Last Tuesday, with the evening sun shining, over forty people gathered at Woughton On The Green Playing Fields for a training session and the second fixture night of the MK Softball League: The Towcester Tigers versus The Double Ds. As it was the first fixture for both teams excitement levels were high however no one could have predicted the incredible rollercoaster of a match that was soon to unfurl!
The Double Ds who are one of three MK teams formed out of the MK Diamonds Softball Club were the first to arrive sporting their brand new red & black kit. They were shortly joined by the Towcester Tigers; a neighbouring fast pitch team with a range of very experienced players and complete beginners. As the rest of the club began their training, the captains were called to the umpire and the home team for the night, the DDs, took to the field signifying the start of the game...
Tigers captain Fliss West & DDs captain Rachael Shkurko Collier meet with umpire Jodie Bull pre match
As the Tigers step up to the batting box their nerves are clear as their first batter strikes out, this could be in part due to them having to get used to a slower pitch. However this is followed by a great hit to left field from captain Fliss West which is matched by an excellent catch from out fielder Cathy Allard. Shortly after this the DDs get the third out with a play from Short Stop Jason Jenkins to 2nd Base Sam Gallop for the force out.
The first three batters for DDs make it on base, & when four foul balls from the pitcher walks DDs captain Rachael Shkurko the DDs score their first run. The Tigers manage to get three outs from the following four at bats but concede a couple more runs while doing so, meaning the DDs head back to field with a 3-0 lead.
With the fielders now feeling more confident the Tigers struggle to make an impact and the DDs make the three outs before any runs can be scored.
DDs Captain Craig Holmes leads off with a strong line drive over 2nd base, however some quick fielding from Tigers Captain Alex Reynolds stops him advancing further than first base. This is followed by the first (but by no means the last!) home run of the game from DDs pitcher Lee Grafton who extends the DDs lead bringing him & Craig home. Next up Jon Reynolds continues the good run with a triple but it is then the Tigers' turn to show what they can do as a great hit from Sam Gallop looks like it is going past 3rd base but is caught in fantastic style by Fliss West at short stop. However this does not dampen the DDs confidence and the team proceeds to bat all the way through the order with players steadily getting on base & advancing home. When Jon Reynolds steps up again he hits a grand slam home run taking the DDs total up to 12 runs in just one inning! The Tigers then finally manage to stop this tide of runs with two force outs in the infield but are left trailing 15-0.
At the top of the third inning Towcester are in need of a lift and first up to bat is Alan Davis, normally one of the Homerun Hornets' squad, but moonlighting as a Tiger. He doesn't let his loyalties stop him however as he hits a fantastic home run to give Towcester their first much needed run of the game. This is followed up by a couple of good base hits which allows the team to sneak in one other run before the DDs once again make the three outs.
There is still a long way to go for the Tigers but getting a few runs on the board seems to have lifted their spirits & they manage to stop the DDs from increasing their lead any further forcing three runners out at 2nd base after just five at bat.The score remains 15-3.
Once again the Tigers' lead off batter sets the bar high, this time with Laura Simpson who becomes the first female to make it on to the MK Softball League Homerun Leaderboard with a huge hit over the left centre fielder. This is followed by some great base hitting that sees a further ten runs scored and for the first time we see some nerves show from the DDs as a few fielding errors creep in. The inning is finally ended with a great tag out at home from catcher Katie O'Toole.
A deflated DDs team fail to give an answer to this change in fortunes, as two weak hits & a great catch from Tigers' 3rd baseman Martin Baxendell gets the DDs out three for three.
Now in the fifth inning the DDs lead has been narrowed considerably to 15-13 and the Tigers' spirits are high. They continue to demonstrate this with their batting, scoring another eight runs including home runs from Martin Baxendell and captain Alex Reynolds who is lightning fast around the bases.
For the first time in the game the DDs are behind, trailing by six runs, 15-21. The pressure falls on captain Craig Holmes to pick his team up as lead off batter, which he does with a home run hit to right field. This is followed with another home run from Lee Grafton (his second of the night) and the team are off once again! They manage a decent score of five runs with notable hits from Paul Costello (home run) & a triple from Rachael Shkurko, bringing them up to just one run behind the Tigers.
At 20-21 we really have a game on our hands and as the softball training session running alongside the match finishes a crowd has formed with everyone eager to see how the match will end. Towcester score five runs, once again increasing their lead & putting the pressure on the home team.
A catch on third base gets the DDs off to a bad start but the batters regroup and get on base in time for Lee Grafton to hit a grand slam home run that brings the team back in to the game, this is followed by some great base hitting & base running before the Tigers make the final out, ending the inning with the DDs narrowly back on top 27-26.
With such a tight score line it is all to play for in the final inning. After a miss-hit from the batter some quick reactions from DDs catcher Katie O'Toole get's the first out with her throw to first base. This is followed next by a hit to third base, which is fielded well by captain Rachael Shkurko but narrowly misses the out on one, after a slightly short throw. Next in the batters box is Tigers' captain Alex Reynolds who hits his second home run of the game, taking the runner in front of him home with him and giving Towcester the lead in the game. The next hit goes straight to pitcher Lee Grafton who gets a simple out at one leaving one last out needed. However this does not happen until after Alan Davis manages to score another home run thanks to some infield fielding errors from the DDs.
This leaves the DDs in need of four runs to win the game. First up to the batters box is Mark Exley, playing in his first ever game of competitive softball. His hitting had been consistent throughout the game and he rose to the occasion with a big hit that was missed by the outfielders & he advanced to first base. Next up was Katie O'Toole who hits a ground ball, which is fielded quickly and Tigers get the force out at two, however an overthrow to one means Katie advances to second base. Craig Holmes then steps up & hits a ground ball which unfortunately hits Katie as she sets off from two. This is classed as interference from the runner which means she is out but Craig makes it safely to one. With two outs and DDs still two runs behind the pressure is on as Lee Grafton steps up; can he bring home his fourth home run of the night and tie the game? Of course he can! A well placed right field hit takes him and Craig home. The DDs need one more run for the win but with no runners on deck and two outs it proves too big a task and the game ends 29-29.
Yet another fantastic game to start the season and one all the teams will be talking about for some time! MVPs were given to Lee Grafton and Rachael Shkurko from the Double Ds, and Martin Baxendell and Laura Simpson from the Towcester Tigers.
The next fixture sees the Double Ds take to the field again, this time against the Homerun Hornets, with both teams looking to get their first win under their belt!