by Baseball Softball UK, www.baseballsoftballuk.com
Bracknell Blazers won three back-to-back games in one day to stage an unexpected comeback and win the National Baseball League Championship on Sunday, August 30. The national title at the highest level of British baseball was the Bracknell club’s first in its 17-year history.
Having lost to the London Mets on Saturday morning the Blazers faced an elimination game early the next day. A resounding 12-1 victory over Herts Falcons began Bracknell’s journey along the lengthiest route to the final in the weekend’s National Baseball Championship (NBC) in Croydon. An 11-7 triumph over London, the defending champions of the previous two years, and a 16-4 defeat of the league’s first-place team, Richmond Flames, in the final concluded the story.
Prior to Sunday, Bracknell had been in the National Baseball League (NBL) the longest (since the league’s founding in 2001) and made more appearances in the league’s championship tournament than any of this year’s NBC participants but had no honours to show for it. It was a long wait for a club which has made a point over the years of allowing young home-grown squad members to find a place in the team among established players, but the patient approach finally bore fruit.
“I’m so happy for these guys,” said Josh Chetwynd of the teammates he joined from London mid-way through the season. “Some of them have been involved with the club for years and have been waiting a long time to enjoy a feeling like this.”
It was a completely different story to last year when Bracknell struggled to a 5-19 record in the regular season and the closest the Trask brothers got to an appearance in the national final was as grounds crew. In 2009 the Blazers improved to a 14-10 record and Michael and Ryan Trask were at the top of a lineup which racked up a total of 39 runs over three games on Sunday.
Though Bracknell was not the strongest of the clubs during the regular season, it was a classic case of everything coming together at the right time on Sunday. The absence of a number of first-team players from London’s squad – one of the regular season’s strongest clubs – decreased the likelihood of a repeat of last year’s London-Richmond final. However, that shouldn’t diminish Bracknell’s achievement as they proved against a full-strength Richmond side in the final that with their own optimum combination of veterans and established young players they are a match for anyone at this level.
Strong hitters like Phil Matthews, Michael Stewart and former Great Britain players Josh Chetwynd and Adam Roberts have played in patches during the season but certainly made an impact with their bats at the weekend, driving the big innings which helped win Bracknell games. However, long-time regulars such as pitchers Henry Collins and Matt Maitland played crucial roles from the mound and position players like the Trasks and Jamie Ford, who have progressed from British youth system, were involved in every game of the weekend as well as many during the season.
It took more than individual performances. To come back from an error-strewn defeat on Saturday and win three do-or-die games in a row also required the whole team to focus – a lack of which manager Rob Rance had bemoaned during a mid-season losing streak – and to make use of the momentum which built with each of those wins.