UK Little League Qualifiers send teams to Europe

Mon 10 Jun 2019

The largest Little League Qualifying tournament ever played in this country survived some early rain and high winds to provide a great weekend of youth baseball on 8-9 June at Farnham Park and determined two teams that will move on to Europe/Africa Qualifiers later in the summer.

The weekend, in which the LondonSports organisation took three of the five divisional titles, had its full share of home runs, double plays and dominant pitching.  But the outstanding feature was the teamwork, camaraderie and smiles that lit up the event.

Early morning rain on Saturday had stopped by the time that games began, but a blustery wind persisted all day, making fly balls and pop-ups an adventure.  Sunday, by contrast, was mostly fine and sunny, with almost no wind.

Liz Knight from BaseballSoftballUK, the Assistant District Administrator for Little League in the UK and the tournament’s main organiser, said, “The highlight for me was the general sportspersonship on show.  There were lots of examples of coaches and players acknowledging good plays and effort from the opposition with high-fives and cheering, and parents recognising good play by supporting both teams.  And it was nice to see some of the players from the recent MLB Cadet Camp back on the fields in representing their local teams.

“One of my favourite moments from the weekend,” Liz added, “was the very last game of the day on Sunday.  This was running very late due to previous games on the same diamond over-running, and at 7:30 on a Sunday evening most parents were understandably keen for a quick departure and ready for the long drive home.  But many kids seemed unaware of the time and wanted to have one last slide in the dirt -- to me, a reminder of the simple joys of baseball.”

Results

The tournament was played across five divisions in four different age groups:  Under-11/Coach Pitch, Under-11/Minors, Under-13/Majors, Under-15/Juniors and Under-17/Seniors.

While the Under-11 competitions were for development purposes, the three older age groups were playing for the right to represent the UK in Europe – although in one age group, the winning team will not be taking up its European place.

Under-11/Coach Pitch

Scores in this division, which was played on Sunday only and featured some close games, were:

LondonSports 8, Brighton/LYBL 6
East of England 8, London Mets 2
Brighton/LYBL 10, East of England 6
LondonSports 16, London Mets 2
LondonSports 16, East of England 0
Brighton/LYBL 9, London Mets 5

The final table was:

LondonSports (3-0)
Brighton/LYBL (2-1)
East of England (1-2)
London Mets (0-3)

Under-11/Minors

The final table in the Under-11/Minors Division looked very similar to that in the Coach-Pitch Division, with LondonSports going undefeated and claiming the top spot. 

This division also played on Sunday only, and scores were:

LondonSports 11, LYBL 5
LondonSports 16, London Mets 6
LYBL 17, East of England 2
LYBL 13, London Mets 0
LondonSports 15, East of England 0
East of England 7, London Mets 5

The final table was:

LondonSports (3-0)
LYBL (2-1)
East of England (1-2)
London Mets (0-3)

Under-13/Majors

This was the largest division, with six teams entered, and the teams played a double-elimination format as required by Little League across both days of the weekend.

The scores on Saturday were:

LondonSports Orange 18, East of England 8
LYBL 14, London Mets 1
London Sports Orange 22, Brighton 2
LYBL 24, LondonSportsBlack 0
Brighton 14, London Mets 12
LondonSports Black 17, East of England 5

These results eliminated the London Mets and East of England, so the remaining four teams resumed the battle on Sunday.  The scores were:

LYBL 12, LondonSports Orange 0
LondonSports Black 15, Brighton 14
LondonSports Orange 15, LondonSports Black 8
FINAL: LYBL 14, LondonSports Orange 1

The final table was as follows, with LYBL winning the right to represent the UK in Europe:

LYBL (4-0)
LondonSports Orange (3-2)
LondonSports Black (2-2)
Brighton (1-2)
London Mets (0-2)
East of England (0-2)

Under-15/Juniors

The three teams in this division played a single round-robin on Saturday to determine placings, and the scores were as follows:

LondonSports 10, London Mets 2
London Mets 10, East of England 3
LondonSports 13, East of England 12

The final table was:

London Sports (2-0)
London Mets (1-1)
East of England (0-2)

The LondonSports Junior Team will not be taking up its place in Europe.

Under-17/Seniors

This division also featured three teams, but two of them – London All-Stars A and London All-Stars B – were made up of players from Brighton, LondonSports, LYBL and the London Mets.

Again, a single round-robin was played on Saturday to determine placings, and London All-Stars B won both their games – including an 8-6 win over London All-Stars A to win the right to represent the UK in Europe.

Thanks

After the tournament, Liz Knight said, “Best wishes to those teams who are competing in the Europe/Africa Qualifiers -- we look forward to cheering you on.  Thanks to all coaches and officials for their efforts  -- without them the event would not be possible.  And thanks to all the umpires for helping over the weekend, especially Crew Chief Blake Taylor.”

Chris Deacon, who was one of the umpires in the final Juniors Division game, summed up the spirit of the weekend with this reminiscence:

“I was fortunate enough to witness some great all-round baseball from behind the dish in this game, and there was plenty to admire in terms of play and sportsmanship the whole day.

“However, I would like to highlight about a three-minute spell in one game.  It started with a three-run bomb by a lefty over the right field fence.  As soon as the ball left the bat, everyone knew it was clearing the imaginary bleachers beyond the fence and landing outside of the 'stadium'!

“After the team's understandable euphoria, the next batter returned a low pitch over the middle of the plate back over the pitcher's head and over the centre field fence, the swing looking like a lofted golf club shot onto a green or a cricketer hitting a straight six back over the bowler's head.

“What came next was equally memorable and inspiring.  The pitcher, who had been mixing up his pitches with good success, was standing on the mound admiring what had just happened and grinning from ear to ear.  As I looked over he just kept smiling and shrugged his shoulders to say that he knew they were two great shots that he could do little about. 

“I went out to the mound and with a high five and a few words to commend him on his attitude.  Those few minutes put everything into perspective.”

The photos above and below, mostly taken by Sam Haslam, also sum up the spirit of the weekend.

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