With the Razorbacks having wrapped up their rookie season and the Angels being done (bar a blitz or two), the Belfast Northstars will be expected to put in a few extra hours as the 2016 Summer begins to look towards Autumn.
In the initial however, the Stars will take on the role of interested spectator as their opponent in the North finals will be determined in a one game sudden death wild card decider between the Belfast Buccaneers and the Ashbourne Giants.
2016 has been the season that the young Giants have finally started to come of age and they will travel North to Hydebank with a regular season record of 3-1 against the Buccaneers.
But the playoffs are a very different beast, and on any given Sunday…
The Bucs have been hurt by injuries this season, none greater than in the father-son combo of Darwin and Kleiber Sanchez. With both being able to operate either end of the battery, coach Santos lost a great deal of versatility within his lineup. That said, the Bucs are still quick and have the capacity to score runs in bunches if they get a good headwind. You can be sure that nothing will be left on the bench on Sunday morning.
Awaiting the winner will be a rested Northstars team who boast an 8-0 record (combined) over both sides. Shackley has managed to balance his innings to protect the arms of his pitchers with Josh Cuthbert starting a couple of weekends ago against the West Clare Dolphins with Mark Smith coming in in relief. That pitching combination, along with Randy Cornwell gunning down four out of five Dolphin baserunners, gave the Belfast side a 13-2 victory.
That means that Shackley himself along with Colin Woods, Gord Cuthbert, Randy Cornwell and Melvin Woods will all be available for selection with Josh Cuthbert and Sean McMahon ready to come in in a pinch.
On paper, the Northstars should be strong enough to deal with anything that the rest of the league can throw at them, but complacency has crept in before this year and has led to a tarnishing of a potential perfect season. An improved defence, savvy baserunning and a strong bench will give the men in maroon confidence as the Baseball Ireland second season begins.
by Neil Boyd
The Belfast Northstars(@NorthstarsBB) ,
The Belfast Buccaneers(@BelfastBucs),
The Belfast Hornets (@BelfastHornets)
The Belfast Angels Softball Club (@Belfast_Angels).