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London Tournament July 2011
Liverpool Trojans return with London Pride/Keep it Classy
The Liverpool Trojans, after an absence of several years, brought their metal bats down from the attic and returned to Croydon for the annual London Tournament. Hosted by the Croydon Pirates, the London Tournament is a baseball competition held over the second weekend of July, attracting teams from the UK and Europe. This year marks 30 years of Croydon Pirates baseball and so the hosts pulled out all the stops to win their competition.
The Trojans were the only team from North England participating. The Midlands was represented by Birmingham and Milton Keynes, the European flag was flown by Zuidvogels from Holland and Team France. The remaining 9 teams were from the South.
After eventful 5-7 hour journeys south, the Trojans were relatively rested, if under-strength, on Saturday morning. The format of the competition meant that Liverpool played Southampton Mustangs in a group game first. The Mustangs were made up of players mainly from their unbeaten single A team bolstered by two National League players, including their starting pitcher. Trojan batters pounced on the National League pitching from the first inning racking up 3 runs. Rob Vondy started on the mound and dominated the South Coast team throughout. The run count kept ticking over for the Trojans and by the 5th inning 14 runs were on the board to the Mustangs’ 4. Vondy finished the game with 9 strikeouts and gave up 3 hits including a home run late on, although by this time the result was in no doubt. Paul Smith (2 for 2, 3B) and Kevin Butterfield-Ray (3 hits) were the pick of the batters.
Next up was Richmond, the current National League Champions, although their tournament team comprised of players from throughout their organisation. Rob Vondy, with a win under his belt and the wind at his back, continued with the pitching duties and, if anything, got better against a dangerous Richmond side. Vondy restricted Richmond to one run whilst the Trojan bats went to work with a 5-run second inning to add to the one they plated in the first. The rhythmic ringing of metal bat on ball continued with a steady trickle of runs in the next 3 innings. Paul Smith came in to close the game which he did efficiently: no runs conceded and one strikeout. Final score: 11-1 Trojans. The winners groups beckoned on Sunday but not before the Home Run Derby on Saturday evening. For the Trojans involved (P Smith, Butterfield-Ray, Gary, Vondy, Murray and “The Myth”) the less said about the collective performance the better... a hit by pitch and a slow medium-length bouncer were the only highlights/lowlights!
Sunday brought in a new group for the Trojans to play in and games against Birmingham Maple Leafs and Milton Keynes Bucks. Both teams are flying high in the Midland Division (AA) and have a good chance of making the National Baseball Championships. Both teams put bat on ball against the Trojans, now reinforced by Martin Godsall and Ian Smith who had left Merseyside at 4am to make the second day. However Liverpool proved too strong with 13-0 and 15-2 victories, Paul Smith and Martin Godsall getting the wins. This meant that only a 27-run win by the other team in the group, Team France, over Milton Keynes would deny the Trojans a place in the final. This would be a difficult but not impossible task as Essex Arrows had proven the previous day by thumping Southampton Mustangs 32-0. The French won but never threatened to rack up the required runs; Trojans were through to the final to play host team Croydon Pirates!
Vondy started the final on the mound after his strong performance the previous day. Croydon Pirates had a formidable line up with late replacements from other National League teams brought in to strengthen their side. Croydon opened the scoring with a 2-run home run in the first inning and added a third run in the second.
The Trojans showed their fighting spirit by hitting back with 3 runs in the top of the third. Butterfield-Ray doubled to score two runs and in turn was brought in by a Godsall single to level the score. This proved short-lived however as the Pirates pinched a run in the bottom of the third to regain the lead.
Godsall, who by now pitching, showed once again how he thrives on pressure situations by putting the Pirate’s best batter in the book with a rising fastball, ending an epic at-bat as numerous foul balls were lost to the bushes.
From this point onwards the game agonisingly slipped away from the Trojans. Some uncharacteristic errors and timely Croydon hits saw them extend the lead to 9-3 going into the last inning. Ian Smith led the charge using his speed to great effect to pull back a run. Sadly though it was not to be and the Trojan challenge came to an end, final score 9-4.
It was a disappointing end to a great weekend for the Liverpool Trojans. To take home the cup would have been a welcome reward for some great efforts on and off the diamond however the AAA Championship remains our “bread and butter”. This tournament was a fantastic opportunity to develop our 2-day competition strategy and this experience will benefit us in the Autumn. We can hold our heads up on our return to Liverpool.
Huge thanks to the Trojan supporters to came down to London: Rob and the Vondy family, Sharon and Julie. All of whom gave great support in scoring, taking photos/videos, driving or boosting morale.
Thanks to the organisers of the London Tournament for creating an immensely enjoyable competition. Following discussion amongst the Trojans, there are, however, a couple of things that should be looked at for the future. Firstly the format of the competition would benefit from a change. The second group stage on Sunday should be replaced by a knock-out stage. Team France finished the tournament with a perfect win record yet failed to qualify for the final. Croydon Pirates had a worse record than the French and an identical record as the Essex Arrows yet still went through to the final on run difference. Essex and Team France were both understandably unhappy at this. Incidentally the Pirates played against their second team in their last group game.
The 8 teams that qualify for the second group stage could have played a quarter-final with teams seeded according to the previous day’s results. Quarter-final losers could have play-offs to determine a final ranking whilst the winners continue onto the semis and then two teams onto the final. This way there is only one possible unbeaten team in the tournament...the winners!
The run difference tiebreaker encourages teams to heavily defeat opponents. This presumably why the Essex Arrows, a team made up of National League players, felt it necessary to beat the Southampton Mustangs, a team made up of mainly single A players, by over 30 runs on Saturday (they were however playing their second group game having won their first so they only required a win to qualify, so I’m still scratching my head over the mauling).
Finally the practice of drafting players from teams that have been knocked out of the tournament undermines the integrity of the competition. Keep it classy Croydon.