National University Softball Championship beats the weather

Mon 18 Mar 2019

The Loughborough University first team battled hard in a fantastic final against the University of Reading on Sunday 17 March at Farnham Park to take the title at BaseballSoftballUK’s National University Spring Softball Championship – but the weekend-long event came very close to not happening at all.

Rain and high winds during the week leading up to the Championship meant that serious consideration had to be given to calling it off, largely because of the condition of the fields.  But the decision was made to do everything possible to make sure university students had the long-awaited opportunity to play the tournament they've been looking forward to since last October.


Day 1: Group stages

Saturday morning started wet and the staff at Farnham Park were up early, setting up softball fields in areas that were less affected by the weather.  But there was a fantastic atmosphere when the enthusiastic students started to arrive, some getting out of their cars and minibuses after trips that had begun at the crack of dawn.  They were certainly ready to play!

Four groups each played round-robin games, with teams fighting for the top spot in each group that would give them the opportunity to play for the tournament crown on Sunday.

While three of the groups had four teams each, the Blue Group had three because of the absence of the only team that failed to turn up for the competition: Imperial College London.

There were some serious battles and close games, but at the end of the day the Reading Knights, Oxford Brookes University Bears, the University of East Anglia and Loughborough 1 knew they had a ticket to the top group on Sunday and a shot at the Championship.

The final round-robin standings were:

BLUE GROUP
Oxford Brookes University Bears
University of Manchester
Loughborough University 2

RED GROUP
Loughborough University 1
University of Portsmouth
University of York
University of Surrey

ORANGE GROUP
University of Reading Knights
University of Kent
Oxford Brookes University Cubs
University of Nottingham Archers

GREEN GROUP
University of East Anglia
University of Southampton
University of Nottingham Arrows
University of Reading Jesters


Day 2: Serious competition

Although no one got too wet on Saturday, the rain decided to come overnight, making the fields nearly unplayable for Sunday.

But the games got under way thanks to an excellent umpire crew led by Pearl Bramhall and closely supported by BASU Umpire-in-Chief Jes Sandhu, who were determined that the students were going to get the game time they deserved.  So the umpires moved fields when necessary, helped by the students themselves.

Without those experienced umpires, the games may well have been called off.  But eventually the sun came out, the wind dried the fields and a full Sunday of fantastic softball was played.  It was so good, nobody noticed the 15 minutes of hailstones early in the afternoon!

Softball-wise, this was a treat for anyone watching.  These students didn't come down just to party over the weekend: they were serious about softball, serious about strategy and serious about winning.

Highlights included games such as Surrey v Reading Jesters where neither team would give up in a 9-9 draw, a defensive display in a 6-4 game between York and Loughborough 2 and a batting display from Kent and Southampton that finished 14-12 to the South Coast team. 


Group finals

After Saturday, the teams had been placed in Groups 1, 2, 3 and 4 based on where they had finished in the initial round-robins.  Each of these groups played another round-robin on Sunday and then the first-place and second-place teams played a group final.

Group 4 was topped by the Reading Jesters, the Group 3 winner was the Nottingham Arrows and Portsmouth University was the winner in Group 2.

That just left the question of who would win the Group 1 final and the tournament championship.


The main final

It was windy, but nothing compared to Saturday, and the main field next to the Home Plate Bar & Kitchen was looking sharp as the University of Reading Knights were sharpening their swords in readiness to face Loughborough 1 in the main final.

It turned out to be an incredible game.

Both teams came out punching hard, with plenty of spectators watching, and the score stood at 18-13 to Loughborough after just a few innings. 

Umpire in Chief Pearl Bramhall, who was also watching the game, knew after just a couple of innings who she would pick as the MVPs if it was up to her (in fact, they were chosen by the umpires officiating the game, but their choices were the same as Pearl’s). 

Pearl was referring to Georgie Adcock from Loughborough 1, pictured above, who had hit three impressive home runs before the game was even halfway through, and Tamara Stevanovic from the Reading Knights, pictured below, who the umpires later said was “simply outstanding”.

Loughborough showed some serious batting and ultimately won the game, but the Reading Knights fought all the way and are no doubt planning for revenge in the autumn.


Comments

BSUK North West Development Manager Luis Arrevillagas, who organised the event, said, “It's such a pleasure seeing these students playing here.  My colleagues and I work all year round to support these universities and to go to new universities to create teams.  But these students, along with their parents and coaches, work really hard recruiting, dealing with Student Unions and Athletic Unions, fighting for space against other sports and looking for grants and paying from their own pockets to get here.

“It would have been inconceivable if we weren’t doing everything possible to beat the weather and get these games played.”

Experienced umpire Jes Sandhu had the last word: “The look on these young adults’ faces throughout the weekend was worth standing in the rain, hail and wind for!”


Final standings

The final standings at the 2019 Spring National University Softball Championship were:

1 – Loughborough University 1 (Winner)
2 – University of Reading Knights (Runner-up)
3 – Oxford Brookes University Bears
4 – University of East Anglia
5 – University of Portsmouth (Group 2 Winner)
6 – University of Manchester
7 – University of Southampton
8 – University of Kent
9 -- University of Nottingham Arrows (Group 3 Winner)
10 – University of York
11 – Loughborough University 2
12 – Oxford Brookes University Cubs
13 – University of Reading Jesters (Group 4 Winner)
14 – University of Nottingham Archers
15 – University of Surrey
(16 – Imperial College London)

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