USA sets new mark with World Series hat-trick

Mon 10 Sep 2018


The 2018 Softball World Series, the 20th edition of the annual event, was held on the weekend of 8-9 September at the Imperial College Heston Venue in Cranford, and records were set for the number of national teams in attendance and the first-ever hat-trick of wins.

That latter honour went to Team USA, led by Duncan Waugh, who defeated the GB Masters in the tournament’s Trophy Final by 28-16.  It was a game in which the USA always led, but were slightly flattered by the winning margin, since the Masters had stayed in the game and pulled to within five runs with two innings to go.  But after that the Masters weren’t able to score again and USA pulled away.

It’s one thing for USA to have the pleasure of being the first team to win the Softball World Series three years in a row and also to become the first team with five World Series wins, passing the Anzacs and Africa, who each have four.

But imagine the frustration of the GB Masters, who have been the losing finalist in each of the USA’s last three triumphs.  In each of those games, it’s been USA power that has made the difference.

As far as national teams are concerned, there were a record five European National Co-ed Slowpitch Teams at this year’s World Series, including the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Jersey.  Two European club teams were in the tournament as well: the Leinster Craicers from Ireland and the UCE Travellers from Germany, who remain the only non-GB-based team ever to have won the competition, a feat they achieved in 2015.

The BSF’s aim for some time has been to persuade more European countries to send representative teams to the Softball World Series, and this year was certainly a breakthrough in that regard.


Results

For many years now, the Softball World Series has been played as an 18-team tournament, loosely seeded and starting with three round-robin groups of six teams each. 

After those round-robins have been played on Saturday, the tournament splits into Trophy, Plate and Cup playoffs on Sunday, with the top two teams from each initial group going to the Trophy playoffs, the middle two teams to the Plate playoffs and the bottom two teams to the Cup playoffs.

While none of the European national teams made the Trophy playoffs, there were successes for them further down the ladder.

The Czech Republic won the Plate Tournament, defeating Ireland 14-2 in the Plate final.  Africa finished third in the Plate section, with Canada fourth, Scotland fifth and the Leinster Craicers sixth.

One of the stalwarts on the Czech team, Jakub Prochazka, had some amazing stats for the tournament.  Jakub played in eight games, and had 22 hits in 22 official at-bats, including eight doubles, one triple, five home runs and 26 RBIs.  The only two plate appearances in which he didn't get a hit were both sacrifice flies.

Meanwhile, Belgium won the Cup Tournament, defeating Japan 8-2 in the Cup final.  Wales finished third, the Latinos fourth, the Netherlands fifth and Jersey sixth.

This is the first time a representative team from Jersey has played outside the Channel Islands for some years, and as Team Manager and former Jersey Softball Association President Ali Wade remarked, the chance to see what slowpitch standards are now like in the UK and Europe may be a spur to development on the island.

Trophy Playoffs

The six teams to qualify for the Trophy playoffs at the end of Saturday were USA, GB Masters and the Anzacs, all unbeaten, along with GB Futures, UCE Travellers and England, all with just one loss.

When the playoffs began on Sunday morning, with a pair of three-team round-robins designed to whittle six teams down to four for the Page Playoff, the unluckiest team was probably the UCE Travellers.

First they led GB Futures going into the final inning, only to be caught and passed by a three-run home run hit by Manny Estevez.  Fearing that possibility, the Travellers had removed pitcher Wolfgang Walther just for that one batter, putting Max Verhusen in the circle to face Manny.  The best-laid plans, etc….

Then, in a game they had to win to make the Page Playoff, the Travellers led GB Masters late in the contest, only to be caught and passed by a three-run home run hit by Stewart Butcher. 

The Germans had to settle for fifth place in the tournament by virtue of a 10-8 win over Anzacs in the fifth-place playoff game.  Both of these former winners had expected to be in the Page Playoff, but neither made it.

In the Trophy Page Playoff 1 v 2 Game, the GB Masters put down what they hoped would be a marker by handing USA their only defeat of the tournament by a score of 10-8.  GB Futures sped away from England by 21-10 in the 3 v 4 Game, leaving GB Futures to face Team USA to see who would join the GB Masters in the final.

Team USA surged out to a big early lead, then were made to hang on a bit as GB Futures fought back with a big late inning.  But when the rally ended, USA were still ahead and took the game by 17-13, setting up a re-match with GB Masters in the final.


The Trophy Final

Despite the fact that the temporary fences erected for the World Series were set at 300 feet, 15 feet deeper than at Farnham Park, the Trophy Final between USA and the GB Masters, played in late afternoon sunshine after a mostly cloudy but dry weekend, was an exhibition of raw power.

Twelve home runs soared over the fence during the course of the game -- eight of them hit by USA, and three of them by left fielder Brian Barrett, good for six RBIs.  In a nutshell, that’s why USA won the game and the title.

Another major player in the contest was the USA’s Kasey Pettit-Castor, probably the first female starting pitcher in a World Series final.  Not only did Kasey pitch six effective innings, keeping the GB Masters offense under some measure of control, but she went 4-for-6 in the game with a double, an RBI and three runs scored.

Not surprisingly, the MVP awards for the Trophy Final went to Brian and Kasey.

USA batted first, determined to make a statement against GB Masters starter Roger Grooms. 

Dan Bello led off the top of the first inning with a single but was forced at second base on Kasey Pettit-Castor’s grounder to second.  A single up the middle by Tyler McGoveran sent Kasey around to third – and then came an early turning point. 

Chiya Louie hit a sharp ground ball to Steve Hazard at shortstop.  Steve had the obvious out at first, but that would have conceded a run, so instead he played chicken with Kasey Pettit-Castor, who eventually broke for the plate.  A good throw would have had her and given the Masters some quick momentum, but the throw skipped past catcher Claudine Snape as Kasey scored.

Immediately, the Americans pounced.  Duncan Waugh doubled to right centre field to drive in Tyler McGoveran.  Jane Pettit-Castor hit a sharp line drive to second base for the second out.  Jeff Milam hit a two-run home run to centre field.  Kim Miller singled up the middle.  And Brian Barrett drove the first of his three home runs over the fence in left centre field.

Morgan Stein popped out to end the inning, but the Americans had seven runs on the board and were on their way – especially when the Masters could manage only one run in reply in the bottom of the first inning on a double by Mike MacDowell and a single by Steve Hazard.

Things immediately got worse for the GB Masters in the top of the second inning, as Team USA put up seven more runs.  There were no home runs this time, but doubles by Dan Bello, Kasey Pettit-Castor and Duncan Waugh featured heavily, as did two Masters’ errors. 

As the Masters came to bat in the bottom of the second inning, they trailed 14-1.

But that’s where the fightback began, as the Masters put up seven runs of their own.  Again, there was a turning point.

Danny Gunn was on first base with one out when Masters’ captain Roger Grooms, the next scheduled batter, took himself out of the line-up and put in David Lee instead.  David parked the first pitch he saw deep over the fence in left field, and though it only cut the deficit to 14-3, it put heart back into his team.  Before the inning was over, five more runs had crossed the plate, two of them on a home run by Mike MacDowell, and now the Masters’ deficit was a manageable 14-8.

Over the next four innings, with David Lee remaining in the game to pitch for GB Masters, USA scored nine runs and the Masters eight.  Hits and home runs continued to flow – USA had 26 hits over the seven innings and the Masters had 17 – but there were no huge innings and some good defense.  In the top of the sixth inning, Masters’ second baseman Danny Gunn bookended the USA’s inning with fine catches of hard line drives by Dan Bello and Jane Pettit-Castor.

But just when the Masters needed to put their foot on the accelerator if they were going to overtake the Americans, offense dried up.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Masters’ only baserunner reached on a dropped catch in left field by Brian Barrett – and he made up for it immediately with a diving catch on a line drive hit by the next batter.

Both teams changed pitchers in the seventh inning.  Roger Grooms came back to the circle for the Masters after USA started the top of the inning with five straight hits, including Brian Barrett’s third home run and another by Dan Bello, scoring five more runs that essentially took the game out of the Masters’ reach.  Roger prevented any further scoring, but the damage had been done.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Kevin Quincey played the role of closer for the Americans and faced only three batters in setting down a by-now-demoralised Masters team with the help of a well-turned 4-6-3 double play, Dan Bello to Duncan Waugh to Morgan Stein.

USA had their third straight World Series win and the GB Masters had their third straight runner-up trophy.  And the World Series itself, 20 years old this year, seems to be more popular than ever as a high-level end-of-season event.

Final standings

Final placings in the 2018 Softball World Series were:

1 – USA (Trophy Winner)
2 – GB Masters (Trophy Runner-up)
3 – GB Futures
4 – England
5 – UCE Travellers
6 – Anzacs

7 – Czech Republic (Plate Winner)
8 – Ireland (Plate Runner-up)
9 – Africa
10 – Canada
11 – Scotland
12 – Craicers

13 – Belgium (Cup Winner)
14 – Japan (Cup Runner-up)
15 – Wales
16 – Latinos
17 – Netherlands
18 – Jersey

World Series history

The list of World Series winners in the tournament’s 20 years of existence are:

2018 – USA
2017 – USA
2016 – USA
2015 – UCE Travellers (Germany)
2014 – England
2013 – Anzacs
2012 – Anzacs
2011 – Lakenheath Eagles
2010 – Lakenheath Eagles
2009 – England
2008 – Anzacs
2007 – Anzacs
2006 – Rest of the World
2005 – USA
2004 – Africa
2003 – Africa
2002 – USA
2001 – Africa
2000 – Africa
1999 -- England

Photos by Lynda Medwell

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