Liverpool Trojans Baseball Club Est.1946
"In the beginning of British Baseball, God created the Trojans, and all was good. Over the years and many championships God decided the Trojans needed to grow, so a second Trojan team was created and all was good. Then there was confusion, as there was only one team, yet in different ballparks at the same time, so the name Twojans was born. This in turn confused the Twojans, not knowing what to call their team mates and their style of play. Seeing their style of play and behaviour on the field, the Twojans started saying Onejan behaviour, and the name was born. The rest was history: No matter how many teams grew in the Trojan Baseball club, were to be only Trojans....Onejans, Twojans and all"
- The Book of Trojans (Genesis 1.1)
The 2015 Northern Champions, Hull Scorpions, travelled to Bootle Stadium on Sunday 24th July to take on this year’s Championship leaders, the Liverpool Trojans in their last home fixture of the season.
When the fixtures were announced at the start of the season there were those that speculated about whether this double-header would end up being a northern championship decider. This due to the fact that, given the new league structure this year, this would be the only meeting between the defending champions and their old rivals from across the Pennines.
As it turned out this would not be the case as, instead of chasing championships with an aging squad, Hull have taken the decision to instead focus on developing the potential of their youth players as they seek to be build a sustainable dynasty for baseball in the north-east at Purex Field.
Despite this change of direction though, Hull still came into the weekend boasting a record of 11-5 and comfortably sitting in fourth place in the overall standings ahead of Sheffield Bladerunners (10-10) meaning the Trojans would have been foolish to under-estimate them.
To add to their woes, prior to the weekend the Trojans had been hurt by the withdrawal of Rick Mills from pitching duties as he continues to struggle to shake off an injury that has bothered him for the past few weeks. Though Mills would stay in the line-up in his now familiar role as a centre-fielder it added to the headache felt by Trojans Manager Ian Blease following the departure of Garfield Xu, and an injury already sustained by Matt Agnostinelli which has restricted him from taking to the hill since the trip to Cartmel a few weeks back.
With the Trojans’ place in the AAA playoffs already confirmed, and only the seeding to be decided, Blease has been exploring his pitching options recently and a shining light among the gloom of the injuries has been Mike Gaskell. Gaskell joined the Trojans in pre-season and looked like quite the pitching prospect, before an injury to a recently operated on elbow would sideline him for the start of the year. His complete game win against Sheffield Bladerunners last weekend seemed to indicate that he was ready to fulfil his potential and add to the pitching artillery just in time for the playoffs -but baseball can sometimes be a cruel game, and this was one of those occasions.
Game One: Scorpions 2 Trojans 20
Gaskell was named as the starter in game one, but during his pre-game warm up he felt a twinge and was instead moved into left field. This opened the door for Paul Smith to pick up some much appreciated innings ahead of the playoffs, while Victor Juarez moved from left field into shortstop.
Smith is a proven arm and had gone undefeated heading into the unexpected start, so it was unlikely it would phase him too much. He seemed completely at ease with his surroundings as he quickly retired the Scorpions to end the top of the first.
For the Scorpions, Dom Rawlins took the start but, despite displaying some serious heat, he struggled with control early on. This allowed both Harry Wren and Paul Mason to reach base on walks. He would strike out the dangerous Victor Juarez though but this really just earned the Scorpions a stay of execution as the next batter up, Matt Agnostinelli, would drive in the first run of the game on his single to left. Paul Smith was up next and he dispatched a double to left centre that would clear the bases and score two more. Blease would then walk before he and Smith would move to second and third on a passed ball. Another passed ball would allow Smith to score, before Mills popped out. One more run would score when Blease crossed the plate following Gaskell’s grounder to third forcing an error. Waddington would ground out to end the inning on a contested call at first. At the end of the first the Trojans led 5-0.
Hull would claw one back in the top of the second though as a two-out error following a walk would get them on the board for the first time on the day.
As all nine Trojan hitters saw an appearance at the plate in the first inning it was again down to Wren to lead off the inning. Again he drew a walk, and Mason followed him to reach base after being hit by a pitch. Juarez would pop into a ruled infield fly and that would bring Agnostinelli to the plate. He promptly dispatched a line drive home run over the fence for his fourth home run in as many weeks and drove in three runs. That would complete the scoring for the second inning though as despite Rawlins walking the bases full, Waddington would groundout to short to end the inning.
Hull continued to battle on though, and again thanks to a couple of walks and a two out error they got another run on the board.
By the time the bottom of the third came around, the Trojans were already in a commanding position with an 8-2 lead but the Trojans didn’t let up. Wren reached again (HBP), then stole second before Mason flew out. Juarez’s single up the middle would put runners on the corners before Agnostinelli would pick up his fifth RBI of the game on a single to right. Juarez would score on a wild pitch before Smith would be allowed to reach base on an error by the pitcher. Up stepped Blease who drove a ball deep to left, only to denied a birthday home run as the ball crashed through the fence rather than over it. This would still score Agnostinelli though and put runners on second and third for Mills. Smith would score on a passed ball before Mills fly to left failed to score Blease as he had miscalculated the number outs in the inning. No damage done though as Blease would reach when Gaskell’s fly to right somehow went uncaught. It didn’t seem like it was going to be Waddington’s day when he struck out and took the unfortunate honour of ending the inning for the third consecutive time.
Hull were retired in order in the top of the fourth and so, once again, it was up to Harry Wren to get things going. He would draw another leadoff walk before Mason K’d, Juarez’s single to right put runners on the corners before Agnostinelli walked to load the bases. Martin Godsall, hitting for Smith, also walked which also scored Wren. Blease walked too, bringing in Juarez. Mills would groundout to first, but this would also score Agnostinelli. Gaskell walked to again load the bases for Waddington. His soft grounder to the pitcher would be missed on the barehanded the grab and Godsall would score. Wren finally got bat on ball next, this would score Blease while Gaskell would also score on a handling error by the left fielder. Mason would walk to load the bases once more, but Victor Juarez would strike out with the bases loaded to end the onslaught.
With the time limit now expired the umpire called the game and the Trojans would finish as winners by a score of 20-2. Paul Smith pitching a complete game no-hitter in the process. Not bad for a last minute stand-in!