Durham University collects second NUBC Title

Tue 3 Jul 2018

by Luke Stott

With brush fires in Manchester, record temperatures in Scotland and drought-like conditions all around the UK, you'd be forgiven for not quite recalling the early part of this season, when meteorological conditions were far less conducive to our sports.

For example, the mid-March weekend when the National University Baseball Championship was originally scheduled featured sub-zero temperatures, heavy rain that flooded Farnham Park, and even snow, forcing the organisers to postpone the tournament.

For many events, a postponement is code for cancellation: sorry guys, come back next year.  But such is the passion and demand for baseball in our universities that eight teams interrupted their summer vacation to make their way to a sweltering Farnham Park on Saturday 23 June to decide which one was currently the best baseball university in the country.

The specially-rearranged Championship was played by dividing the teams into two round-robin groups of four to decide who would make the final and who would play the accompanying placing games.


Group Stage

Defending champions Loughborough found themselves sharing the Blue Group with last year's beaten finalists, the Queen Mary's University Knights, along with the Nottingham Thieves and Durham University's second team.

The Durham first team was in the Red Group along with the UEA Blue Sox, Imperial College Falcons, and the University of Kent.

The group stage largely went to form, with many games featuring decisive margins.  Perhaps the only shocks were the fact that Queen Mary's University struggled to emulate their spectacular run to last year's final, and the University of Kent backed up an impressive first league campaign with tenacious play here, running UEA close (10-9) and limiting the Durham first team to a 7-3 margin before roundly beating Imperial College by 14-5.

With the favoured teams having each won their first two group games, the final round in the both the Red and Blue Groups was a de facto semi-final, as UEA took on Durham 1 in the Red Group and Loughborough found their way to the final blocked by Nottingham in the Blue Group.

With UEA unable to offer serious resistance to a freewheeling Durham side, the wait was on for the Durham 1s to find out who their final opponents would be as the latest battle of the East Midlands got underway.

You have to go back to October 2014, to the first-ever NUBC to be held at Farnham Park, to find the last final that did not feature a team from Loughborough -- a run of six straight championship games with four wins to show for it.  In the Farnham Park era, Loughborough has simply owned the National University Baseball Championships.

So when the latest iteration of the Loughborough team took the field for their game against their local rivals, the Nottingham Thieves, a sense of history, and of opportunity, was palpable.

While Loughborough has dominated university baseball in recent years, that time has also shown a general rise in the level of play, with teams deploying ever more sophisticated tactics and strategies, finely-tuned to the rigours of timed tournament baseball.

The inexorable march of progress catches up with all of us.  Finally, Loughborough's dominance of the NUBC came to an end courtesy of a 13-5 defeat by a well-drilled and talented Thieves side.


The final

In sport as well as in life, the fall of a champion is a time of renewal, and it meant a first-ever NUBC final for the Nottingham Thieves, who had never finished higher than third in the Farnham Park era.

In Durham, however, the Thieves faced the class of the competition.  Having managed to best Loughborough to win their first National Championship in 2016, Durham was keen to add to their total as the perfect send-off for their founder and captain Will Zucker.

As the sun continued to shine into the early evening it was Durham who romped to their second national championship in three years, their pitching just too much for the team in green to handle.

Elsewhere, UEA secured third place courtesy of a 12-6 win over Loughborough, while Kent secured their highest NUBC finish yet, securing fifth place with a 10-6 win over Queen Mary's.

And it was double delight for Durham, as their second team overcame Imperial College to finish seventh overall, their best-ever result.


Standings

The final standings were:

1 - Durham University 1
2 - University of Nottingham Thieves
3 - University of East Anglia Blue Sox
4 - Loughborough University 1
5 - University of Kent
6 - Queen Mary's University Knights
7 - Durham University 2
8 - Imperial College Falcons

 

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