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3 SEPTEMBER: SOUTHAMPTON SURVIVES THE NBL PLAYOFFS TO FACE THE METS FOR THE NATIONAL TITLE

09/05/2017, 11:30am BST
By Carli Stehle

The 2016 National Champion Southampton Mustangs had to do things the hard way this year to get a chance to retain their crown.  But two playoffs wins on Sunday 3 September mean that Southampton has made it back to the NBCs to face the London Mets.

Their best-of-three series for the national title – the third year in a row that Southampton and the Mets have contested it -- will be played this weekend, 9-10 September, at Farnham Park.

Game 1 will be played on Saturday and Game 2 and (if necessary Game 3) on Sunday.

The Mets won in 2015 and Southampton took the title last year.

The Mustangs, who finished second this year in the NBL league standings but were assigned as the fourth playoff seed by the BBF Board for disciplinary reasons, had to work hard this past weekend for the right to face the Mets.

First they took on the third-seeded Essex Arrows and had to fight all the way for a 24-21 win.

Next up were the second-seeded London Capitals, and that was an easier game for the Mustangs, who won in five innings on the mercy rule by 14-4.

There wasn’t that much between the Mets and the Mustangs during this year’s regular season, and it should be a feast of high-level baseball at Farnham Park this weekend.

Here’s how the two playoff games went.

SOUTHAMPTON MUSTANGS 24, ESSEX ARROWS 21 

This game was exciting and long -- four hours and 15 minutes -- as both teams fought valiantly to survive to face the London Capitals later in the day. 

The Mustangs took an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Juan Diaz scored on a passed ball and Arley Lorenzo came around to score on a two-run home run from Gary Davison.

Essex starting pitcher Daniel Whitton had an early exit in the second inning as Southampton scored two more runs, and a two-run home run from Ambiorix Hurtado in the top of the fourth gave the Mustangs an 11-2 lead.

But Essex came to life in the bottom of the fourth inning and tied the game as they batted around the order.  There were key RBIs from Richard Chesterton, Michael Anunobi and Carlos Casal.

A stunned Southampton managed to regain the advantage at 14-11, but the Arrows took the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning as Richard Chesterton, Ollie Thompson, Jacob Dean, Luis Goncalves and Fraser Duggan crossed home plate.  Luke Foley scored the last run of the inning, rounding the bases on several Mustang errors, to put the Arrows up 18-14.  An upset looked possible.

A three-run home run by Miguel Rodriguez and eventually another solo home run by Gary Davison put the Mustangs up 19-18 in the top of the seventh inning, but Carlos Casal leveled the score in the bottom half of the inning with a solo home run of his own. 

The top of the eighth inning was a critical time for Southampton, as they re-took the lead for good against a depleted Essex pitching staff.  Alejandro Morense executed a perfect lead-off bunt and scored on an error, a double from Juan Diaz brought in Miguel Rodriguez, and then a three-run home run from Arley Lorenzo sealed the game.

Essex didn’t quit and reduced the deficit yet again, but Southampton hung on for the 24-21 win.

SOUTHAMPTON MUSTANGS 14, LONDON CAPITALS 4

The Capitals’ hopes for a London derby in the NBL finals were dashed as they fell to Southampton on the mercy rule in five innings.

Southampton once again took a first-inning lead as Ryan Trask scored on a balk and an RBI single from Gary Davison brought in Arley Lorenzo.  Their Mustangs then added four more runs in the second inning, including a two-run home run from Maikel Azcuy. 

Maxime Flayol got London on the board with an impressive home run in the bottom of the second inning, and a single from Jeremy Lengyel brought in Leo Pantajo in the bottom of the third to cut the Southampton lead to 6-2. 

Ben Marcal was ejected after crashing into Southampton catcher Gary Davison, a ruling that the Capitals found contentious. 

London scored two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, but the Mustangs then sealed the game by batting through their line-up in the top of the fifth.  Southampton’s momentum was still going strong even after six hours of baseball, and two-run homers from Ambiorix Hurtado and Arley Lorenzo helped secure their place in the NBL National Championship for the third year in a row.

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