Loughborough 1 wins Spring National University Baseball Championship

Mon 25 Mar 2019

The 2019 Spring National University Baseball Championship was played at Farnham Park on the weekend of 23-24 March, with 14 teams eager to take home the trophy and the title of the country's best university baseball team.

That honour eventually fell to Loughborough University’s first team, who beat Oxford University in a thrilling final.  This gave Loughborough a clean sweep of spring university events, as their softball team had won the 2019 Spring National University Softball Championship the week before.

Day One

The tournament got under way on Saturday in overcast conditions, but with the diamonds well-prepared and ready for play, and the teams started out in round-robin groups.

In the Red group, Loughborough got off to a strong start by beating Southampton 12-2 in four innings. Meanwhile, in the other groups, Kent started as they meant to go on with an impressive 11-1 victory over Imperial College and Oxford, who are becoming more and more experienced at NUBC tournaments, also got off to a strong start with an 11-5 win over Queen Mary.

As the day progressed, some excellent pitching from the University of East Anglia allowed them to get off the mark with an 11-2 win against Hull, and in a very close game Durham used some strong fielding to clinch a 6-5 win over Southampton.

Nottingham had a fantastic start to Day One with an 18-1 win over Sheffield, who themselves bounced back from that loss to record a strong 10-6 win against Swansea, though Swansea put in a great effort to stay in the game until late on.

Later in the afternoon Hull and Queen Mary battled to a 7-7 tie in a thrilling contest.

Imperial College eventually put up a first win against Swansea by 13-7, with some excellent hitting that pulled the London team away from the opposition in the third and fourth innings.

As the day wound down, Durham drew with Coventry and inflicted a defeat on Loughborough 1, while Hull played strong defense to defeat Loughborough 2 by 9-5 and departed the venue for the night with a spring in their step.   So did East Anglia, who won 7-6 against Queen Mary in the last game of the day.

Day Two

Sunday began with the diamonds bathed in morning sunshine, which was the perfect setting for a close 3-2 victory for Oxford against a rejuvenated East Anglia.  This was followed by big wins for Southampton against Coventry and Nottingham against Swansea, both by the score of 12-4.

The final rounds of group games were hard-fought but played in good spirit.  Imperial College managed a great win against the always well-organised and determined Nottingham team, and Queen Mary earning a well-deserved 9-5 victory against Loughborough 2, who battled well throughout the weekend despite results not going their way. 

As the afternoon hit its peak temperature -- a tropical 15 degrees! -- placing games contained some amazing moments, especially in a dramatic extra inning 8-7 win for Southampton against Queen Mary. Nottingham finished the tournament with an emphatic 20-4 win over East Anglia, who overall had a solid tournament, and Swansea finished with a well-deserved win against Loughborough 2.

The Final

And so to the final, which always had the potential to be a titanic tussle.

Loughborough 1 had battled back from some early inconsistency to reach the final by beating a strong Kent team 15-2 in one semi-final, while Oxford University, pictured below and undefeated throughout, joined them in the final after an excellent semi-final win over Durham.

A sizeable crown of friends and family were treated to a dramatic final game which showcased high-quality plays from both teams.

In a match that could have gone either way, Loughborough tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-RBI hit, which meant extra innings and heightened tension.  But Loughborough defended well in the top of the sixth inning and took the title in the bottom half of the frame on a stolen base, sparking celebrations among their players and supporters.

Standings

An excellent tournament was capped off by a memorable final – and Oxford will no doubt be back to challenge Loughborough when the Autumn National Baseball Championship is played in October.

Final standings from 2019 Spring NUBC were:

1 -- Loughborough University 1 (Winner)
2 -- Oxford University Rangers  Runner-up)
3 -- Durham University Wolves
4 -- University of Kent
5 -- University of Nottingham Thieves
6 – University of East Anglia Blue Sox
7 -- Southampton University
8 -- Queen Mary University Knights
9 -- Imperial College London
10 -- Hull University
11 -- Coventry University Red Arrows
12 -- University of Sheffield Hornets
13 -- Swansea University Green Sox
14 -- Loughborough University 2

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