When: Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Where: Gloucester Green, Pitch 8 

The Competition: TMW "Soho Swingers"

Kia's match report:

After a week of soul-searching from the Pearlfinders squad following a lacklustre performance, the shorter week offered the chance for the team to banish a few demons and get back on the playoff path as it clashed with clients TMW. After a few ill-tempered clashes over the years this was shaping up to be a fiery grudge match which would play a major deciding factor in how we want to progress for the rest of the season. It was definitely going to be a tough ask for debutants Greg, Elisha and Helen as they learned the ropes in the heat of battle. With the team capably lead by VC Big Hitter and getting lost en route we missed out on any practice time before, not helped by their team warming up for half an hour without sharing the diamond, doing their best to intimidate us by showing off their batting capabilities. Memories of previous skirmishes came to mind and it looked to all that a smaller PF squad was set for a long afternoon.

In a shock to most the PF team managed to cast off our habit of being woefully underbaked in the early stages. We set about absolutely dismantling their much vaunted attack with some clinical fielding, limiting TMW to a maiden innings to open, before Emily punished them by crunching a hit and sneaking round for a run to give us a 1-0 lead out of the traps. Another oppressive performance in the field over the next few innings took the wind out of their sails further and then it was our turn to light the touch paper… Another PF collectors’ item followed as we collectively displayed great consistency with the bat and good judgements on leaves to keep loading the bases before scuttling round to notch a huge innings score of seven which put us comfortably out in front. Debutants Greg and Elisha both scored runs on debut and both Lisa and Emily put in their best stints at bat of the season as the runs stacked up. What followed was a tit-for-tat battle of excellent fielding and reserved batting as we traded low scoring innings to leave us five runs ahead with TMW up for their final bat. Initially it looked as if they might make a match of it by sending three runners round in quick succession, however some more aggressive work out in the deep had them all out and left us 15-13 victors without even getting out last turn at the plate. A big thanks to all those which turned up this week as a smaller squad really came together and showed what we are capable of as it ironed out some of the errors which have previously plagued us and put in a seasons-best performance to take a big scalp.

Man of the Match: Although everyone played well I don’t think there could be too many who would argue against two players fighting it out to contest the award this week, one impressing in his first outing and another putting in her best match of the year so far. Firstly Greg was a real calming influence out in the deep field, stopping any of their numerous mammoth strikes going beyond him and Ains, and then limiting their ability to get all the way round to score by flinging the ball in accurately from a long way out. Add this to a joint top-scoring performance with the bat (alongside Delaney) and it seems PF have unearthed a very useful player midway through the season.

However against my better judgement Emily Carpenter takes the plaudits this week after coming into her own and thriving on the high-pressure nature of such a close match. Keen to prove she is more than just a gym-rat Emily has unsurprisingly thrown herself into the organised fun that is softball this year but taken a few weeks to find her groove, initially going for broke with the bat and hiding in deep right in the field. This week everything came together as she displayed great hands and game-reading at her new position on third-base to twice dismiss their runners, really rubbing it in once with the showboating gamesmanship of a gloved tag. When in attack she took no prisoners this week, repeatedly finding the sweet spot to crack the ball over the in-field and finding the angles down the lines to really trouble TMW, more importantly bringing runners home and providing a great source of runs in a close match.

Catch of the Match: In a week when they were able to send the ball skywards almost at will there were a number of big opportunities for Hollywood fielding and it’s no surprise there were again two names vying for the title. The fanfare goes to Jamie Barnard again this week after he took maybe the second or third best catch of the week but in the most important spot – the bottom of the seventh innings with two outs on the TMW scorecard. Having failed to defuse an earlier bomb from one of the oppos many big hitters there must have been an sizeable element of doubt in his mind when he was put in a fight or flight moment at the close of play. With two runs separating both teams and the opposition boasting loaded bases there was a sense one big hit could bust the game wide open in the last innings. Although they had two outs already the final one seemed elusive as their captain confidently sent his shot skywards and for a moment dared to dream… Showing he’d learned from earlier errors this season Jamie stayed motionless, refusing to be suckered in by the flight of the ball, and found himself perfectly positioned as the arc of the ball reached its apex and started to descend, picking up speed and swirling in the dry heat. If he took the catch the game would be over and victory ours, but if he shelled it he would no doubt be DotD and a potential loser. In the end experience paid out, and while the catch wasn’t pretty he somehow held onto it to cue the celebrations.

Matt also deserves a mention for taking the most technical catch of the day early on, somehow holding onto a ball which dropped over his back shoulder as he spun round while backpedaling at full speed, driving his own body into the hard ground but keeping the ball tucked securely in his mitt.

Dick of the Day: For once it goes to one of the opposition for a play I’ve never seen before in all my years playing softball. As one of their big hitters (he was wearing batting gloves AND cleats) stepped up to bat he misjudged a pitch and just clipped the bottom of the ball as it came spinning towards him. It skipped straight up in the air, spinning like a top on its axis before it started to plummet downwards. Having set off on his run to first base he was so close when he realised that it was none other than the PF captain running to position himself under the ball. Knowing that I do not miss catches he promptly stopped running only two feet short of first base as he anticipated the nailed on catch and began to walk back off the pitch. What he didn’t account for is that I would slip on to my arse and fumble the ball to the floor. Luckily some swift thinking from Rich as he called for the ball on first meant picking the ball up and chucking to him saw the batter dismissed at the second attempt, much to his initial confusion and then displeasure.

Again thanks to all those who came down to play – especially the new guys – hopefully this isn’t another false dawn and can see us begin to put another run together to get back among the top of the table.

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