Cup tournament shows university softball growth in the North West

Thu 3 Dec 2015

University softball has been steadily growing in the North West over the past few years, and on Sunday 29 November, three Manchester-based universities competed in a Tri-Softball Cup, hosted at Parrs Wood Playing Fields in Didsbury.

Teams from the University of Manchester (UoM), the University of Salford and Manchester Metropolitan University Cheshire (MMUC) battled 26 mph winds on the day, which challenged the pitchers but provided aid and comfort to the hitters.

New kids on the block

The newest of the three teams to take part in the tournament was the Salford Swifts from University of Salford.

As University Softball Officer (USO), Victor Marantha-Makuku had embraced the challenge of creating a new team from scratch.  Armed with banners, flyers and freebees, and with support from North West Regional Coach Linni Mitchell, Victor headed to the university’s annual Sports Fair in September with the hope of attracting students to the sport.  Around 40 students registered their interest and 15 turned up to the taster session the following week. Since then, the turnout for each session has been averaging around 10 per week – just enough for a team.

Victor said, “In just a short few months, Salford Swifts has grown from just a hope that I could continue my sporting passion to a fully-fledged competitive team.  I have always had an interest in softball and I have 10 years of playing history behind me, but to start a university team from scratch was daunting to say the least.  I have been grateful for the support received from both the Student Union and BSUK.”

In September, Victor, alongside every other USO in the country, was invited to BSUK’s first National University Baseball and Softball Conference, and this helped him to understand the role he was taking on.  Victor said: “At the conference, there was talk in depth about baseball and softball growth in the UK and how to run and manage teams while plugging interest in the sport.  It was a great learning experience!”

The Salford Swifts will be entering the Manchester Indoor Softball League in January and are looking forward to playing against more universities in the National University Softball Championships in March 2016.

Eagles’ wingspan doubles

The MMUC Eagles were founded in September 2013 and since then, the wingspan of the club has grown enormously.

Club Chair Tom Smith reports: “With the number of members almost doubling from last year, it’s clear to see that softball is growing at this university.  The team is looking forward to new and challenging fixtures in 2016 and also looking to field two teams at the National University Softball Championships next year for the first time, proving the huge growth the sport is finding at MMUC.  It really is looking like an exciting season next year.”

Linni Mitchell added: "University softball is growing from year to year in the UK.  MMUC was my first university project, and they are now in their third year running as a club and attracting new students to the sport.  Young people who had never heard of softball before starting university are now in love with it and play in gale force winds, with the rain thrashing down, with smiles on their faces.  I'm confident that these students will play for as long as they can swing a bat."

International Maelstrom

The University of Manchester team, known as the Maelstrom, set up as a club in 2014, and the 2016 winter season, starting in January, will be their third indoor season.

The Maelstrom are a strong team, placing fifth in the 2015 Manchester Indoor Softball League autumn season, and the team is heavily dominated by international students.  The Maelstrom are looking to recruit players and committee members who can take over the reins when the current leaders graduate in 2017.

If you are a student at UoM and interested in playing university softball, contact them on Facebook.   

Tri-Softball Cup results

In what can only be described as a hefty breeze on the day of the Tri-Softball Cup, each of the university teams struggled with pitching.  The gale, however, aided the batters, with a substantial number of home runs hit during the day.

The mini-tournament was played with a simple round-robin format, and with limited daylight, games were limited to 60 minutes.  Salford was able to borrow players from their competitors to field a full team for the games.

Both the UoM Maelstrom and the MMUC Eagles were victorious over newbies Salford Swifts.

So the final game of the day was a long awaited MMUC vs UoM grudge match.

Tom Smith from MMUC reported: “The final fixture of the day was a challenging and entertaining game against the University of Manchester. After the 60 minutes, we were tied at 18 all.  In very tough conditions, our team clawed out the winning run to win 20-19.”

Future plans

In 2016, BSUK North West Regional Development Manager Luis Arrevillagas plans to build a Regional League for universities in the North West.

Softball sessions will be running next year at the University of Manchester, the University of Salford, MMUC, the University of Bolton, Edge Hill University and the University of Liverpool. 

The plan is for games to be played once a month, with a different team hosting each month.  In October 2016, for example, the university teams will travel to Edge Hill for a day of tournament-style play, and in November it will be the University of Salford’s turn to host.  This will minimise travel and make the games more accessible to student softballers.

Before that, in March 2016, all the teams will play in the biannual National University Softball Championships, to be held at Farnham Park.

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