Monday, July 15, 2024

BDF IX men tame Police IX to clinch softball tournament Championship

Excitement. Gamesmanship. Tension. A near all out brawl. The Archein BSA Independence Softball Tournament men’s final between fierce rivals Police IX and BDF IX could not have been scripted better!

In the words of Police IX men’s co-coach Godson Motsomi: “This was perhaps the best final I have seen.” “This was a proper Softball match,” one Botswana Softball Association (BSA) official could be heard saying an earshot away.

Not that this was not to be expected. For the past two seasons, both teams have had intense encounters, with ‘Ditau’ (Lions) as Police IX is known, having an upper hand. This trend had continued when the two teams met in the semifinal of the tournament which was played in the morning of the final.

Here, Police ran riot, forcing BDF IX to forfeit the game at the bottom of the third inning. At the time of forfeiture Police IX were 7 – 0 up, and BDF IX knew they stood no chance. They had to save energy for their second bite at the cherry, another semifinal game against Gatalamotho.

“We tried our best not to waste more time in the first game because Police were already leading us. So, we wanted to focus on the next two games because we knew if we won against Gatalamotho we are going to play Police again,” BDF IX coach Lt Colonel Tapologo Moremedi explained.

The gamble paid off. BDF IX won against Gatalamotho and proceeded to the final. The stage was now set. This was going to be a final won from the technical area as much as from the players.

Playing at the top, the soldiers start well. Two runners on scoring positions, two batters down, in steps Mothusi Shalobane at the batters’ box. A foul ball, a ball, and then wham! He hits Samuel Kunyalala way off the park on the third pitch. A much-needed home run to ensure BDF IX are 3-runs up and running. In reply, Police only manages a single run through Eric Simwanza as they find pitcher Kagiso Mogale in mean mood.

In the second inning, neither side gets a run. Then things get interesting in the third innings. With BDF IX having filled all the bases and Kunyalala struggling, Police IX brings Pako Motsumi to stem the flow. BDF however scores two runs at the top to stretch their lead to 5 – 1. In response, Police IX scores two runs of their own to keep the score at 5 – 3, a deficit of just two runs.

The fourth inning produces no runs for either side, setting the stage for a tense fifth inning. Playing at the top of the fifth inning, BDF IX fails to get a run. But they are aware the game’s allotted time of 2 hours is running out. The plan is simple, deny Police IX some runs and waste time to ensure the game does not proceed to the sixth inning.

But things do not go according to the plan. After Zibisane Samuel is dismissed, Simwanza steps in at the batter’s box. Two balls, two strikes, then he hits Mogale towards the right fielder, who unfortunately fluffs and lets the ball slip. Simwanza seizes the moment and runs home. One man down, two runs to win or one to level scores, Police IX is now breathing on the necks of BDF IX. And this is where things get interesting.

BDF IX resort to gamesmanship and time delaying tactics. Their ace Mogale is subbed for another pitcher, who, before he could even throw a ball, is again subbed for Mogale. Aware of the gamesmanship, the umpire has a word with BDF IX, while Police IX technical team also makes their feelings known to the umpire.

“The rule of the game was that an inning will never start in less than 10 minutes. At the time when we made those substitutions, the game was left with 12 minutes, so we only had 2 minutes to waste. That 2 minutes was meant so that whenever we dismiss the third man, then the game will stop there. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out like that,” Moremedi explains with a sly smile on the face.

Police IX however have other ideas. Despite the gamesmanship, they score the crucial run they need to tie the score and send the game into sixth inning, a tie breaker. “We knew what they were doing. We also knew that as long as we could still go to bat, we stood a chance to tie the score and we did,” a chuckling Police IX men Head Coach Tebogo Mokhachane says.

Playing at the top of the tie breaker, BDF IX manages to score three runs to make the score 8 – 5. In reply, Police IX sends Simwanza to bat with two runners on scoring positions. Once again, he has Mogale’s number and hits him out of the park. The inning ends with both sides tied at 8 runs each.

Tension builds as the two sides head to the seventh inning, the second tie breaker. BDF IX adds two runs at the top of the inning. Then with a double play looming, a Police player runs through the BDF IX second baseman, stopping him from ousting the man behind him. The pent-up emotions burst and a scuffle ensues.

“Emotions! It is a men’s sport. It is a contact sport. At least we did not exchange blows. Sometimes you have to break a double play and unfortunately, he went right into him. When you do it, you do not do it to hurt somebody. You just do it to save the guy behind you. Unfortunately, my guy went right through him,” Mokhachane says.

“What happened is that someone got injured and some players felt it was deliberate. Sometimes when we play these games we have problems with each other, and when there is a mistake, somebody does not understand it is a mistake,” BDF coach Morebodi opines.

In the end, Police IX only manages a single run at the bottom of the inning. BDF IX wins it 10 – 9. “It was a wave of emotions. It was a fantastic game, more than fantastic. Even though we lost, I am still happy. The guys showed a lot of character,” Mokhachane sums up.


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