by BaseballSoftballUK, www.baseballsoftballuk.com
Richmond Flames and Southampton Mustangs advanced to the NBL Final Four, to be played next weekend at the Senior National Championships at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, after easing to playoff triumphs on Saturday, August 28 over the Croydon Pirates and Mildenhall Bulldogs respectively.
League Champions London Mets and the second-place Bracknell Blazers will be waiting for them.
NBL Reporter Simon Fitzjohn details the playoff encounters.
Croydon Pirates @ Richmond Flames
The fairytale run of the Croydon Pirates came to an end as they slumped 11-2 to the Flames at Richmond. But it was far from a one-sided contest, as the score was tied for several innings before the Flames broke the game open late on.
Maikel Azcuy clubbed an early home run for Croydon, but it all fell apart late as Richmond bounced back, partly on the strength of a Grant Delzoppo homer.
Tim Ssali took the loss, while Cody Cain pitched the win.
Croydon’s Dave Ward said: “We just ran out of steam. They got the big inning and it was game over.
“Although we are disappointed with the result,” Ward continued, “we can’t complain over what we have achieved this season. Yes, we lost in the playoffs but just to be in the playoffs is a big plus for us, especially when we could not win a game last season. We will build on this and try to move forward again next season.”
Richmond player-coach Grant Delzoppo said: “It was a pretty close game. Croydon played really well and they battled hard.
“But we are finding form at the right time,” Delzoppo added. “We are getting production throughout our line-up and our defence is excellent. I think the Final Four weekend is all about pitching and we feel pretty good about that.”
Mildenhall Bulldogs @ Southampton Mustangs
The Mustangs moved to the Final Four weekend in their first season in the NBL after winning the battle of the new boys.
Once again, the game was close early on before Southampton pulled clear to emerge 11-7 victors.
Gary Davison claimed the win for the Mustangs, with Nick Chenuasky taking the loss for Mildenhall. John Mabie did launch a three-run home run for the Bulldogs but it was too little, too late.
Southampton’s Lee Ralph said: “To finish fourth in the league and then make the Final Four is great. It was very tight but we scored five runs in the eighth inning to pull clear. And defensively, we are looking pretty good.
“If anyone had asked us whether we could see ourselves in the Final Four when the season started,” Ralph said, “we would have said ‘no’. But here we are!”
Mildenhall’s Gabriel Macias said: “It was a real back-and-forth game. But we just had a few too many errors late on and Southampton capitalised.
“This season has been a real learning experience for us,” Macias added. “I think we will be better prepared next season – we will be looking to recruit more local players and come back with a more consistent line-up.”