This past week could be chalked up as a win for the Belfast American Sports Association with the Northstars rolling on, the Angels returning to their winning ways and the Razorbacks recording their first ever victory as part of the Irish American Football Association.
Missing their coach Sean Shackley as well as Sean McMahon and Stephen Rogan, the Northstars were led into action last week by Mark Smith but with a number of established Stars pitchers ready for selection, it was a new face who took the mound for the men in maroon against the crosstown Buccaneers
With McMahon unavailable, it was up to Chris Shields and Stephen Hunter to jump start the offence – they didnt wait long before doing so. Shields crossed home plate to put the Stars on the board, Hunter was driven in by Gord Cuthbert to double the lead.
Kansas native Randy Cornwell would take the bump and after an inning of settling in in which the Buccaneers pulled the game level, the righthander utilised his fastball and changeup with impressive results.
In the third inning the Stars would show the depth of their lineup punctuated by a 2 RBI base hit by second baseman John McKee. In the fourth, Colin Woods (carrying a back strain) got his first home run of the season, drilling one out over the left field fence. Not to be outdone, brother Melvin struck a 2-run homer of his own in the top of the fifth tp stretch the lead out to 13-2. The Buccaneers failed to add any runs in the bottom of the fifth and the game was called, giving Cornwell the win.
From the right side of the rubber to the left, Melvin Woods took the ball in the second game. Showing resilience, the Bucs came out swinging in the second, staking pitcher Alex Mansell to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. This Northstars team has shown great fightback in games this year; it was only two innings before the Stars took the lead 4-3. Showing impressive depth of squad, Gordon Lafferty returned from injury to drive in Cornwell who was in turn knocked in by up-and-comer Josh Cuthbert. Moving into the fourth the Stars were 9-3 up. Scrapping back, the Buccaneers loaded the bases but Melvin Woods was able to work out of the jam.
The ever improving Stephen Hunter would drive in Cornwell and Woods in the fourth and sensing the moment, Melvin Woods blasted a moon shot 2 RBI home run to finish the game.
A couple of weeks off now for the Belfast Northstars before they match up once more against the Buccaneers. Boasting a 14-2 record going into the break, this Stars team know that no complacency will be tolerated as the last six regular season games approach.
With an early start leaving the friendly confines of Newforge, a somewhat depleted Razorbacks side travelled west to Galway to take on the Warriors in their fourth game. Sitting just below the Galway side at the start of the day, the Hogs knew that a tough test awaited them if they wanted to take the win – especially considering only seven days previously they had a hard loss against the North Dublin Pirates.
One of the strengths of the Razorbacks in their rookie season is the strength of their defensive line and this weekend it was no exception. Both teams cancelled each other out until the last quarter when a turnover was recovered in the Galway endzone. The resulting safety and two points was enough on this day to give the Razorbacks their first ever victory. A few weeks off for the Hogs to rest the bodies and refocus for another long trip to Wexford.
With a 2-5 record, the Belfast Angels were desperate to shake themselves out of a recent slump. Against an ever-improving expansion Bangor Mariners, the Angels knew not to take anything for granted – this was a very different team that the Belfast side shut out a couple of months ago.
The Halos, welcoming back Chris Stange took a 2-0 lead into the second but the visitors worked the bases loaded and were able to tie the game. With a 5-2 lead later in the inning and Amy Simpson already on base, Melvin Woods would beat the Woods shift for a 2-run home run. Inspired by the strike, Simpson would run down a long fly ball in the top half of the next inning.
With Heather Paton drawing a walk and bringing in Gareth Horne, Shane Hanna would wipe the bases clean with a 3 RBI double to stretch the lead to 9-5 in the third. With another Woods home run, the Halos would again work the bases loaded for Chris Shields. A double from the shortstop and a further base hit from Jason Scott kept the scoreboard ticking over. The smooth-swinging Hanna would drive in two more and another home run for Woods pulled the Belfast lead to 15-5. Inspired by the offensive performance, Gareth Horne would have a 2-run roundtripper himself and with one final home run by Woods (this one to left field) saw the game finish 19-5, punctuated by a great running catch in shallow right centre by Horne.
A much tougher victory than the first leg, the Mariners showed it wont be long before they are a team to beat in Softball Ulster. The couple of weeks off will help the Angels get their rookies up to speed before the Buccfest tournament in Bangor.
By Neil Boyd
If you’d like to know more about Angels softball, Northstars baseball or Razorbacks football, visit www.belfastbaseball.co.uk or follow the teams on social media.