Sun and fun at the BSF Single-Sex Nationals

Mon 2 Jul 2018

By Bob Fromer

The 2018 BSF Single-Sex Slowpitch Nationals, featuring 13 men’s teams and 14 women’s teams from England, Wales and Scotland, was played on a gloriously sunny and maybe slightly too warm weekend on 30 June-1 July at the Birmingham City College Moor Lane Sports Ground in Perry Barr.

It was a large, colourful, sprawling festival of single-sex slowpitch softball, with teams spread to the far corners of an immense expanse of grass turned largely brown by the unrelenting heat of this most un-British of British summers.

The men’s tournament was played in Comp and Rec groups, and started with round-robins that occupied Saturday and finished on Sunday morning.  After that, the four top teams from the Comp round-robin went to a Page Playoff to determine the Men’s Platinum winner, and the other teams went into various playoff permutations that produced Men’s Gold, Silver and Bronze winners.

The women’s tournament, with just three self-confessed Comp teams and 11 Rec teams, started with two round-robin groups and everyone in the same competition, except that during the round-robin only, the three Comp teams were limited to five runs an inning.

This didn’t turn out to be too much of a handicap, as only one Comp team lost to a Rec team over the course of the round-robin, and that was by one run, though there were a few other close-run things.

In any case, once the round-robin was over, the top two teams from each group played semi-finals and a final to determine the Women’s Platinum winner, and the other teams went into various playoff permutations that produced Women’s Gold and Silver winners.

Altogether, the 2018 BSF Single-Sex Nationals produced seven trophy winners, at an average of one trophy per every 3.86 teams, and it’s now time for the British slowpitch community to sing a serious hymn of praise to BSF Competitions Director Liz Graham, who has a genius for taking any number of entries and coming up with schedules that give meaningful games to almost all teams from the beginning of a tournament to the end.


Winners

With 104 games played over the course of the weekend, it’s hard to do justice to all of the close games, the draws, the blowouts, the great plays, the huge hits, the errors, the dribblers, the occasional strikeout and the sheer effort that went into the tournament on the part of all the players, not to mention the umpires and organisers as well as the caterers and ground staff.

But here is what happened in the end:

Women’s Platinum:  The Manchester Minx defeated the Bristol Bluebirds 9-8 in a thrilling and well-played final.  There will be more about this game below.  The MVP for the final was Sherry Kenyon from the Manchester Minx.

Women’s Gold:  The final was an all-East Midlands affair, in which the Sheriffs prevailed over the Missfits by a score of 10-8.  The MVP for the final was Tracey Sharpe from the Sheriffs.

Women’s Silver:  The Manchester-based Pitch-Slap ran away from the Scorch-Hers of Bracknell by a score of 30-10.  The MVP for the final was Emma Bennett from Pitch-Slap.

Although they didn't figure in any of the finals, with just three Comp teams and 14 Rec teams in the Women's Single-Sex Nationals, Hits and Giggles from the Solent League were extremely proud of coming fourth in the tournament, and thus at the top of the Rec standings!

Men’s Platinum:  The Bombers from the US Air Force base at Mildenhall lived up to their name in the final and cruised to a 17-8 win over the Pyros from the East Midlands.  The MVP for the final was Jordan Goaliron from the Bombers.

Men’s Gold:  The Puppies, who were many people’s favourites coming into the tournament, had to settle for winning the Gold division with a 12-9 victory over Godzillas in the final.  The MVP for the final was Leo from Godzillas.

Men’s Silver:  The Terriers from Leeds defeated the Misfits from the East Midlands in the final by a score of 16-10.  The MVP for the final was Anthony Pratt from the Terriers.

Men’s Bronze:  The Birmingham Bobcats had an 11-4 win in the final over the Tigers from the East Midlands.  The MVP for the final was Tad from the Bobcats.

A digression….  One of the amazing things about British softball is how many team captains don’t know the last names of their players.  This is revealed when teams are (occasionally) asked to fill out line-up cards for games or, as in this case, provide the last name of one of their teammates who has just won an MVP award but who has already departed the scene.  Presumably, many of those who played in the Single-Sex Nationals will know “Tad” from the Bobcats or “Leo” from Godzillas, but to the wider public, these stars of British softball will remain more of a mystery.

The Women’s Platinum Final

In a tournament with seven different finals, most of them taking place at the same time, the lone reporter has to choose one final to watch and report on in more detail.

This time, the choice of the Women’s Platinum final, way out on Pitch 5, was inspired.  The game was not only the closest final of the seven, with just one run separating the Manchester Minx and the Bristol Bluebirds, but it was wonderfully well-played, as might have been expected of two teams containing a number of GB Slowpitch players.

To reach the final, the Bluebirds had outlasted the Besoms from Scotland, 16-10, in a game that was more closely contested than the final score suggests, and the Minx had had a somewhat easier time in a 19-5 win over Hits and Giggles from Solent.

The Minx wasted no time launching their offense in the top of the first inning against Bluebirds’ pitcher Kimberly Hendry.  Jo Griffin led off with a sharp single to right centre field, Sherry Kenyon walked and Angela Killion hit a line drive single to left field, driving in the game’s first run.

It looked like a big inning was on the cards, but the Bluebirds managed to limit the damage.  Although Sherry Kenyon scored when Lauren Shkurko hit into a force play, the inning ended when Jane Curley hit a bouncer to Kat Golik at shortstop and Kat stepped on second and threw carefully to first for the double play.

The Bluebirds then came to bat in the bottom of the first inning, made two quick outs against Minx pitcher Tanya Basu, and then scored three runs on four consecutive crisply-hit singles by Kim Yeates, Becky Green, Kat Golik and Mandy Lewis.

Whatever the Bluebirds could do, however, the Minx were determined to do better, and they put up a four-spot in the top of the second inning.  The big hits were a two-RBI triple slashed down the left field line by Sherry Kenyon and Angela Killion’s second straight RBI single, and the Minx had a 7-3 lead.

The Bluebirds cut the score to 7-5 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning, with the help of a couple of uncharacteristic Minx errors, and by the end of the fourth inning, the game was tied at 8-8.

The deciding run, the last run of the game, was manufactured by the Minx in the top of the fifth inning.  Lauren Shkurko beat out a ground ball to short, moved to second on Lindsay O’Farrell’s single, to third after a fly out to right field by Jane Curley and scored on Lauren Birch’s sacrifice fly to left.

After that, the defenses took over, and both teams made a series of fine plays on hard-hit line drives snagged by infielders, soaring fly balls pulled in by confident outfielders, and one particularly good inning-ending play by Minx shortstop Sherry Kenyon, the game’s MVP, who pumped her fist after her long throw to first just beat Bristol’s Julie Cumming to the base.

It took fine catches by Bristol’s Kirstie Leach and Mandy Lewis on line drives that looked head for outfield gaps to deny the Minx in the sixth inning, and a great play by Kat Golik on a ball that caromed off the pitcher to keep Lindsay O’Farrell off base in the seventh inning.

But the Bluebirds had only one hit and one baserunner after the fourth inning as the Minx defense made every play and Tanya Basu restricted the Bluebirds to only two balls hit out of the infield over those last three innings.

In fact, both pitchers were excellent, and Kimberly Hendry matched Tanya Basu in pitching with height and variation and keeping hitters off balance.

Taking a one-run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning is never fun in a slowpitch game, but it proved no problem for Tanya Basu and the Minx.  Holly Ireland bounced back to the pitcher, Yuki Ono popped out to shortstop Sherry Kenyon and Emma Carruthers took Anna Whicher’s hard live drive to second base, and the Minx could begin the celebrations.


Photos from Women's Platinum Final by Belinda Alker

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Comments

02
Jul

Paul Vernon 13:05

Hi. Great report, Bob. The losing Silver Finalists were the Scorch-Hers from Bracknell.

02
Jul

Justin Evans 14:37

Good write up Bob. Out of interest I was wondering why there were no pitch fences this year?

03
Jul

Bob Fromer 14:21

Hi Paul & Justin!  The losing Silver finalists has been corrected.  Regarding outfield fences, this was a decision by the tournament organisers, and I have sent Justin an email suggesting who to contact to discuss this further.