Raise the Jolly Roger, the Belfast Buccaneers today ensured an all-Belfast final in the B league playoffs as they took down a spirited Cavan Comets team at Hydebank.
With Marian Neill and Christopher Barr unavailable, Jose Santos may not have had all his roster available but the Bucs dug in and were rarely behind and, when they were looking up at Cavan, showed resilience and heart that will no doubt give them confidence in the final, where the Belfast Hornets await.
With a late start, the temperature had already started to drop at Hydebank and a slight drizzle was omnipresent through the matchup but the Buccaneers started hot, Terry Rosbotham with a leaping snare at the top of the first to inspire his teammates and Chris Stange crushing a double in his first at-bat, quickly being driven in by rookie phenom Alex Lindeman.
Rosbotham, clearly with adrenaline flowing after his highlight-reel grab then proceeded to deposit a pitch over the left centre field fence to give the home side a quick 3-0 lead. The Comets would respond in the next however, getting two quick runs of their own to bring the game to 3-2. The Bucs would then load the bases in the bottom of the second but only squeeze in one more run to keep the game tight.
In the top of the third it would be the turn of the travelling Comets to load the bases and, a ground rule double later, the game was tied 4-4.
There was no letup in the pressure on Buccaneers starter Sean Shackley as the Comets loaded the basepads again in the fourth inning which, although two runs scored for the visitors, was punctuated with two great defensive plays; an up-against-the-backstop catch by Lindeman and an unconventional 5-4 double play between Ultan Magill and Jose Santos.
The Bucs rebounded almost immediately, Stange driving in Van Houten, a bad throw allowing Belfast to tie and Santos driving in Stange. Another two runs gave the expansion side a little breathing room going into the fifth.
The Comets would slip further away over the next innings, going into the seventh 13-6 up with the highlight being another 2-run home run by Rosbotham, this one to straightaway centre field with room to spare.
The seventh would be a messier affair than the Buccaneers would have hoped for. Cavan scored two runs before starter Shackley gave way to the left hander Jon Carter. Tough hops and errors allowed Cavan to get within three before a flyout to (fittingly) Shackley in centre field put an end to the Comets’ season.
Be sure to check out the Facebook pages and twitter feeds for the teams of the Belfast Baseball and Softball Club – The Belfast Northstars(@NorthstarsBB) , The Belfast Buccaneers(@BelfastBucs), The Belfast Hornets (@BelfastHornets) and The Belfast Angels Softball Club (@Belfast_Angels).