Fuzzy Ducks’ walk-off homer wins Nationals

Sun 13 Aug 2017

By Bob Fromer

Che Porteous hit a towering two-run home run over the centre field fence in the bottom of the seventh inning to cap a five-run rally by the Fuzzy Ducks, snap a 16-16 tie, and crown the Ducks as BSF Gold National Champions in an 18-16 win over the Pyros on Sunday 13 August at Farnham Park.

Che’s heroic blast – his second home run of the game – came in the third and best of three finals played at the BSF Co-ed Slowpitch League National Championships over the weekend of 12-13 August, in beautiful late summer sunshine.

Eighteen teams from 10 different leagues around the country began the weekend in one big pool, but by Sunday, this had broken down into six teams each playing for the title of Gold, Silver or Bronze National Champions for 2017.

Seeding games on Sunday morning, with all results from Saturday’s opening round-robins carried through, produced standings for the Gold, Silver and Bronze Divisions.  Then third place played sixth and fourth place played fifth in each division, with the losers dropping out and the winners going forward to meet the first and second-placed teams in semi-finals.

Only three of those first and second-placed teams actually got to the finals – one in each division – showing how close the competition was, and also demonstrating the capacity of this format, devised by BSF Competitions Director Liz Graham, to encourage upsets.

Bronze final

Finalists at Bronze level were the first-placed Rebels from the Windsor and Maidenhead League (who were winless on Saturday but won both their placing games on Sunday morning) and the sixth-seeded Spartans from the London Advertising League.  In that final game, the Rebels crushed the Spartans 19-1 behind a stand-out effort by ex-GB Slowpitch catcher turned pitcher Liz Warner, who completely shut down the Spartans’ offense. 

In the preceding semi-final, Liz and her teammates had done even better, shutting out Games of Throws from the Greater London Mixed League by a score of 12-0.

MVPs from the Bronze final were Dominic Shepherd and Gemma Jones, both from the Rebels.


Silver final

The Silver final was contested by first-placed Mouse Rat from the GLSML and the third-placed Southampton Spitfires from the Solent League. 

The teams began by trading runs over the first couple of innings, but a Mouse Rat win was the inevitable outcome after they poured 10 runs across the plate in the bottom of the third inning, followed by five more runs in the bottom of the fourth.

There was a relentlessness about the Mouse Rat offense that produced 24 hits and all 20 of their runs in the first five innings en route to a 20-12 triumph, while the Spitfires could only offer 13 hits and 10 runs in reply over the same span.

Ian Ritchie, Eric Sandness, pitcher Joseph Hippensteel and Benn Porter had three hits each for Mouse Rat, while Lucy Groves, Fyona Shannon, Andrew Vergarn, Michelle Eischeid and Jen Swingle had two hits each in a balanced and potent Mouse Rat attack.

Matt Andrews had three singles for the Spitfires, while pitcher Simon Tymms had a double and a grand slam inside-the-park home run.

“We lost in the Gold final last year, and we were a bit miffed to find ourselves in Silver this time,” Benn Porter said, “so we were on a bit of a mission.”

MVPs from the Silver final were Eric Sandness and Lucy Groves, both from Mouse Rat.


Gold final

This was one of those epic co-ed slowpitch games that started slowly and then built to a crescendo, with the teams eventually slugging it out like heavyweight boxers trading punches in one of those late-night title bouts on HBO.

Neither team scored in the first two innings, and each team managed only one hit.  But from the third inning on, the hits, runs, errors and occasional defensive gems flowed thick and fast as the large crowd watching behind the pitch and from the adjacent Home Plate clubhouse garden became more and more engaged.

The visiting Pyros were the first to put runs on the board, with three in the top of the third inning on five hits and two errors by the Ducks.  Matt Tomlin and Sarah Ogilvy had RBI singles.

But the Ducks came right back and scored five in the bottom of the third, including RBI hits from Louisa Newby, Adam Haywood and Che Porteous, who went 5-for-5 with three singles, two long home runs and five RBIs.

Both teams took a break in a scoreless fourth inning, but then the Pyros scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning to take an 8-5 lead, only for the Ducks to match them with five of their own in the bottom of the fifth to re-take the lead at 10-8.  The big blow for the East Midlands team was a two-run single by Tracy Sharpe, while Che Porteous, David Peters, Corina Gardner and pitcher Nick Collins drove in runs for the Fuzzy Ducks.

In the top of the sixth inning, the game took a big tilt towards the Pyros, who scored seven runs on nine hits to take a 15-10 lead and put some daylight between the teams for the first time.  At one point, the Pyros had five straight singles, and the big hit was a two-run triple by Robbie Studholm.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Ducks of course replied, but only with three runs, two of them on a clutch two-out single by Donna Gregory when it looked like the Pyros might escape without being scored on.

But the Pyros were still up 15-13 going to the seventh inning, and if they had been able to tack on some runs in the top of the seventh, the game and the title might have been theirs.

Matt Tomlin led off the inning with a single, but two quick outs followed, even though Matt scored on one of them, a sacrifice fly from Robbie Studholm.  Tracy Sharpe then doubled and Josh Saunders reached on an error, but they were stranded at second and third and the Pyros went into the bottom of the seventh defending a three-run lead.  Could they do it?

At first, it looked like they could.  Nick Collins singled for the Ducks to start the bottom of the seventh, but was forced at second on a ground ball by Sara Perry.  Palmer Hestley singled, sending Nick to second, but Louisa Newby’s sharp line drive was snared by Sarah Ogilvy at first base.  Now there were two outs, and the Fuzzy Ducks had yet to score.

From there, it took only three more batters for them to win the game.

Adam Haywood slashed a double to right field, driving in Nick Collins and sending Palmer Hestley to third.

It was the next batter, first base player Natalie Hanson, who saved the game for the Ducks.  She hit a shot down the third base line that caromed away from Pyros third base player Monica Persson for a two-run single, and the game was tied.

And that brought Che Porteus to the plate, the one batter that the Ducks wanted to see there and the Pyros didn’t.  Pyros pitcher Andy Brailsford ran the count to two-and-one, trying to keep the ball high, but then had to throw a strike.  And a moment later, the ball was disappearing over the fence to the right of centre field and the Fuzzy Ducks were pouring out of their dugout.

MVPs from the Gold final, not surprisingly, were Che Porteous and Natalie Hanson, the main architects of the Ducks’ last inning comeback and eventual triumph.

League standings​

For the record, the eighteen teams from 10 BSF leagues that entered the 2017 BSF League Nationals played on Saturday in three round-robin groups of six teams each, and the groups wound up like this:

Fuzzy Ducks (GLSML): 5-0
Tigers (East Midlands): 3-2
Mavericks II (Manchester): 3-2
Chichester Falcons (Solent): 2-3
Hornets (Milton Keynes): 1-4
Spartans (London Ad League): 1-4

Knicks (Solent): 5-0
Pyros (East Midlands): 4-1
Foxes (London Ad League): 2-3
Coyotes (Leeds): 2-3
Formby Fins (Sefton): 1-3-1
Game of Throws (GLSML): 0-4-1

Angels (Oxford): 4-0-1
Crosby Vikings (Sefton): 3-1-1
Mouse Rat (GLSML): 3-2
Southampton Spitfires (Solent): 2-2-1
Masterbatters (Leeds): 1-4
Maidenhead Rebels (Windsor): 0-4-1

These groups then separated into Gold (the first and second-placed teams), Silver (the third and fourth-placed teams) and Bronze (the fifth and sixth-placed teams).

After results from divisional placing games on Sunday morning were added to the results from Saturday, the standings were:

Knicks (7-0)
Fuzzy Ducks (6-0-1)
Angels (6-0-1)
Pyros (4-2-1)
Crosby Vikings (3-3-1)
Tigers (3-4)

Mouse Rat (5-2)
Mavericks II (4-3)
Southampton Spitfires (3-3-1)
Chichester Falcons (3-4)
Foxes (3-4)
Coyotes (2-5)

Maidenhead Rebels (2-4-1)
Formby Fins (2-4-1)
Masterbatters (2-5)
Hornets (2-5)
Game of Throws (1-5-1)
Spartans (1-6)

Playoff results

Bronze playoff results were:

Spartans 9, Masterbatters 6
Game of Throws 12, Hornets 6

Spartans 14, Formby Fins 3
Maidenhead Rebels 12, Game of Throws 0

Maidenhead Rebels 19, Spartans 1

Silver playoff results were:

Southampton Spitfires 10, Coyotes 7
Foxes 16, Chichester Falcons 3

Southampton Spitfires 12, Mavericks II 9
Mouse Rat 18, Foxes 4

Mouse Rat 20, Southampton Spitfires 12

Gold playoff results were:

Angels 7, Tigers 6
Pyros 13, Crosby Vikings 7

Fuzzy Ducks 9, Angels 3
Pyros 9, Knicks 4

Fuzzy Ducks 18, Pyros 16

Photos by Alan Le Marquand

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