Kittinger, Adam Mullins, Mark Bowman, Phil Kielthy

Diamonds 3 was the last NSL tournament of the summer and we went into the weekend already being guaranteed a spot at Nationals, which was lucky as Jackie was away, Claude was injured when playing with GB at the Euros and Sadie had a "testicle" on her ankle...thankfully, Amy recruited Jenny Pooley from her league team to help us out for the weekend.

The first game of the weekend was against the Slammers and although we still didn't have the bats from Diamonds 1, we were playing well. The game was ticking along slowly when an offline throw from Adam caused Jason to dive for a ball at 2nd base. He fell awkwardly and hurt his hand and came out of the game to see how it felt. The game ended as a 9 - 5 victory but Jason was still moaning about his hand, Phil and Kristen took him to hospital and turned out he had fractured it so he was done for the weekend. He tried to claim he had hit a 1.000 for the weekend going 2 for 2 and whilst he was technically correct...it's not going in the record books! Our second game was against the Dragons and was the only game of the weekend that counted towards to the NSL. Phil, Jason and Kristen weren't back from the hospital at this point so we were a bare 5&5 squad. We still weren't scoring many runs but the defense was as solid as ever winning the game 7 - 1 to finish the NSL season with a 13-6-1 record. We then had to face this year's bogey team, the Chromies. We held them to 6 runs which is an achievement in itself with their stacked lineup but we lost 3 - 6, you can't expect to win many games when you only score 3 runs. We then beat the Knights (another of this year's bogey teams!) by a score of 10 - 6 with Phil going 3 for 3 with 2 triples and 4 RBIs. Last game of the day was against the Pioneers and would probably decide who finished 2nd in the group. The bats were heating up, hitting over 0.500 as a team, but the Pioneers bats were hotter with I think every run being scored on a long ball. There was a glimmer of hope as Pioneers had to face the Chromies and H2O the next morning but then I realised that inbetween the back-to-back games, I had forgotten to text the Knights score which made a chances of being in the Cup practically none.

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Back: Adam Mullins, Paul Wallis, Bryan Tavares, Jason Kittinger, Phil Kielthy, Josh Peat, Mark Bowman
Front: Cassie Woodard, Sadie Hamilton, Laura Vanderbijl, Steph Kovach, Kristen Dodd, Claude Snape, Jenny Pooley

The next morning, the hitting was back, home runs from Adam, Bryan and Phil and the team hitting over 0.600 probably should have meant we won the game more comfortably but we still beat the Warriors 12 - 11. The hitting was only back briefly as we got base hit to death by the Mariners to a 4 - 17 loss. There were times that it looked like Pioneers were going to need the 1 point penalty I gave up to make it into the Cup but in the end, it mattered not as they came from behind to beat the Chromies and earn their spot in the Cup which left us in the Plate. We were straight back on against the Mariners and our bats were still AWOL but this time, so were theirs. We won the game 6 - 3 to put us in the Plate final against the Slammers. The girls decided they'd have to take winning into their own hands hitting over 0.500 between them. We were always ahead during the game but never by much and it always felt like they could pounce at any time but we kept them in check winning 16 - 14 and earning another trophy for the cabinet.

Final NSL standings were as follows:

We scored a lot of runs (that stat was certainly helped by our Diamonds 1 figures) and we didn't concede a lot of runs which will always keep us in the hunt.

BSF Nationals

The top 8 teams in the NSL qualified for the Premier Nationals, a full round robin followed by the top 4 going into a page playoff which was our aim. Our first game was against Legends and we did not get off to a good start. The boys combined for a 0.278 average and with many defensive errors, we suffered a 6 - 18 loss which was not how we wanted to begin the weekend because we had H2O and Chromies up next. We started better against H2O, neither team was scoring but we were 3 - 1 up helped by a Phil home run. With the slightly longer game times, it's tough keep a team like H2O quiet for the whole game and they eventually woke up winning the game 12 - 3. Chromies then beat us 13 - 7 to leave us with a 0&3 after 3 games played. Maniacs were next and it was a close game the whole way through but we were helped by our girls combining for 0.625 including triples from Jackie and Steph, we ended up going out in the bottom of the last needing a run to win, a lead off walk to me didn't make it easy for them, a single from Kristen advanced me to 3rd and with the outfield playing at around 120ft, Jason knocked a walk off single over their heads for our first win of the weekend. The last game of the day was against the Pioneers and we both needed a win to keep us in with a shout. Both teams must have been feeling the pressure because it was a messy game...we prevailed by a score of 15 - 7 to finish the day with a 2&3 record. It's worth mentioning at this point that of the 5 games played on the Saturday, the girls out-hit the boys in 4 of the games.

Our first game on Sunday wasn't until 11:30 so we had a rather relaxing start to the day but we knew that going 2&0 in our last group games against Mariners and Slammers would probably leave us in the top 4 for our 3rd consecutive year. Mariners were first but a few crucial defensive plays from them with 2 down and missed illegal substitution from me resulted in us losing by 1 run, 11 - 12. There was still a small chance if the Maniacs could beat the Mariners and we could beat the Slammers but although we did our part, Mariners beat the Maniacs to secure the 4th place finish for themselves. We finished 5th and then rung changes to lose a sloppy 5th/6th playoff game to the Maniacs but our heads were already in the bar. Quite honestly, we didn't deserve to finish in the top 4 but it's nice to know how close we got even when we weren't playing at anywhere near our best.

All in all, it has been another successful season...we look very dashing in our new shirts, we won our first tournament and we were there or there abouts in a few more. To quote Adam: "Excellent season this summer. I can't think of a better reason to get up at 6am on Saturday morning nor a better group of people I'd want to stay out until 5am with :)  Well done, everyone, well done."

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Back: Jackie Strey, Cassie Woodard, Steph Kovach, Laura Vanderbijl, Kristen Dodd, Claude Snape, Sadie Hamilton
Front: Josh Peat, Bryan Tavares, Phil Kielthy, Jason Kittinger, Paul Wallis, Mark Bowman, Adam Mullins + Ramsey


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