Highs and lows for the BASA
After two and a half seasons of undefeated regular season baseball, the Dublin City Hurricanes finally fell to the Belfast Northstars, the team that coincidentally was the last to send the Canes home unhappy all those innings ago. Unfortunately the momentum gained from that watershed victory could not be capitalised on in the second game against the Dublin Spartans, leaving a somewhat bittersweet taste in the mouth for the Stars as they travelled home.
Taking comfort in the fact that this was the last time they would have to travel for a few weeks, the Northstars took a deep squad to Corkagh Park ready to give their all in a difficult double header against the two most successful franchises of Baseball Ireland. Before first pitch however, there was a little housekeeping to take care of. BI President Peter Kavanagh took the opportunity to honour three of the team. Mark Smith was given a special award for his offensive production, striking eight home runs in the 2015 campaign. Colin Woods was awarded the 2015 William Beglane award for the best pitcher in the B League North while Melvin Woods was ‘an almost unanimous’ vote for the Jimmy Walsh award for the Most Valuable Player in 2015. The Belfast Hornets contingent of the team were also awarded medals for finishing last summer as the B league North champions.
With the hardware handed out, the focus turned to the games in hand.
Already taking steps to safeguard his pitching staff, Sean Shackley gave Melvin Woods the day off with Josh Cuthbert, Mark Smith, Colin Woods, Gord Cuthbert and Shackley himself all available for selection.
It would be Colin Woods who would be given the chance to justify his new hardware; fortunately he would be working with a lead. Woods, Smith and Gord Cuthbert would combine to stake the big righty a 2-0 advantage.
Unbowed, the Hurricanes bounced back straightaway, plating three times in the bottom of the first and with another two in the third, began to stretch out their lead. In previous seasons this would have been enough to drop the heads of the visitors. But not today. Taking matters into his own hands, Colin Woods would score in the fourth to start the comeback, Shields, Shackley and Hunter would pull the Northstars ahead 6-5 only to be reigned in again by the Hurricanes. Mark Smith would take the ball from his starter in the sixth as the teams would trade runs to take the game into the 7th, tied 7 all.
Shackley would start the seventh with a towering double. Jason Scott would move his coach over to third. With first base open, leadoff hitter Stephen Hunter would draw a walk and take second. Melvin Woods would slap a double of his own to give the Northstars a 9-7 lead. Colin Woods would join his brother on the basepads before a double by Smith sent them both home, giving the Belfast side 11-7 lead and more than enough of a cushion for Smith to shut the door in the bottom of the 7th and give the Northstars a memorable victory.
Riding high from the game 1 result, the Stars came back to Earth with a bump in the second game of the day against the defending B league champion Spartans. Out to a 6-0 lead within the first two innings, the Northstars simply took too long to get their bats firing although when they did, they fought hard to keep the game alive. Gordon Lafferty, both Woods and Chris Shields (who looked very comfortable in the leadoff spot) all scored in the third to bring the score to 6-4 but unfortunately Belfast would be playing catchup for the rest of the day.
After a seven run outburst in the fourth by the Spartans, Shackley’s men could have rolled over for this onslaught but this team has shown that there is fightback in them. Scoring nine times over the fifth and sixth innings the Northstars tried to recover but the Spartans moved to fresh legs on their bench and pulled away for the final time in the sixth, taking the score to 22-13. Slightly shellshocked and after a long day of baseball, the Stars failed to make any difference to the score in the seventh.
Positives? Plenty. Negatives? A few. But this Belfast Northstars team has travelled home knowing their travels are over for a little while as they prepare to welcome teams to Hydebank with the first quarter of the Baseball Ireland 2016 season in the book.
Those someones have clearly never visited Ireland.
A steady breeze and low sunshine greeted the Belfast Angels and the defending Softball Ulster champion Belfast Sliders to Strandtown Primary School for the Halos opening fixture in the 2016 season. Confident after defeating the Sliders (albeit missing a few key personnel) at the SU Start of Season blitz, these Angels are a distant memory of the team that was close to being shut out in the last regular season fixture between the two sides last summer (19-1 the final on that day). With rookies Vicky Thompson and Amy Simpson as well as former Aviators Gareth Horne and Christopher Stange and new Northstar convert Jason Scott there is a lot to be hopeful for this year.
The Angels showed their teeth early, Colin Woods kickstarting the offence and putting the Halos up 2-0 early. Another three were added by the time the inning was over. The Sliders had a point to prove and fired back straightaway with eight runs of their own.
With the new, shorter baselines this year in Softball Ulster, high-scoring games are due to be the norm, and this game didnt disappoint. Moving into the third, the Angels were 14-8 down but started to claw back, pulling the score to 17-13 after four.
As the sun set and the temperature dropped, defense began to take over with Christopher Stange on the rubber for the Halos trying to curb the potent Sliders batting order. After five the gap had been closed to two and with Sinead Shackley crossing to pull the score 18-17, a knock from Colin Woods tied the game. Nudging ahead 22-21 in the sixth, catcher Gareth Horne struck a two run home run to take the score to 24-21.
Unfortunately this Sliders team has plenty of power in the bats, and with one away they were able to walk off the field, 25-24 winners.
Disappointed certainly, but Jay Slevin and Jonny Craven should take heart in the performance shown and the promise of what is to come.
By Neil Boyd
For more information about the clubs of the BASA, visit www.belfastbaseball.co.uk or follow the Angels, Northstars and Razorbacks on social media.
#GoHalos #GoStars #GoHogs