Leicester Blue Sox u18’s closed out another successful
season at the BBF Youth National Baseball Championships last weekend, with a
pair of exciting games against top quality opposition.
It was a coming of age tournament for the Blue Sox Juniors
programme, with the nucleus of our u18 team having played together since it’s
inaugural year of 2012.
Following the first couple of seasons coming to terms with the
quality gap between new and existing programmes, the Juniors came into their
stride last year with their first-ever league wins and an impressive silver
medal finish at the BBF Youth North Baseball Championships.
At the start of 2015, Team Coach Phil Rudkin set his sights on going one better
this season, knowing that being the top team in the North would mean a
first-ever appearance at the BBF Youth National Baseball Championships for Leicester Blue Sox.
With a 3-1 regular season record under their belts, the
u18’s still needed to be the top placed team in the round-robin YNBC North Qualifier
in June. They achieved this feat by the
narrowest of margins; a count-back win against last year’s North Champions
Cartmel Valley and another nerve-jangling one-run win against regular foes Halton Polecats.
Following this success, the u18’s continued to play baseball
all through the summer with players rostered on both Blue Sox adult teams, as well as star
player Rory Chandler’s debut appearance for the GB Juniors in the Czech
And so to Farnham Park, the National home of baseball and softball – a real 'field of dreams' right here in the UK. The place where
everybody wants to play, but only a privileged few have in its' relative short history.
A tough draw ensued with the Blue Sox being seeded fourth and paired in the semi-finals against last year’s u17 Champions, the LYBL
Bulldogs, skippered by two of the top coaches in this country Miguel Rodriguez
and Cody Cain.
Blue Sox 1 LYBL Bulldogs 6
Arriving at Farnham Park with the first semi-final reaching
an abrupt conclusion seeing the London Mets putting old rivals Herts Harriers to
sword in record time (with a 13-3 mercy win) thoughts started to turn towards the outcome of the second game of the day.
With Chandler starting on the hill for the Sox, Coach Rudkin knew his team had a real
chance of competing, so long as everyone on the team played their part and to the best of
Going 3-0 down in the first inning was a bit of a sucker
punch, but the boys in light blue regained their composure with a much better
defensive display in the next sequence of plays.
Dropping just the one run in the second, Chandler then emphatically shut down the Bulldogs in the next three innings assisted by some great defensive
plays from both the infield and outfield.
Blue Sox then made it a little bit more uncomfortable for the
LYBL coaches when one run came across the plate, to keep the game close at 4-1.
Leicester’s bench and nearby support was electric!
When Chandler’s pitch count was up, Max Bennett came on in
relief and with that, the break in pitching enabled the intensity of the
preceding innings to die down, allowing the Bulldogs to re-group and re-focus.
Bennett pitched well to keep the Sox in the game, well away
from mercy loss territory, but the Blue Sox bats were quiet when it mattered the
most and the Bulldogs ultimately marched on towards the final, adding a further two runs at
6-1 was certainly no thrashing and Leicester earned the praise of
LYBL’s coach Cody Cain who was impressed with how well the Blue Sox pitching
and defence kept the game close for so long.
The LYBL players are veterans of
the European Little League and Varsity Circuit, so going toe to toe for a complete
game was a huge marker demonstrating just how far the Blue Sox Juniors programme has come in a little over three years.
The Blue Sox players had their heads held high at the end of
day one, looking forward to celebrating a great performance that evening at an arranged team meal with their team-mates and family.
Bronze Medal Game: Leicester Blue Sox 3 Herts Harriers 16
Day two was a very early start, arriving in thick fog for an
8.30am warm-up and 10.00am first pitch.
The atmosphere at Farnham Park this early in the morning was
a quite subdued, even for a third / fourth place match.
The prize was the opportunity of a first-ever competitive
win against the Herts Harriers, who have been a bit of bogey team for the
Junior Sox over the past four seasons. Last year, Leicester came very close to
breaking this hoodoo with an agonising one-run defeat at an inter-league
fixture at Grovehill Park.
Could the Sox round off their 2015 season with
a historic win against their old foes?
Charlie Oxley took to the hill facing some hungry Herts
batters. The key difference between the teams, was making things count when
runners were in scoring positions. Whilst the Harriers got players across the
plate, the Sox were continually stranded with bases-loaded; an extra hit or so away from matching the Harriers inning by inning.
And with that the Herts lead continued to build; it was
broken up momentarily when Rory Chandler brought in a three-run inside the park
homer, but any further signs of a comeback were snuffed out in the top of the
fifth to deliver a mercy loss to the Sox.
The disappointment of a second YNBC defeat proved to be
short lived. The players left Farnham Park with good spirits and memories of a
fantastic weekend of top quality baseball.
Leicester Blue Sox u18 Team Coach Phil Rudkin said “I’m
incredible proud of all my team who stood up well facing their strongest opponents
to date. We handled ourselves with great class and a spirit that endeared us to whoever we came into contact with. This group of boys continues to justify our belief within the club, that the future looks very healthy”.
Leicester Blue Sox Juniors Under-17 and the Hull Junior Scorpions Under-14 teams are the first teams to qualify for this year’s BBF Youth National Baseball Championships after Northern Youth Qualifiers played on Saturday 27 June in Halton.
Under 17 Qualifier
Halton Polecats 13, Cartmel Valley 7 Cartmel Valley 9, Leicester Blue Sox 9 (Leicester win 9-7 on count-back rule) Leicester Blue Sox 4, Halton Polecats 3
The Leicester Blue Sox Juniors have booked their place in the BBF Youth National Baseball Championships for the first time in their three-year history.
The Blue Sox didn’t do it the easy way, relying on a count-back win after tying with last year’s BBF Northern Youth Champions Cartmel Valley, then squeezing out a one-run victory over Halton in the deciding final game of the day.
The Northern Under-17 Qualifier was played as a three-team round robin tournament, and the team with the best win-loss record on the day would progress as the Northern representative at the YNBCs, which will be held at Farnham Park in September.
In the first game of the day, the Halton Polecats eased past a young-looking Cartmel Valley by a score of 13-7.
Game Two, between Leicester and Cartmel Valley, was a lot closer, but Leicester, significantly, took a 9-7 lead going into the final inning. Cartmel tied the score and then brought in veteran pitcher Luke Armstrong to prevent the Blue Sox from achieving a walk-off win. Armstrong succeeded, but his efforts were in vain as the tournament rules awarded the win to the Blue Sox, counting back to the last complete inning when a team was leading.
This set up what turned out to be a deciding game in the third round-robin match between Halton and Leicester, two teams that have had their fair share of one-run encounters in recent seasons.
It was the Polecats who drew first blood, establishing a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Blue Sox tied it up in the top of the third, only for Halton to regain the lead, 3-2, in the bottom of the frame.
And so to a nerve-jangling final inning for both teams. Halton allowed the Blue Sox to stage a two-out rally, with the tying and go-ahead runs scoring for Leicester on a combination of a hit batter, a walk and subsequent errors.
Going into the bottom of that final inning, could Leicester cling onto their 4-3 lead? It wasn’t quite the comfortable 1-2-3 inning they were hoping for, but the Blue Sox prevailed, qualifying for their first-ever YNBC appearance.
Under 14 Qualifier
Hull Scorpions 6, Halton Polecats 5 Hull Scorpions 12, Leicester Blue Sox 6 Halton Polecats 13, Leicester Blue Sox 5
Having being defeated by Halton in a previous tournament, the Scorpions were out for revenge in the first game of the Under-14 Northern Qualifier, again played as a three-team round-robin.
Hull jumped out to a two-run lead in the second inning, but in the third, the Polecats bounced back with five runs from a combination of hits and errors.
The Scorpions managed to tie the game at 5-5, with GB Cadet pitcher Myles Janson taking to the mound to keep Halton quiet for the rest of the game.
The win was secured when Hull loaded the bases and a walk to Cameron Donnelly brought home Tom Read with the decisive run.
Hull then secured their qualification in Game Two against the Leicester Blue Sox. Leicester pitching ran into trouble in the early going, giving Hull the upper hand, and the Scorpions capitalised with some timely hitting whenever a pitched reached the strike zone.
Leicester did manage to pull the contest back to a one-run game halfway through, only to let the Scorpions off the hook in the final innings, and they steamed ahead to a 12-6 victory.
The final game of the day was effectively a consolation game between Halton and Leicester, with the Polecats coming out on top with superior pitching and hitting. Photos by Simon Hancock
The Road to Farnham Park
The BBF will shortly be announcing the qualification format for the remaining YNBC places and age groups.
Joining Leicester in the Under-17 Championship in September will be three teams from the South.
Hull will also compete with three Southern teams in the Under-14 Championship.
A Southern-only Under-12 Championship will be contested for the second time at Farnham Park and the BBF will also be consulting about the feasibility of an Under-10 series.
The YNBC weekend has been set for 19-20 September. Southern playoffs will take place earlier in September at a venue to be decided.
Leicester Blue Sox picked up two impressive wins against
Milton Keynes Bucks at Western Park last Sunday.
After narrowly losing both their games at Birmingham Bandits
the weekend before, first team manager Dennis Grogan was hoping for an improved performance on home soil.
Despite a pair of injuries to key players early on, Grogan
was able to shuffle his pack and the Sox quickly built a commanding lead off
the back of impressive pitching from Sandy Rosendo.
The game concluded with a 19-1 win for Leicester, their
biggest-ever win against Milton Keynes.
Game two was more closely contested with the lead exchanging
back and forth. Leicester ran into trouble in the sixth inning when the Bucks
piled on six runs to open up a 10-5 lead.
In response the Blue Sox scored sevens runs of their own to edge back ahead, only for Milton Keynes to tie it up 12-12 in the top of the
The Sox held their nerve and with a runner on base, it was
the slugger Grogan who secured the win with a walk-off home run to seal the match
Grogan said: “the second game
was such a great game to play in with lots of highs and lows, both teams
fighting for the win. I'm proud of the guys, we played good baseball and
didn't let any minor errors affect our chemistry.”
With these wins, Leicester move up to second place
in the BBF Triple-A Central division. This weekend they take a break from league
action and compete in the BBF Knockout Cup, once again against Milton Keynes. A
win would see them through to the quarter-final stage.
First pitch this Sunday 3 May at Western Park is midday.
The first National Championship under the revitalised BSUK/MLB Play Ball! banner was contested last month at Western Park, Leicester on Saturday 6 September. Facing each other in their first-ever competitive games of baseball were two brand new youth baseball teams from Hull and Leicester.
Play Ball! is
BaseballSoftballUK's flagship development initiative for children and young
people. Developed in partnership with Major League Baseball, Play Ball!
is a local community-centred baseball/softball programme aimed at
10-12-year-old boys and girls.
Hull Scorpions and Leicester
Blue Sox were two of four Play Ball! franchises that were awarded at the start
of 2014. Since then, both organisations have been instrumental in developing new
baseball and softball players, primarily in the Under-13 age group.
With both clubs feeling
ready to give their youngest and newest players the opportunity to participate
in organised games, the event was promoted as an "End-of-Season
Game 1: Hull Junior Scorpions 18 Leicester Blue Sox Juniors 7
The day started with a well-organised opening ceremony with both teams lining up along the first and third baselines for the National anthem, whilst Great Britain National Team player and Hull native Gavin Marshall threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Game rules were modified to aid development; with no balls or strikes being awarded, every player had plenty of opportunities to put the ball into play under a coach-pitched format. This enabled the maximum number of defensive reps for the fielding team and allowed every batter the opportunity to try and reach first base or better.
Game one followed and the
opening exchanges were naturally quite nervy with nearly all the players
playing their first-ever games of baseball. Hull looked the stronger of the two
teams, reaching their five run limit in each of the first two innings. In reply, Leicester were unable to match them giving up six outs over the same period for just four runs.
The game settled down in the
third, with Leicester successfully getting three Hull outs for the first time,
but they were unable to claw back the deficit only scoring two runs in reply to
the Scorpions three.
Going in the fourth inning Hull were 13-6 ahead and
improved on this with another five runs in the top of the frame whilst the Blue
Sox only manage to bring one home.
Going into the final frame,
the rules were adjusted to an open inning, which gave Leicester
one last lifeline to try and get back in the game. They took this incentive
with both arms, producing an astonishing three up, three down inning –
testament to the game format which enabled players to steadily improve their fielding
throughout the game.
The Blue Sox parents and
fans were rocking at this stage, but their encouragement was short-lived as the
Scorpions pulled an equally staggering inning out of the bag, shutting down Leicester with no runs scored.
Hull would take game one with an impressive
Game 2: Leicester Blue Sox 8 Hull Junior Scorpions 9
The Leicester coaches were not too downhearted and could see gradual improvements from their players throughout the first game and were confident of a much closer display in game two.
After a most-welcome hot dog
break for both teams, the second game got underway with Leicester (now the away team) batting first.
Although the first inning
followed a familiar pattern with Hull once again
edging ahead 5-4, what followed was a sight to behold for both team’s
coaches, with an impressive defensive display from both Leicester
and the Scorpions.
The next one and half
innings were scoreless, with the Blue Sox limiting Hull to just three runs in the third. Leicester then hit back hard in the top of the fourth
with four runs on the board to tie it all up. The Scorpions then squeezed ahead
with a solitary run, taking a one-run lead into the final inning.
With the game perfectly
poised, could Leicester avenge defeat in game one by getting the go
ahead runs and keeping Hull
quiet in the bottom of the fifth? Unfortunately for the Sox, it wasn’t to be as
the Scorpions produced their best defensive display of the day, getting three
outs for no runs in record time, to take game two 9-8 and with that the Play Ball! series.
Summing up a successful day for the Junior Scorpions, Hull's General Manager Kevin Macadam said "We
would like to thank the Leicester Blue Sox for making it such a special day for
our players and for being such great hosts, we look forward to forging closer
links with them in the 2015 season and hosting them in Hull."
Leicester Blue Sox’s Chairman and Junior Teams Manager Matt Crawshaw reflected “At the start of this
season, we found junior recruitment difficult but we stuck to our task and by
the middle of the summer, we had the beginnings of a brand new under-13 team."
He added "We have
since prepared for this event over the past couple of months and it was
absolutely delightful seeing our youngest and newest players playing their very
first games of organised baseball. I am one very proud and happy coach, you can
bet the kid’s parents of both teams are too. A big thanks for Hull coming down
to Leicester, we hope this is a beginning of a fruitful partnership between the
two clubs and look forward to organising more games like these next season”.
Leicester Blue Sox Juniors u17 team closed out their best season yet with a strong performance as Silver Medallists at the BBF Youth Northern Baseball Championships. The end of season tournament was held over
the weekend of 13/14 September 2014 at Whythenshawe Park, Manchester.
The event was split into two age categories (u17 and u14), with
plenty of baseball action spread over three diamonds over the weekend.
DAY 1 – Saturday 13 September 2014
Halton Polecats 7, Manchester Saints 2
11, Leicester Blue Sox 6
Leicester Blue Sox 7, Halton Polecats 5
6, Halton Polecats 5
Leicester Blue Sox 12, Manchester
After an open draw at the start of the day, a shortened game
format was adopted for the round-robins, with games scheduled for four innings
each or one hour and 30 minutes, whichever came first.
The closest encounters were between the
teams from Cartmel Valley, Halton and Leicester.
There was great excitement during Halton’s second and third games, where just a
few more runs in their favour would have made them the top seed going to the
semi-finals on Sunday.
Unfortunately for Halton, it wasn’t to be and results meant that
the #1 seed, Cartmel Valley, would face Manchester in their semi-final while the
evenly-matched Halton Polecats and Leicester Blue Sox would face each other for
the sixth time this year in the other semi-final.
DAY 2 – Sunday 14 September 2014 (u17)
9, Manchester Saints 5
Leicester Blue Sox 5, Halton Polecats 2
The highlight game of the tournament was the semi-final between the Halton Polecats and Leicester Blue Sox. Although Halton had the upper hand in the regular season with four wins to nil, two of those encounters were one-run games and the Blue Sox were out to avenge those two defeats at this tournament.
The early exchanges were tight, with the game perfectly poised at 1-1 going into bottom of the third inning. Leicester then blew the game open, piling on four runs with the help of a sacrifice fly from Dan Heywood and a final RBI by Adam Grogan.
With a 5-1 run lead going into the final inning, Leicester just needed to get three outs while conceding fewer than four runs to progress. But Halton clawed one run back and had runners on the bases when Blue Sox starting pitcher Rory Chandler reached his pitch limit and gave way to Charlie Oxley, who struck out Halton's #9 batter for the final out of the game. There was much celebration from the Blue Sox bench after what had been a tense ending.
Third place game:
Halton Polecats 11, Manchester Saints 0
Cartmel Valley 8, Leicester Blue Sox 0
Cartmel Valley had saved their star pitcher,
Luke Armstrong, to face the Blue Sox in the Championship final, while
Leicester, who had given their all in the previous game, had difficulty in
raising themselves again.
Leicester were shut down in the top of
the first inning and Cartmel
Valley replied with three
runs, courtesy of a number of walks and errors.
The second inning was scoreless, but Cartmel Valley
came alive again in the third inning, piling on five more runs, and by this
time Leicester were on the ropes.
Leicester got runners into scoring position in
the fourth inning but the bottom of their order couldn’t cope with Luke
In the top of the fifth and final
inning, Cartmel Valley mopped up the Blue Sox with a
strikeout and double play ground ball, to much excitement of the Cartmel
Cartmel Valley Coach Bruce Armstrong
said: ”I was very proud of the teamwork and effort shown by our players, a
group of friends who have been playing together for many years, and it was a
great way for them to finish their youth baseball careers.”
Leicester Blue Sox Junior Manager Matt
Crawshaw added: “Cartmel
Valley and in particular
Luke Armstrong were superb. We simply had nothing left after giving our
all in the previous four games this weekend. I am so proud of our boys,
who have improved all season long, but credit to Cartmel who are worthy
In the first semi-final Cambridge
faced a composite Leicester team featuring
many of the young stars from the Blue Sox Juniors programme, together with some
Pitching duties for the Future Sox were
shared by James Monohan, Ben Wells and Rory Chandler. Going into the final
inning the Monarchs had established a 4-0 lead. Another six runs put clear
daylight between them and Leicester,
although the Sox did manage to bring home some consolation runs before the conclusion.
Leicester started aggressively
plating 10 runs in the opening frame, with 10 hits recorded before a single-out
was made. Highlight in the top of the first was an RBI double from Jarrod Cerff,
who then went on to pitch in the bottom half with two strikeouts and only one
MK went to the bullpen, but the Future Sox
plated another seven runs in the second. In response Adam Grogan took to the
hill but shedded seven runs for two outs, before Charlie Oxley finished it off with the game-ending strike out.
Cambridge got things started early with a 6-1 lead going into the second inning. The ebb and flow of the game was fairly even
thereafter but the Centurions never threatened to overturn the deficit. Highlight
of the game was a two-run inside the park homerun for the Monarchs.
Once again, the end of season development tournament was blessed with good weather and a festival-like atmosphere with all teams and their fans remaining at Western Park to enjoy the final.
This was the last action at Western Park of 2014 and the Blue Sox now look forward to an exciting menu of off-season events including juniors and adults awards events, club AGM, Academy Baseball & Softball, plus the club's own indoor training starting in January.
Game 1: Leicester
Blue Sox 17 Hove Tuesday 9 Game 2: Leicester
Blue Sox 14 Hove Tuesday 15
The last time Leicester
faced Hove it was in the 2012 National
Baseball Championship final, where the Blue Sox became the Single-A Division
champions two season ago.
Since then both teams have
been promoted two tiers and met at the weekend, courtesy of this BBF AAA inter-league match-up on the south coast.
In the first game Leicester jumped out in front with Armando Da Silva,
Sandy Rosendo and Adam Kolasa getting the significant hits that drove in five
out of the seven runs scored across the first two innings.
Rosendo also pitched for the
Blue Sox and was once again dependable on the mound keeping Hove’s
bats quiet in the opening exchanges.
Leicester continued to pile
on more runs, establishing a commanding 12-1 lead in the fourth inning but Hove staged a fight-back scoring seven runs in reply, to
get right back in the game.
In the sixth inning, the
Blue Sox would improve their lead to 17-8, with some great hitting from
Sebastien Stafford and yet another home-run for star slugger Dennis Grogan.
Rosendo pitched out the
remainder of the game with the insurance of a large lead, giving up just one
run to close out the match 17-9.
Game two saw the ball being
handed to Adam Grogan and Rory Chandler, two of the teenage stars from the Blue
Sox youth team. Grogan Jr pitched well over two innings, with Leicester
only slightly trailing 3-2.
The Blue Sox bats came alive
in the third inning with five runs scored, helped by key hits from Scott
McMillan and Chandler.
Hove replied with a couple of runs of their own but were now trailing Leicester 7-4.
In the fourth inning, Hove staged another fightback getting Grogan Jr into a
bases-loaded jam. Chandler
was then brought into relief but the home-team rally would see them take back
the lead, going 10-9 ahead into the fifth inning.
The lead continued to be
exchanged in a very close game, with the Sox edging 14-11 in the sixth inning,
only for Hove to respond with four more runs
to start the final inning with a 15-14 lead.
Unfortunately there was to
be no late drama at the death and Hove managed
to cling onto their slender margin, despite trailing the Sox for much of the
Blue Sox player-manager
Dennis Grogan reflected on a long-days work for his team “We played two great
games of baseball today. Our pitching and batting was very good, but our
fielding needed to be better. We gave Hove
additional chances which they ultimately capitalised on”.
The results still leave Leicester outside of the all-important end of season
playoffs positions. Their final games of the regular season are this Sunday 10
August against local rivals Nottingham Rebels.
If the Blue Sox can take
both games of this double-header from the Rebels and results elsewhere go their
way, there is an outside chance of Leicester
prolonging their 2014 campaign.
First-pitch at Western Park
is at midday; the club will also be hosting an introduction to baseball game for
youngsters aged 4-8 on the day.
Game 1: Leicester Blue Sox 14 Birmingham Maple Leafs 10 Game 2: Leicester Blue Sox 8 Birmingham Maple Leafs 1
Leicester Blue Sox got back to winning ways at the weekend, with another pair of victories over Birmingham Maple Leafs.
The Blue Sox got off to a good start scoring five runs in the first inning, whilst pitcher Sandy Rosendo limited Birmingham to just the one run.
The Maple Leafs bats came alive in the second inning, clawing the deficit to 7-5 going into the third.
Rosendo then settled into a groove striking out six batters during the game, with the Sox doubling their runs scored come the final inning.
A late flurry from Birmingham saw them scoring four runs in the final two innings, but it wasn’t enough to stop their third loss of the season against Leicester.
In Game 2 the Blue Sox pitching was shared by three young prospects called up from Leicester’s fledgling junior baseball programme. The promising trio of Adam Grogan, Alf Dunton and Rory Chandler made it into the Great Britain under-17 national team earlier this year and haven’t looked out of place in their senior Blue Sox appearances this season.
Grogan started on the hill, shutting down Birmingham in the first two innings. Dunton was equally impressive keeping the Maple Leafs scoreless in the third and fourth innings. By the time Chandler came in to close the game, the Sox were 3-0 up, which extended to 8-0 in the seventh and final inning.
Birmingham finally got a run across the plate towards the end, but they were well and truly beaten thanks to the near perfect pitching of the youngsters and the lively batting of the Blue Sox, capped with another home run for player-manager Dennis Grogan, his fourth of the season.
On his team’s wins the skipper said “we've made great progress this year, and these two games showed that. Our junior players were superb, they were the stars of the game today.”
Although Leicester look set to finish just outside the end of season playoff places this year, there is still some great baseball to look forward to. Alf Dunton will be travelling to Florida with the Great Britain under-17 team to compete in the USSSA Gold Medal games starting on Monday 4th August.
Back home the domestic season wraps up at Western Park on Sunday 10th August when the Blue Sox host their local rivals Nottingham Rebels.