A round up of the action played at Nottingham Rebels ground on Sunday 4 September 2011.
Playoff Game 1
Nottingham Rebels 8, Bolton Robots of Doom 9
As has often been the case this season in Nottingham, the day started in blustery conditions and whilst not ideal for playoff baseball, both teams managed to go toe to toe and served up a classic.
It was the Rebels who drew first blood going 3-0 in the opening inning, the lead extended to 5-0 by the bottom of the second, with the Robots only putting on one run in reply in the third.
Torrential rain began to set in but both teams’ battled on; Nottingham added another run in the fourth but Bolton bounced back and capitalised on a Rebels fielding error, bringing the game back to 6-4.
The Rebels began to feel the pressure in the fifth and another error allowed the Robots to score, followed by a dropped catch in the next play to tie the game up.
With the momentum now in Bolton’s favour, the Robots took the lead for the first time adding two runs to go 8-6 up in the sixth.
The Rebels immediately responded tying the game up 8-8 in the top of the final frame, forcing Bolton to bat out the bottom of the seventh.
The Robots ended victorious with a walk off win, eliminating their hosts and advancing the AA Semi Final in the process.
Playoff Game 2
Sheffield Bladerunners 3, Milton Keynes Bucks 13
In comparison, the second playoff quarter final was more of a straightforward win for Milton Keynes, who closed the game out in five innings.
Sheffield took an early lead going 3-0 in the first inning, but the Bucks turned on the screw in the second, piling on eight runs.
MK never looked back and exhibited good hitting and strong defence, as well as solid pitching from starter Ed Wilmott.
This set up a mouth watering semi-final between the first placed teams from the Midlands and Northern Divisions.
Playoff Game 3 (Midlands/North AA Semi Final)
Bolton Robots of Doom 13, Milton Keynes Bucks 12
This game certainly lived up to its billing, it played out like a vintage heavyweight boxing title, each opponent landing a steady number of blows in every round with the contest going the full distance and then some. But who would win the points decision?
Bolton landed the first blow of the match going 1-0 in the opening exchanges but Milton Keynes fought back in the second round, with one run scoring on an error and Tom McVay getting the go-ahead RBI.
The third inning was a slugfest for the Robots, they had
pitcher McVay on the ropes with four runs coming home and a 5-2 lead on the
The Bucks were in no mood for throwing the towel in however and bounced back courtesy of a Tadashi Kawata 2 RBI triple, followed by a Robot error that allowed Kawata home to tie the game up 5-5 at the bottom of the third.
Once again the Robots came out fighting in the following round; they quickly got to bases loaded with no outs. A walk handed the lead back to Bolton and a 2 RBI uppercut from Kieron O’Leary cemented an 8-5 lead.
Mcvay still at the heart of the action, retired the rest of the side and was up next to bat for MK. A walk followed by a couple more Robot errors saw him cross the plate. This was followed by a hit and run double play and a groundout, leaving Bolton 8-6 ahead at the bottom of the fourth.
Ed Wilmott came back into pitch for MK but couldn’t contain Ryan Patterson who advanced on a hit by pitch, stole second and third, then came home off a fielder’s choice.
Falling behind 9-6 Milton Keynes had to start landing some more hits; Kawata was lively reaching third base with some aggressive base running and was then broought home from a Rhys Bowen base hit. Jon Reynolds followed that up with an RBI of his own and with the bases loaded Ben Alexander induced an error to tie the game up. Willmott was walked next to bring home the go ahead run and Bolton’s pitcher Jay Sherlock walked another handing a lead of 11-9 to the Bucks.
Zak O’Boyle led the Robot retaliation with a double and with Wilmott under pressure, he walked Bolton into a bases loaded situation. Dale Hargan drew another walk to bring one run home and Patterson was hit by pitch allowing the tying run across the plate.
Going into the bottom of the sixth, both teams were clearly fatigued from a long day of baseball but who was going to buckle come the conclusion? McVay drew a walk with two outs and then stole second and third. Reynolds then induced an error to bring home his teammate home but a flyout from Olly Calcutt ended the momentum with the Bucks 12-11 ahead.
And so onto the final regulation inning; both teams were battered and bruised, but who could deliver the final knockout blow? O’Leary got things going with a walk and was then driven in by Seb Yaseen’s ground rule double. A subsequent groundout then concluded the half inning, with the game tied up 12-12.
Could the Bucks seal it with a walk off win? Alexander grounded out, Willmott flew out and Chris White struck out to send the game into extra innings.
Sherlock led off the eighth but popped out to McVay at short stop. Hargan also pop flied, this time to second base. Patterson drilled the next ball but it went straight into the glove of pitcher Wilmott.
Kawata led of the bottom of the eighth with a walk, Bowen also walked and both runners then executed a double steal. With runners on second and third, Kawata made a break for home plate trying to capitalise on an errant throw, but he was cut down by the catcher for the first out. Next, Hayden Oakes was struck out although this left the winning run at third. McVay was up next but couldn’t bring Owen home, striking out to send the game into another extra inning.
Bolton’s Tony Berry led off but was struck out and a resulting flyout off Ramos meant it was down to O’Boyle to get things going with a walk. A subsequent fielding error allowed O’Boyle to score and Yaseen concluded the inning in the next at bat via a flyout. The Robots were now leading 13-12 going into the bottom of the ninth.
By now the atmosphere at the game had reached fever pitch, with the Midlands crowd cheering the Bucks to try and recover the game. Unfortunately for MK it wasn’t to be, Reynolds flew out, Calcutt lined out and Alexander was adjudged to have grounded out in a questionable call at first base. Sharp shooting from an on the spot photographer later revealed that the runner did in fact reach the bag first, a hard luck photo finish for the battling Bucks.
Winning manager, Rico Toniolo, said, “This is my proudest moment as Robots of Doom team manager. To win our division and go on to win against the Rebels and Bucks in Nottingham was a great moment for us all".
“I applaud the Bucks for their great attitude. They gave us a very tough game and are a credit to Midlands baseball.
“Today is about my lads. We play for each other with no egos. I’m extremely proud of my guys, they have a great team spirit and fully deserved their win. I cannot wait to go to Herts for the final, where we will give it our all!”
MK’s Chairman Jon Reynolds offered his own reflections on the day “I’ve heard it said many a time that baseball is a game of inches, and that has never been more evident than yesterday. After the season we’ve had I think we deserved more but it wasn’t to be. Either way, we played our part in a classic on Sunday and one that should go down in AA playoff folklore.”