2014

Yet again, the season kicked off at Diamonds 1 and yet again, the weather left a lot to be desired but we were the defending champions and we were raring to go! The weekend started bright and early against the Maniacs and we didn’t get off to the best start. The bats were cold, I couldn’t find the strike zone and we were 10 runs down in no time. Fortunately, things started to turn around by the third inning, Justin’s homerun in his first Blue Steel At Bat kickstarted the comeback and we started to claw our way back into the game. This was quickly followed by Adam hitting our 100th team homerun and with a combined team average of 0.531, we ended up winning the game 15-11. Next came the Chromies who we didn’t beat once in 2013. Our defense was solid but so was theirs which resulted in a low scoring affair but 3 RBIs from Bryan helped us on the way to a 5-4 victory. Mariners were next and our first comfortable win of the season, a combined team average of 0.500 and 3 RBIs each from Kristen, Jason and Phil helped us win 16-2. We then faced H2O in what turned out to be our final game of the day (we’ll come to that later!) and they were a different prospect altogether after Steve and Vicky transferred to the Pioneers in the offseason. It felt like we were in control of the game until we started throwing the ball around a little too freely but we managed to hold on for a 8-7 win. The last game of the day was supposed to be against the Dragons but the heavens opened and we decided that it would be better to retire to the club house rather than play the game and call it 7-7 tie so we ended undefeated on 4 wins and a draw. As Beth was only playing on the Saturday, the team photo had to take place in the dugout...

Left to right: Cassie Woodard, Adam Mullins, Jackie Strey, Kristen Kittinger, Jason Kittinger, Beth Bear, Laura Vanderbijl, Bryan Tavares, Claude Snape, Mark Bowman, Phil Kielthy, Sadie Hamilton, Dave Hickey, Justin Miller

Sunday came around and we knew that 2 victories against Slammers and Legends would put us top of the group and that 1 victory would more than likely leave us in second. Justin took the mound for his Blue Steel pitching debut and it wasn’t pretty; walk, walk, homerun, walk, yanked for an infinite ERA and not the best start to the game. Jason came in to relieve and had slightly more success, well technically infinitly more! Fortunately our ladies stepped up and went a combined 9 for 15 including a triple each from Jackie and Cassie. So after the 3 run lead we gave them and the three strikeout performance from Dave, we ended up winning 15-6. So a win against the Legends would mean that we avoid the recently upgraded Pioneers team in the semi final. I can’t remember much of the game other than it was raining but I remember going out in the bottom of the last needing 3 to win and we only scored 1 to lose 9-10.

So the tie against the Dragons ended up screwing us, we were 5-1-1 and whilst we had head-to-head over the Chromies, their 6-1 record put them in the top spot with us in second. We had a long wait to face the Pioneers on pitch 1 with the wind blowing in which took away some of their power. A superb diving play by Bryan robbed Steve Hazard of extra bases as well as 4 RBIs helped us to a 9-4 victory and a chance to defend our title against the Chromies. Unfortunately, the final was on pitch 2 which was downhill and with the wind blowing out so we knew we were going to struggle. It was never a close a game but aided by a homerun from Phil, we hung in to avoid being mercied. The majority of their runs were scored on homeruns, about half of which only just scraped out with the wind and would have been routine fly balls on any other pitch, the final score was 20-10. So we couldn’t defend our title but I would have taken a second place finish before the weekend so I couldn’t complain!

Three weekends off and we were back at Farnham Park for Diamonds 2. We started the weekend in the rain against the Mariners and it was a horrible game. We couldn’t hit and everything they connected with seemed to find a gap somewhere. Combined we hit 0.261 as a team and didn’t even get through the lineup twice for a 10-4 loss. Things could only get better…and they did but only slightly! In our second game against H2O, we hit 0.296 as team and scored 5 runs including a homerun from Jason and Adam but our defense stepped up and only conceded 3 runs for a 5-3 victory. The middle game of the day was against the Slammers and our bats finally started to wake up, homeruns from Jackie, Bryan, Phil and Josh helped us on the way to an 11-8 victory. What followed next was a bit of a rarity in slowpitch softball, a 6 hit shutout against the Dragons. Fortunately we were on the right side of it for a 12-0 win. The last game of the day was against the Pioneers and despite a very respectable team average of 0.607, a lack of extra base hits cost us and we fell to a 12-9 defeat. So we finished the day 3&2 but we were fairly sure that two wins on Sunday morning would result in us making the Cup again.

Sunday came around and our first game was against the Warriors and a chance for Justin to reprieve himself on the mound. It was going fine except we weren’t scoring many runs. The game was tied at 4-4 when we had our big inning, the score was 13-4 when the second baseman from the Warriors (Craig “Honey Monster” Moran) saw a man trying to walk off with this child. The police were called and the man was arrested and later charged but neither team wanted to finish the game so the Warriors conceded. As runs scored didn’t matter to either team, we called it a 5-4 victory.  Our last round robin game was against the Knights, a team who got the better of us more often than not in 2013. The game was tight again until a pinch hit grandslam from Phil opened the game right up and we managed to close the game out for an 11-5 victory. Our 5&2 record put us second in our group which meant we had to face the Chromies in the semi final, but this time, on the uphill pitch. The game was tight all the way through, nothing like our 20-10 loss in the D1 final. We went out in the bottom of the last needing a run to win…a lead-off single from Kristen who Cassie then pinch ran for, a single from Jason advanced Cassie to third base and a walk-off single from Claude won us the game. We had an hour off whilst the other semi took place between the Maniacs and the Pioneers. I didn’t pay too much attention to it but Maniacs were making the most noise and they persevered to face us in the final.

We were the away team and scored an early run. Bryan then came to the plate with 1 out and Claude on first and Jason on second when he hit what seemed to be a routine double play to shortstop but the second baseman wasn’t covering the base. Jason assumed the double play had happened so rounded third in case there was an error on the play, as the shortstop had to run to the base himself, the double play was out of the window so now Jason was caught in a run down. The shortstop did everything right by running straight at Jason but just as he was about to make the tag, Jason broke for home and the shortstop ended up tagging Jason with his glove but he’d already taken the ball out for the throw. After Jason was initally called out, the umpires got together and made what I’m sure was the right decision but this early call ended up being very demoralising for the Maniacs. This combined with our hitting finally clicking for the first time all weekend saw them try 3 or 4 different pitchers against us but to no avail. We were an E3 away from mercying them at the end of the 5th inning but our bats cooled off in the last few innings and we ended up being comfortable 18-4 winners and perched at the top of the Diamonds Series rankings after coming second and first in the two events so far...

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Back: Cassie Woodard, Sadie Hamilton, Kristen Kittinger, Laura Vanderbijl, Jane Tucker, Claude Snape, Jackie Strey 
Front: Justin Miller, Adam Mullins, Jason Kittinger, Mark Bowman, Bryan Tavares, Phil Kielthy, Josh Peat

BA was next and historically, we’ve never played well in Hounslow. The complete round robin format means that you can’t afford a silly loss which we were often susceptable to when our bats disappear! We opened the weekend against the Warriors and it looked like this weekend would be no different to previous years. We were the away team, we were down by a couple and the end of the game was getting near. We scored enough runs to go ahead by few so we had to get ourselves out (which is tecnically illegal!) and then get them out before the time limit or the game would revert to us losing. Beth took one for the team and ran herself into a tag and we managed to get the three outs for an 11-9 win. Next we faced Maniacs in a rematch of the D2 final, it wasn’t quite as comfortable but we still came out on top with a 15-11 victory. We then moved to the downhill pitch with the wind blowing out and we found our bats. Phil led the way with 8 RBIs on a triple and two homeruns for a 21-2 win. So we were 3&0 but then we started to go down hill…we faced the Legends and despite 5 more RBIs on two more homeruns from Phil, some silly mistakes resulted in us losing 10-9. And then the wheels totally fell off! A 0.296 batting average with us sending no more than 4 batters to the plate in 5 of the 7 innings resulted in a 6-2 loss to Thunder. 

First game on the Sunday was against H2O and our play carried over from the last game on Saturday, well it did for the guys anyway. Our ladies out-hit the guys 0.462 to 0.385 and we fell to a 10-4 defeat so we’d gone from 3&0 to 3&3. We then got to move back to the wind assisted pitch to face the Mariners. Claude, Jason and Phil all had 5 RBI games and a homerun each to help us on the way to a 24-10 victory. Next we faced Pioneers and it was a scrappy affair from both sides. We went out in the bottom of the last with a 1 run lead to defend. Steve Hazard came to plate with 1 out and a crucial outfield assist from Beth got him at second trying to stretch a single into a double. It was an important out and we ended up getting the third out straight after for a 6-5 win and only their second defeat of the NSL season. The full round robin format also meant more games than normal, we’d already played 8 games and still had 2, maybe 3, more games to go. Slammers were our next opponents and whilst the game didn’t mean much to either team, it was a fairly bad tempered game with some questionable break up slides and some bad language exchanged by both benches but we walked away with the 11-7 victory. Now we were really running on fumes and had to face the Chromies in what we hoped was the last game of the weekend, they were already out of the running after going 1&4 on the Saturday but they always seem keen to beat us. We were still on the wind assisted pitch but they didn’t score as many as I thought they might and we scored a lot less I thought we should. 12-1, at least we avoided the shutout! We hoped this defeat meant we were out of the 3v4 final but it didn’t, we had to face Thunder again and despite my best efforts to skip the game so we could watch the main final, I only managed to negotiate it down to a timed game rather than the full 7 innings. We went ahead early but then they started to come back at us, they ended up with a walk-off 14-13 win so we ended up in 4th. To be honest, we hadn’t been at our defensive best all weekend and our bats got us out of more than a few critical errors so whilst it wasn’t the result we wanted after winning D2, it was definitley a good sign that were walking away with scrappy wins and still won a trophy to make it 3 trophies from 3 tournaments this year!

The next tournament was PSST! and on 4th July, we all congretated at Woody’s to celebrate America’s birthday. We had a socialable 10:30 start on the Saturday against the Chromies. They had already played a game and started quickly, scoring 4 in the first, 3 in the second and 2 in the third but then we were warmed up and stopped them scoring for the rest of the game. We chipped away at their lead including a homerun from Phil that was absolutely crushed into the wind but not quickly enough so the game was called with us still down 7-9. Our second game was against the Dragons and our defense was solid holding them to only 3 hits for a 17-2 victory. The third game was against the hosts and a solo shot from Bryan helped us on the way to an 11-9 win. H2O were next and we had a comfortable 10-3 lead after the top of the third when they had their big inning. 9 hits including 3 doubles and 2 homeruns plated 9 runs to put them 12-10 up. Neither team scored in the fourth and we scored 1 in the top of the fifth and time was called for an 11-12 loss. The final game of the day was against the Legends who we’d already lost to a few times this season but who were having a rough day. We scored at least a run in every inning including homeruns from Jason and Bryan for a 14-5 victory and a 3&2 day.

Then it was time for flip cup; we had a reputation to defend after reaching the final last year but we were missing 2 of our key flippers in Katie McMahon and Rob Geary, we even had a bye into the second round but it wasn’t to be…a quick loss to the Windsor Knights meant our challenge was over early. After a few rounds of beer pong back at the house, half of us went to sleep while the other half ventured to K-Bar and some of those stayed later than others and were a little worse for wear on the Sunday…CLAUDINE!

Our first game on Sunday was against the Belgians and the weather was miserable. We were in adjoining houses and we nearly negotiated a draw but decided we had better play. It was similar to the Chromies game from Saturday but vice versa, we jumped out in front scoring 3 in the first and 7 in the second but then our scoring slowed and they scored a few themselves but time was on our side for a 12-6 victory. Next we faced the Knights who had just beaten the Pioneers so their confidence was high and it showed; the top of their order was crushing the ball. We scored 9 which is usually enought to keep us in most games but the Knights scored 16 in 4 innings. The last round robin game was against the Slammers and a big 9-run 4th innning made the game comfortable for us winning 13-2 to finsh the group in 4th place with a 5&3 record. 1st and 2nd got a bye straight into the semis whilst 3rd played 6th and 4th played 5th for the honour of joining them. We had to face the Slammers again and this time it was a lot closer and filled with controversy! The game was ticking along steadily with both teams scoring relatively easily and after 5 innings, the score was tied at 13-13 with time approaching. The controversy occured in the bottom of the 7th, the Slammers got their first two runners on when a line drive was hit at Adam who dropped the ball, then picked it up, tagged the runner going to third and threw to first for a crucial double play. The Ump ejected Adam for an intentional drop which Adam admitted to after the fact, he just didn’t know it was a rule. Everyone I’ve spoken to after said that an ejection was harsh but what can you do? Jason took over at shortstop and Bryan came off the bench to play outfield. So after the ejection, it was runners on first and second and now 1 out because you assume the catch was made and reset the runners but a game saving catch from Jackie meant the scores were still tied after 7 innings so extra innings started with the last out on second base. In the top of the 8th, we scored 2 on another Phil homerun, they matched it with 2 of their own in the bottom of the inning to make it 15-15 so we went to a 9th. 5 hits in the top of the 9th scored 4 runs and three concecutive ground balls in the bottom of the 9th won the game by a score of 19-15. We then got to Pioneers in the semi-final and after a 9 inning marathon in the quarter-final, we were running on fumes and our hitting abandoned us. In 6 innings, they only put up two crooked numbers and we held them to 8 runs total but we only scored 5 ourselves. So we were losing semi-finalists again but we lost to the eventual winners who comfortably beat the Chromies in final. Well done Pioneers, for the victory and also for hosting the best tournament of the year!

The weekend after, the Blue boys…er, men…plus a few ringers made the journey to Birmingham for Single-Sex Nationals. We lost our opening game but rebounded well finishing the group with a 5&2 record, we then beat the defending Champions, the Puppies, in the semi-final before losing a 29-25 game to the Manchester Hoggs in the final.

Diamonds 3 was the last NSL event of the season and we had already qualified for Premier Nationals but we had our eyes set on the Diamonds Series title. Chromies didn’t enter in order to concentrate on the European Championships which meant that 5th place would guarantee us the title and we were also helped by Team Europe taking a lot of the big hitters to Canada to take on the best in the world. Jane was away and with Cassie and Beth playing a day each, we were very grateful to Jodie Bull for playing with us. The weekend started against Thunder and it wasn’t our best performance at the plate but our defense held tight for an 8-2 win. Ireland were next and still no extra base hits but we came away with a 10-1 victory. Warriors were the middle game of the day and another solid defensive performance resulted in a 10-2 victory. Next was H2O and probably the toughest game of the group, it was a close game but a homerun from Adam and a crucial game ending 1-6-3 double play saw us win 8-6. The final game of the day was a 6-1 victory over the Slammers.

So our 5&0 record assured us of a place in the cup and therefore guaranteeing us the series victory, now we could just concentrate on the tournament. The first game on Sunday was against the Legends and we were on form, 17 hits from us and only 3 hits from them resulted in a 15-0 victory. Our last round robin game was a rematch against Thunder, it was a closer game this time around but a 12-8 win got us through the group undefeated. The semi-final was against the Pioneers who were most depleted by Team Europe, a 0.641 team average and our second shutout of the day put us in the final with a 19-0 victory. The final saw us matched up against Legends for the second time that day and this game was a lot closer. They went up early until a three run shot from Phil got us back in the game.The score was tied at the top of the seventh when Duncan grounded out but the ball got away from Claude at first, he looked at second but I don’t think he ever turned, Claude went for the tag and Duncan ran around her back to the bag and promptly got called out for running out of the baseline. I think if had just walked back to the bag he would have been called safe but he made himself look very guilty. Anyway, we went out in the bottom of the last needing a run to win, Laura got on base to lead off the inning and then we subbed Cassie back in to run and Adam knocked her in for a walkoff hit and our second tournament win of the year.

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Back: Jodie Bull, Cassie Woodard, Sadie Hamilton, Laura Vanderbijl, Jackie Strey, Claude Snape, Kristen Kittinger
Front: Jason Kittinger, Adam Mullins, Mark Bowman, Bryan Tavares, Josh Peat, Bryce Peat, Phil Kielthy

Edinburgh was originally pencilled in as an end of year celebration but after the Nationals date was moved to the following weekend, it became the perfect warmup. We welcomed Roger & Muireann and Fiona, Phil’s better half and we were widely tipped to take home the title. We went undefeated through the round robin before facing the Lions in the semi final. Adam’s bat went quite but he put on a defensive masterclass to keep us on top for a 13-6 victory. This put is in the final against the Greensox who’d we already beaten twice over the weekend. A complete video from the final can be found on the Videos page so I won’t spoil the result for you!

We entered Nationals as the 2nd seed and with a genuine thought that this could be our year. Our first game was against Thunder and we started quickly by winning 18-3 but mostly importantly, Phil hit a bomb to take the single season homerun record away from Nate. Next we faced the Maniacs and the strong hitting continued winning 19-7. Our third game of the day was a battle of the top two seeds, us and the Pioneers. A much closer game ensued and a lack of extra base hits cost us losing a one run game by a score of 6-5. The loss meant our unbeaten streak of 21 wins was over, sorry if you haven’t watched the Festiball final yet and this spoils the result for you! We had to rebound quickly against H2O to keep our challenge on track, we kept them off the board and our 100th team triple from Mark “Speed Demon” Bowman helped us on the way to a 9-4 victory. The day ended with a comfortable 19-2 victory of the Slammers. So after the first day, the Chromies and Pioneers were both 4&0 and we were third with a 4&1 record but we still had to play the Chromies. Even though we had played an extra game, we had scored 70 runs whilst Chromies and Pioneers had scored 37 and 36 respectively so for really the first time this year, the bats were firing…

We arrived at the fields on Sunday morning to catch the end of the Pioneers and Chromies game and we watched the Pioneers win in walkoff fashion. We took the field against the Chromies who were already warm and the game started in predicatable fashion with them getting out the blocks much quicker. As we got in the game, we started to claw them back when a Jackie homerun knocked the wind out of their sails. We went out in the bottom of the last and got the winning run to third for Josh to get the walkoff hit and put us in the driving seat as we were now guaranteed a top two finish in the round robin which gave us two shots at the final. Our final round robin game was against the Legends who were making a comeback from a rotten first day and possibly becoming relevant if H2O kept losing. We won the game after a dubious ‘safe’ call at second base by a score of 5-4 but the result wouldn’t have made a difference anyway as H2O beat Maniacs in their last game to secure the 4th place spot in the page playoff.

So we faced Pioneers in the 1v2 game whilst Chromies faced H2O in the 3v4 game. Pioneers were pumped up after losing their last round robin game against the Slammers and I think the nerves got to us. Again, a lack of extra base hits and a few errors in the field resulted in us losing 12-3. We then had to face Chromies who had mercied H2O, this second semi final was a lot closer; we scored a run in the bottom of the first after a leadoff walk to Adam and they tied the game in the top of the third. Chromies went ahead in the top of fourth after a ball snuck past Phil in left field. Phil made amends with a two run blast in the bottom of the inning to make the score 4-3. They scored again in the top of the fifth and we scored one in the bottom of the sixth. After holding them in the top of the seventh, I  thought we had them right where we wanted them but two quick outs and things were looking bleak. The winning run was on base when Beth Bear hit a sharp line drive up the middle but unfortunately the Chromies had put an outfielder in as a rover and that was ball game…

nationals

Back: Laura Vanderbijl, Jane Tucker, Beth Bear, Kristen Kittinger, Jackie Strey, Sadie Hamiltion, Claude Snape
Front: Josh Peat + Bryce, Phil Kielthy, Bryan Tavares, Mark Bowman, Jason Kittinger, Adam Mullins

It was dissappointing not to be able to convert either chance we had to make the final but it’s hard to be dissappointed with the season we had; four finals (five if you include single-sex), three tournament victories and one series victory plus we finished in the top four at every tournament this season. Our season record was 50&16 so we finished with a win percentage over 75%. Great season everyone, see you in 2015 to celebrate our fifth anniversary!

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