Thunder beats Misfits to take Manchester Firstball title

Tue 1 May 2018


By Mike Goff

Typically for the area, the rain had been heavy and consistent in the week leading up to the Manchester Softball League’s gala opening of the season, the Manchester Firstball on 28-29 April -- but mercifully there was no rain over the weekend to spoil the fun for the 26 teams competing.

The ground was still damp though, and this meant that batting boxes on most of the diamonds churned up quickly and eventually had to be moved slightly to allow play to continue.

And while the weather was dry, and occasionally sunny, the freezing winds meant that pitchers and fielders had to master the conditions to maintain a solid defense, while those on the sidelines had to defend themselves with bobble hats, rugs and thermal clothing.


Rec Tournament

A total of 15 teams entered at Rec level, and were split into three groups of five for an opening round-robin.  This led to new groups on Sunday, with teams carrying forward their result against the team from their original group who moved with them.

Due to the number of teams and no one wanting to start games at 17:00 on a Sunday evening, there were no finals after these second groups, and the teams who topped the groups were presented with trophies.

At the end of Saturday’s games, the group standings were:

GROUP 1
Yorkshire Puddings
Didsbury Bats
Mayhem
Camels 2
Sabresharks

GROUP 2
Meerkats
Speeders
Tigers
Dynamite
Rippers

GROUP 3
Mavs II
Bobcats
Raiders
Thunder II
Meat Invaders

The teams finishing first and second in each group went into the Cup, those in third and fourth went into the Plate, and the bottom three teams battled for the Spoon.

Mavs II were the only unbeaten team on Saturday at either level, and were well-placed going into the Cup, with their victory over the Bobcats carried forward.  However, they started Sunday morning a woman short and weren’t able to carry forward their excellent form, but still finished second thanks to that carried-forward win.

The Meerkats carried forward a tie with the Speeders, and had another in their first game on Sunday against the Didsbury Bats, effectively ending their chances.

It was the reformed Yorkshire Puddings, who presumably set aside the musical differences that led them to split up several seasons ago, and looking resplendent in fancy uniforms, who swept all before them on Sunday and triumphed in the Cup.  They lost their final game to Mavs II, but it was academic by then as they could not have been caught and they used that game to move their fielders to new positions.

Their captain, George Stamets, took home the Cup MVP -- or may have left it in Tim Hortons when he realised that he’d be able to carry away more doughnuts without it!

In the Plate division Mossley Mayhem won all of their games to round off an impressive captaincy debut for Caroline Jones and send the impressive London Raiders (Red) home disappointed.  Thunder II were unable to follow the example of their Plate MVP Becci Wadeson, and although they managed some wins, were out of contention after losing to Mayhem and bringing forward a defeat to the Raiders.

The Manchester Tigers allowed the Lions in Comp to borrow one of their players, which was within the guesting rules but led to questions from other teams as to which way round the guesting should be.  Dan Downes should be flattered!

Camels II built on an impressive drinking performance on Saturday with more of the same on Sunday, and Di Maynard stunned spectators by hitting to left field on purpose.

Leeds Dynamite were unable to follow Pav Singh’s example and walk their way to victory, although Jodee Simpson recovered from an injury on the previous weekend to pitch excellently on both days.

The bottom teams in each group failed to register any wins on Saturday, and so found themselves competing for the Spoon.  With a group of three, they each played the other teams twice and it was the St Helens/Sefton Sabresharks who romped home with four victories by huge margins.  Spoon MVP Rachel Sewell led the way with the bat and glove as usual, and left people wondering how they hadn’t ended up in a higher competition. Maybe it was exhaustion from travelling to play in the Czech Republic the weekend before.

The Meat Invaders were made up of the Manchester Base Invaders (no league games played) and Meteors (no league wins), and they won their first-ever game against the Urmston Rippers.  You could hear the cheer across the fields!

Comp Tournament

At Comp level, groups of five and six teams played an initial round-robin and then split into new divisions for Sunday, playing the teams in the other group that finished at the same level and carrying forward results from Saturday.

The Jammy Dodgers started like the proverbial train on Saturday (not from Network Southeast presumably), with heavy defeats of the Lions and Outlaws -- but then the Greensox changed from their usual tactic of saving it for the Sunday and beat them by one run in their next outing. 

The Misfits did even better, winning all four of their first games before falling to the resurgent Dodgers in their final game and creating a three-way tie for second place in Group 1.

In the other group Mavericks and Thunder both finished 3-1, but Thunder won the meeting between the two teams and so topped the group.

At the end of Saturday’s games, the group standings were:

GROUP 1
Misfits
Dodgers
Lions
Honey Badgers
Greensox
Outlaws

GROUP 2
Thunder
Mavericks
Terriers
Souls
Camels

The top three teams in each group went into the Gold Cup, and the rest into the Gold Plate.

Thunder won all their games to top the Sunday Gold Cup group and set up a semi-final against the fourth-placed Mavericks.  As a result of their carried-forward victory, the Dodgers finished second ahead of the Misfits on head-to-head.  The Lions failed to win a game on Sunday, but this form is not expected to continue into the MSL Division 1 fixtures beginning during the first week of May, while the Terriers were denied a semi-final place due to the Mavericks’ carried-forward victory, despite having scored far more runs and conceded far fewer.

Thunder comfortably beat the Mavericks in the first semi-final, and the Misfits saw off the Dodgers’ challenge to also reach the final. 

It’s worth noting that the Misfits won a close Rec final against a strong Raiders team at the Firstball last year, and were now in the ‘big’ final at the very first time of asking.  Nigel Peters has worked wonders and put together a very good softball team who will be among the favourites for promotion to the NSL this season.

However, the size of the step up may have showed in the final, as the Misfits fell victim to a mercy rule victory after six innings to a strong Thunder team starring Cup MVP Amy Carr.

In the Comp Plate group, Honey Badgers went in with the best record, as neither the Camels nor the Outlaws had managed to win a game on Saturday.  This continued on Sunday, as they only managed a tie when they played each other.

In Sunday’s group games, the Badgers topped the group and met the Camels in one semi-final, who had squeaked above the Outlaws by conceding fewer runs in six defeats and a tie.

The other semi-final was between the Greensox, saving it for Sunday as usual, and Edinburgh’s Souls, who had only just missed out on the Cup by virtue of their head-to-head against the Terriers.

Astonishingly, the Camels made it to the final despite not winning a game.  Technically.  They were tied with the Honey Badgers when time ran out, but had been ahead at the end of the previous inning so won on the reversion rule.  It was a frustrating way to go out of a tournament, and Glasgow’s finest had been the best side at that level all day.

The Plate final was won by the Greensox, who overcame an injury to Vicky Green that left her limping and the third base bag with several months of recuperation ahead.  The Camels’ outfield was given plenty of exercise by Danny Gunn, Charlotte Green and MVP Tom Russell, while their infield wasn’t able to bring Emma Lott’s inside information to bear and get her parents out easily.

Thanks to all the players and umpires who took part this weekend, and hopefully everyone will be back for the main tournament in August.  Just not with odd numbers of teams, please – finals are better than league standings!

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