Honours even for Northstars; Razorbacks snakebitten in season opener

Honours even for Northstars; Razorbacks snakebitten in season opener

It’s probably not expected that those involved in the traditional summer pastime be defrosting their cars before setting off, but that’s exactly what the Belfast Northstars faced on Saturday morning as, bleary-eyed, they stepped back into the old routine…

  
With the Hornets on temporary sabbatical, the Stars have a new (or old) look to them this season, giving Sean Shackley a strong batting order and a glut of pitching in the shape of himself, Melvin Woods, Gord Cuthbert, Mark Smith and Colin Woods. With these established arms as well as new blood pushing through in Josh Cuthbert, Sean McMahon and Stephen Rogan, no doubt some juggling will occur in the first few games to give the Stars as many options as possible. As well as the veterans leading the charge, the Stars have been lucky to recruit talented rookies Michael McConville, Randy Cornwell and Gordon Lafferty to the squad. With Cornwell unavailable for Saturday’s matchups, Lafferty and McConville would be looking to establish themselves in the Belfast batting order.

  
In the Northstars’ way on Saturday stood two teams the men in maroon havent squared off against in quite some time in the shape of the Shankill Black Sox and the Greystones Mariners. It seems a lifetime ago that the infamous 23 innings of baseball was played against the Black Sox that summer day (and evening) at Henry Jones’ field. No doubt there has been some turnover of personnel since then, so Saturday was very much a new slate for all involved.

In the first, Shackley handed the ball to reigning Northstars Most Valuable Player, Melvin Woods. The big lefty appeared to show mid-season form straightaway, holding the Black Sox offense to a single run over five innings – Woods was well supported with six of the first eight Northstars batters finding their way home. The game would settle down for the visitors after that initial burst, but they were far enough ahead to allow Woods to stand down in favour of brother Colin. A late comeback by the Black Sox would reignite the Stars bats, supporting their pitcher with another 5 runs in the last two innings, including a first run for rookie Mike McConville. The score would finish 15-6, giving Sean Shackley his first coaching win.

  
Shackley would take the hill himself in the second game of the day against the Greystones Mariners – unfortunately the pop had left the bats of the visitors, despite Melvin Woods being driven home by Mark Smith in the first.

That would be the last plated run for a while for the Stars with the Mariners gradually pulling away, scoring one in the second, adding two in the fourth and another three in the sixth. To the credit of the men from Belfast, they would not go quietly into that good night with Jason Scott leading off the inning with a hit-by-pitch, being pushed round by a double from Shackley and finally driven home by centre fielder Sean McMahon.

Melvin Woods would raise hopes with a 2-RBI triple but unfortunately the Mariners defense held, stopping the comeback at 5-4 and sending the Belfast Northstars home having opened the Baseball Ireland season 1-1. The Stars are on the road again on Saturday as they travel to the International Baseball Centre in Ashbourne to take on the Giants – hopefully there will be lessons learned from opening day.

#GoStars

  
After a long autumn and winter of preparation, the Razorbacks football team took to the road on Sunday, finally getting all the teams of the Belfast American Sports Association underway for the 2016 season.

Following the Angels softball team solid showing at the Softball Ulster start of season blitz and the Belfast Northstars splitting their two games against the Black Sox and the Mariners, the pigskin was thrown around in Drumahoe as the inaugural opponent for the expansion Razorbacks was the Donegal/Derry Vipers.

In this, the first week of the IAFA division 2, it was very much a feeling out for both teams as they looked to build on a hard practice schedule through the winter.

After a long pre-season, the Razorbacks finally took the field in Drumahoe on Sunday where the Donegal/Derry Vipers awaited to welcome them into the Irish American Football Association.

With passions running high, the Razorbacks knew they would have it all to do against a relatively experienced Vipers side and in the first quarter, the Vipers would take advantage of that experience and get a quick touchdown. Failure to convert the extra point would see the Hogs 6-0 down early. The quick score no doubt led some observers to believe a cricket score was on the cards.

  
The Razorbacks defensive line had other ideas.

With a few players acting both on offense and defense, the Razorbacks held firm, even blocking a field goal in the process. The offense would show flashes, especially with the quarterback Best breaking free twice as halftime approached.

With a swarming defense and a relentless offense, the Vipers continued to push, often starting with a first down within the Razorbacks twenty. McMahon and his linemates refused to yield as the third quarter finished as the score remained 6-0.

An interception early in the fourth gave the Vipers the breakthrough and the extra point pushed the lead to 13-0. This was unfortunately all she wrote for the expansion side as the home team would run in another two touchdowns.

With the final whistle closing the game at 27-0, spirits were high on the trip home. The coach said ‘they played as a team, fought hard for all four quarters and never gave up. We have a lot more to learn and a lot to perfect but I believe we have the basis of a team that is going to be outstanding.’

The Razorbacks will now look to the 15th May as they welcome the Wexford Eagles to Newforge.

#GoHogs

Neil Boyd

For more information about Angels softball, Northstars baseball and Razorbacks football, follow the teams on social media or on www.belfastbaseball.co.uk.

Post Author: Belfast Times

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