In 2012, the Richmond Dukes struggled through a campaign with just a handful of high points, but a year later and they sit proud as the Single-A National Champions after winning a close game against 2013 rookies Haverhill Blackjacks.
Richmond 15, Haverhill 14
After a long season, Haverhill Blackjacks and Richmond Dukes met on the Main Diamond for the Single-A Championship. This would be the first final played on the new diamond at Farnham Park.
Haverhill took the home dugout as the highest seed in the season whilst Richmond sat along the third baseline.
Richmond took an early lead in the first due to several passed balls. Amir Qorbanzadeh stole two bases in a row as he, Dan Collett, manager Dave D’Urbano and Tim Pavlovich all scored.
Haverhill were looking for a quick response and did not disappoint as Seb Schmidt took a lead-off walk before Steven Phillips, Matt Schellhaas and Ronald McDonald scored, with Chris Highland notching a two-RBI single.
When Richmond came back to bat they could not keep the ball on the ground. Karl Murray managed to advance to third but he was eventually halted and no runs were scored. Haverhill were unable to score in the bottom of the third either, leaving Richmond with a slender 6-5 lead.
Richmond came to life again in the top of the fourth inning, Harry Eaton staring the inning by drawing a walk. Qorbanzandeh was unable to get on base, but helped Eton to move up to second when Mike Archibald took to bat and allowed Eaton to score on a passed ball. By the end of the inning, the Dukes had stretched their lead to 12-6.
Haverhill, making the NBC final in just their first season, were not going to lay down and by the end of the fifth had clawed themselves back in to the encounter to trail 13-10.
The game was always a tight affair and by the top of the seventh inning Richmond’s lead was down to just one run, holding a 15-14 advantage. The Dukes were hoping to restore a wider margin but could only put one runner on base.
Haverhill manager Steven Esdale struck out to counterpart D’Urbano, pitching – he hopped – for the final time this season. Sean Goodwin came to the plate and, with a full count against him, he hit a long fly ball to centre. Goodwin turned the corner at first and went for second when he saw the ball had been fumbled but Richmond’s fielders played fast and relayed the ball to second base in time to tag Goodwin out.
With D’Urbano needing just one more out to end the game Sebastian Schmidt drew a walk. The Blackjacks might have fancied their chances of tying things up when Steven Philips took to the plate, but his hard hit found only shortstop Ben Carter who took his time and threw to first base to record the championship-winning out.
Richmond had made it, they are the Single–A Champions.
Well done to all teams this season for a good season of British Baseball, and especially well done to the Single–A champions, the Richmond Dukes.