Plenty of competition inaugural Autumn Open University Challenge

Mon 28 Oct 2019

Hot on the heels of the first regional game days of the new University Softball League, the new Autumn Open University Softball and Baseball Tournaments rolled into Farnham Park over the last two weekends in October.

BaseballSoftballUK’s Autumn Open University events are the first tournaments of the academic year and replace the Autumn NUSC tournaments under the new University Competition Structure introduced this year. The open tournaments are a key part of the university baseball and softball calendar, providing a great chance for both current teams and players as well as newcomers to the sports to get tournament experience on high-quality diamonds at Farnham Park, the national baseball and softball facility in Slough.

AUTUMN OPEN SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: 19-20 OCTOBER

The inaugural Autumn Open University Softball Tournament (AOUST) ran on 19-20 October and featured 11 teams from across the UK, all trying to get their hands on the first silverware of the season. The autumn weather turned out to be a little bit damp on Saturday, followed by a clear, dry day on Sunday, allowing for all scheduled games to take place. The 11 teams were split across two divisions and a round-robin format of games took place on Saturday, with Loughborough and Portsmouth University pulling ahead in the orange group, while the purple group saw Southampton, York and Oxford Brookes all finish the day with strong records.

Sunday got underway with the remaining group round-robin games before moving into the Cup, Plate, and Shield playoffs. In the Shield playoffs, Imperial College won both of their games, defeating both King's College and UCL to finish the tournament in a strong position and take home the Shield. In the Plate playoffs, Nottingham One and Southampton both continued their strong form in their semi-finals, with Southampton coming out victorious in the final by a 10-5 margin.

Meanwhile, the Cup semi-finals were hotly contested, with strong hitting and pitching on display as Portsmouth topped Brookes 18-7 to make the final. The other semi-final saw a fantastic performance from York, who beat a strong Loughborough team 12-6. York then faced Portsmouth in a fantastic final which did not disappoint the watching crowd, who were treated to lots of offence and fantastic hitting from both teams. York found their rhythm as the game progressed to move ahead and come out 22-14 winners to take home their first-ever university softball crown.

BaseballSoftballUK would like to congratulate York on their win and well done to all the teams that took part. A special thanks as well to the four BASU umpires on the day, led by crew chief Pearl Bramhall.

York captain, Kyra Baird was delighted with the team's victory, telling BaseballSoftballUK, "Myself and the rest of the York team had such a great experience the whole weekend. I went in with no expectations for how we would perform, so every individual win was such a bonus, let alone finishing first! It's always such a pleasure to spend the weekend playing alongside such talented teams and the atmosphere is always a friendly mix of competitiveness and fun! We can't wait to come back in spring and hopefully hold on to our win!"

University softball competition continues the weekend of 23rd November, with the second softball league regional game days taking place indoors.

AUTUMN OPEN BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: 26-27 OCTOBER

A week later, on 26-27 October, the inaugural Autumn Open University Baseball Tournament took place at Farnham Park. The new open format saw 12 teams enter the tournament representing all corners of England, with participants gathered into three colour coded divisions, with Hull, Nottingham, Oxford and UCL in the Blue Group, King’s College, Loughborough, Southampton and York in the Brown Group, and Durham, Imperial, Kent and Sheffield in the Lilac Group.
Several teams were playing together for the very first time, a unique feature of University sports in general, and certainly baseball as a non-traditional sport. Team spirit and sportsmanship were on display in abundance throughout the weekend, especially from first time players! 

Typical autumnal weather did its best to dampen spirits on Saturday, with two afternoon games cancelled due to weather, but not before Oxford, Loughborough and Durham topped their respective groups with three wins apiece.

Sunday saw stellar weather and was highlighted by nail-biting finishes featuring Imperial, who lost their opener to Durham by a single run at 5-4, and then again by the same score to York – giving the debut York team a spot in the Plate Final.

Kent defeated King’s College 3-0 in the Shield Final to claim the first title of the weekend.

In the Plate Final, York, the 3rd Runner up, qualified to slug it out with UCL, who qualified as Best 3rd placed team in the group stages. The teams played hard with York eventually claiming the title by a single run in a walk off.

Slugging it out in the Cup Final were perennial winners Loughborough, who held the best defensive record with just six runs against in four games, and the might of Oxford, who conversely claimed the strongest offensive record with 33 runs scored in four games. Oxford came out victorious after a hard fought contest.

The tournament was very ably officiated behind the plate by crew chief Ethan Attwood, Chris Deacon, Matt Jackson and Pau Miquel Mir who cheerfully endured tough weather conditions and back-to-back games all day Sunday in order to accommodate rain-affected games and maximise playing time.

Michael Comport of Southampton Mustangs, who placed fourth best in competition, remarked, “75% of our team have never played together so even winning a single game was a big achievement. The team are a heck of a lot better than they think they are. We really enjoyed getting hits and plays on a sunny day.”

Cup Final winning captain of Oxford A.J. Callis said, “It means a lot to our programme to get the win; our guys and girl showed a lot of spirit throughout the game to come from 0-3 behind and eventually win 7-5.”

Commenting on the weekend, Imperial captain Jonathan Cheung, said,"We wanted to say massive thank you for organising the tournament. This was the first time we brought down a full minibus! Unfortunately, a couple of errors in each of our games cost us our place in the cup Semi-Finals! We hope that the games in Spring will be a bit longer so we get a chance to walk it off! Meeting the other teams and seeing old and new faces is always great. Last year,  we had a heated game against Hull, but this year we made ourselves their top fans when we discovered that they could send us into the Semi-Finals if they beat Nottingham. It didn't happen, but cheers Hull for giving it your best!  We had a huge laugh on and off the field and personally, this might be the most fun I've ever had at an NUBC.”

For more information on BaseballSoftballUK's University Programmes, including upcoming competitions and past results, click here.

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