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National Baseball League

Regular Season 2017

LONDON METS WIN WALK-OFF THRILLER TO GRAB GAME ONE IN THE NBL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

09/09/2017, 7:00pm BST
By Bob Fromer

SATURDAY 9 SEPTEMBER – The London Mets took a giant step towards wresting the National Baseball Championship back from Southampton today when they came from 14-6 down to post a walk-off 15-14 win against the Mustangs in the first game of their best-of-three Championship series at Farnham Park.

The hero for the Mets was lead-off hitter Jamie Dix, who started the game at catcher, moved to centre field, and then to first base – and slashed a line drive double to right field with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning to drive in Sam Sproule from second base, snap a 14-14 tie, and send his teammates hurtling out of the dugout in joy and relief.

It was a game in which the Mets never led until that winning hit, and in which they were eight runs down after the Mustangs put up seven runs in the top of the fourth inning to stretch out a 7-6 lead to 14-6.

Both starting pitchers struggled, but it was the Mets’ relievers who won them the game.  Mets’ starter Marshall Crawford was responsible for all 14 Southampton runs, though not all of them were earned, and he left the game during the top of the fourth inning when Southampton was running up their lead.  But the Mustangs never scored again, as Maxwell Tyler kept Southampton off the scoreboard in the fifth and sixth innings, and Richard Minford pitched a scoreless top of the seventh.

Southampton had baserunners in all three of those innings, but couldn’t cash them.

Southampton starter Henry Collins lasted for 2.2 innings before giving way to Alejandro Morense, who pitched the rest of the game and was unable to keep the Mets in check as that 14-6 lead slowly evaporated.  Morense gave up one run in the fourth inning, three in the fifth and four in the sixth as the Mets tied the game at 14-all.

Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Morense walked Sam Sproule with one out, hit Freddy Mosier with a pitch, then got pinch-hitter Grant Delzoppo on a fly ball to short centre field.  Southampton was one out away from extra innings; the Mets were one hit away from the win.  Jamie Dix went for the first pitch he saw, and the Mets had an improbable series lead.

Game Two in the National Championship series will be played tomorrow (Sunday) at noon, and Game Three, if necessary at 3.00 – but the defending champion Mustangs will start tomorrow with their backs against the wall.

THE ATMOSPHERE

Farnham Park was bustling all day today, with the Youth National Baseball Championships being played across five different age groups from U11 to U17 as the weather veered from occasional warm sunshine to clouds, wind and blustery rain.

Farnham Park was bustling all day today, with the Youth National Baseball Championships being played across five different age groups from U11 to U17 as the weather veered from occasional warm sunshine to clouds, wind and blustery rain.

In the midst of all this, the top two adult teams in British baseball played the opening game of their National Championship series the main baseball diamond, starting at 1.30 pm and ending three hours later, just as serious rain began to fall.  

And in truth, though the game turned into a thriller, it wasn’t one for the purists.

Each team committed four errors, and there were walks, stolen bases and wild pitches aplenty, plus hit batters and even a balk.  All of this, combined with 13 hits for the Mustangs and 12 for the Mets, contributed to a high-scoring contest in which there were runners all over the bases and only one three-up, three-down inning – and even that had a double by Southampton’s Gio Escalona, who was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple.

RIVERS OF RUNS

Neither team started its #1 pitcher, and that may have contributed to runs flowing freely from the start.

In the top of the first inning, Southampton put up four runs against Marshall Crawford on a single by Juan Diaz, a walk to Ryan Trask, two errors, an RBI groundout and a double steal of second and home.

Back came the Mets in the bottom of the first with three runs of their own.  Martin Tucker singled off Henry Collins, Carlos Dominguez doubled to right centre field, Richard Minford was hit by a pitch and Marshall Crawford helped his own cause with a two-run single to centre field.  Minford then scored on an error.

Southampton widened their lead to 7-3 in the top of the second inning.  Juan Diaz led off with a ground rule double that hopped over the fence in left centre field, Ryan Trask walked, both runners moved up on a wild pitch and Maikel Azcuy singled them both in.  Azcuy later scored on a pop-up behind first base that turned into a sacrifice fly, even though Southampton second baseman Arley Lorenzo made a fine catch.

Then, for a while, we had the calm before the storm.  The Mets didn’t score in the bottom of the second inning, and Marshall Crawford got round an error in the top of the third by striking out three Southampton batters.

That allowed the Mets to narrow the deficit to 7-6 with three runs in the bottom of the third inning as Henry Collins lost the strike zone.  With one out, Collins walked three batters in a row and hit the next one, Sam Sproule, to force in a run.  A second run scored on a wild pitch and the third on an error – but in the midst of all this the Mets lost their centre fielder, Daniele Sassoli, who was tossed from the game by home plate umpire Darrin Muller for protesting a called third strike at the knees – a pitch that Muller called consistently all afternoon.

Then came Southampton’s seven-run outburst in the top of the fourth inning.  Marshall Crawford walked two, hit a batter, threw a run-scoring wild pitch, committed a balk and gave up singles to Arley Lorenzo, Gary Davison, Gio Escalona and Juan Diaz before Maxwell Tyler came in to close out the inning.

TURNING POINT

The rest of the game was about the Mets holding Southampton in check while turning the screw against reliever Alejandro Morense and cutting into the Mustangs’ lead.

But there is usually a turning point in a game like this, and it came in the top of the sixth inning.  

Southampton was still leading by 14-10 when they batted in the sixth against Maxwell Tyler, and a walk to Juan Diaz, a fielder’s choice, a double by Arley Lorenzo and a walk to Maikel Azcuy on a 3-2 count loaded the bases with two out and the dangerous Gary Davison coming to the plate.  Any kind of hit by Davison would probably have sealed the Mets’ fate – but Darrin Muller called Davison out on strikes on that same pitch at the knees that had done for Daniele Sassoli.  This time it did for the Mustangs.

It felt almost inevitable when the Mets tied the score in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Robert Hero led off the inning by grounding out to second base, but then there were consecutive singles by Sam Sproule, Freddy Mosier and Maxwell Tyler at the bottom of the Mets’ order to load the bases, followed by consecutive wild pitches that brought in two runs.  Another walk and then a single that was misplayed into a triple brought in two more, and it was to Alejandro Morense’s credit that he pulled himself together and got the final two outs without allowing the Mets to take the lead.

But Southampton managed only one baserunner in the top of the seventh inning against the Mets’ second reliever, Richard Minford, and the Mets’ dugout was alive with anticipation as they came up in the bottom of the seventh with the weather looking ever more threatening.

Robert Hero, leading off, grounded out to shortstop.  But then Alejandro Morense walked Sam Sproule on a 3-2 count, threw three more balls to Freddy  Mosier, then hit him with a pitch.  The stage looked set for the veteran Grant Delzoppo, pinch-hitting for Maxwell Tyler, but Delzoppo went after the first pitch he saw and hit a harmless pop fly to centre field.

So two out and back to Jamie Dix at the top of the order – who also went for the first pitch.  But at the instant his line drive shot over the infield and into right field, the Mets put one big hand on the National Championship trophy.

A report on Sunday’s deciding game or games will be posted on this website on Sunday night or Monday morning.

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