Belfast American Sports: Normal service resumed

Normal service resumed

After a lengthy layoff following a fairly intense schedule, the Belfast Northstars showed signs of rust this weekend in the second set of Belfast derbies against the Buccaneers. Fortunately for the Stars, their opposition was nowhere near full strength.

As the end of the 2016 season begins to appear in the distance, Shackley continued to look to develop his pitching staff by giving the ball to Sean McMahon. In his first game back for a month, the righthander fought through three innings of a determined Bucs batting order. Fortunately his offence was only too willing to support their starter.

Continuing to make the leadoff job his own, Chris Shields drew a walk and was on his horse straightaway to second, Randy Cornwell would be hit by Bucs game 1 starter Alex Linderman, as would Colin Woods two batters later to walk in a run. Shackley would himself walk in the next AB to bring in Cornwell, doubling the lead.

The Bucs would strike back immediately, taking advantage of a passed ball and a balk. Both pitchers would hold in the next inning but in the fourth Shields and McMahon both crossed to give the Stars their two run lead back. With McMahon done for the day after three, he would tag in Melvin Woods in the bottom of the fourth inning. The southpaw settled in quickly, utilising his breaking pitches well to keep the Bucs hitters on their heels. The Stars would have to wait another inning before aggressive running by David Gray stretched the lead to three. With the bases loaded and 2 outs for Shackley, the coach would drive one out to left centre field making the score 8-2. The Bucs would plate another run in the last but would run out of innings, 8-3 the final score in the first game.

In the second, sidearmer Colin Woods toed the rubber for the Stars. He would have a lead to protect. With Kleiber Sanchez still carrying an injury, the men in maroon showed patience at the plate to load the bases for Melvin Woods, With Jason Scott and Josh Cuthbert also HBP and a dead ball, the Stars would go into their first defensive half-inning 6-0 to the good. Shutting down the top of the Bucs order in the first, Colin Woods would strike a 2-RBI double (thanks to Conor O’Dwyer’s first hit in his debut) and with Jason Scott driving in Josh Cuthbert the lead quickly became 9-0. With Cornwell and McMahon turning a rare 3-6 double play, the Kansas native found his swing, knocking a couple in making the score 12-1. THE Buccaneers refused however to go gently in to that good night, scrapping the score back to 12-4. Both teams added a run in the fifth and in the next Woods yielded the mound to Randy Cornwell who held the Bucs offence for the inning, In the last McMahon utilised his speed to manufacture a triple and Cornwell helped his own cause by missing out on a home run by inches, a long deep fly to left centre just clipping the outfield fence on it’s way out, a ground rule double the official ruling. The point was moot however with Colin Woods knocking Cornwell home.

Alex Mansell would come in to relief his coach Santos and he would prevent the Stars from adding another – in the bottom of the last the Buc’s tenacity shone through, adding another two runs. Cornwell would hold however and the Belfast Northstars would take a 15-7 win to extend their 2016 record to 16-2.

With the Black Sox’ visit to Hydebank being postponed and the Razorbacks’ trip to Wexford still a week away, it is up to the Angels to fly the flag for the Belfast American Sports Association this weekend.

With the unfortunate cancellation of the Buccfest tournament, the Angels have had a few weeks off themselves as the final games of the 2016 Softball Ulster league approach. Their last tilt was almost a full month ago against the Bangor Mariners, a side that showed plenty of signs of improvement since their first meeting of the year. The final score was 19-5 but the Angels know that the Mariners will be a much tougher scalp next season.

This weekend the senior half of the Bangor softball club, the Buccaneers will travel from glorious North Down to Hydebank.

The Angels have yet to see the Bangor side in action this summer, the closest scouting having occurred at the tournaments through the year. Careful attention must be paid as the Belfast side are just ahead of the Bucs in the table, a Bucs team that has games in hand. A victory on either side will almost be equivalent to a 2-game swing and with a second meeting in Bangor scheduled for the Angels last game of the season, a solid performance will be needed to stay ahead of the free-swinging Buccaneers.

First pitch at Hydebank is at 2pm.

By Neil Boyd

Post Author: Belfast Times

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