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.
Under 14 Qualifier
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.
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.