A good day at the office for Cambridge Baseball as they were victorious in the sport's first-ever Varsity matchKari Jackson

Cambridge held off a late rally to win the first ever Varsity baseball match.  A superb pitching performance from starter Alex Williams (7 innings, 5 runs, 11 strikeouts, 10 walks) and a seven-run explosion in the sixth inning sent the Light Blues into a 13-4 lead, and they clung on in spite of Oxford’s furious attempted comeback. 

On an overcast but mercifully mild day at Coldham’s Common, it was Cambridge, the Cubs, who got off to the better start. Williams made an imperious start to the first innings, showing excellent command to strike out three batters while walking just one. The Dark Blues’ pitcher was slower to find his groove. Lawrance Chiang led off with a walk, then showcased the lightning speed that would wreak havoc on the basepaths throughout the match to steal second and third. After Tom van Haaren struck out swinging, captain Martin Lippert swatted a hanging curveball high into centre field, where it was dropped, allowing Chiang to give the Light Blues the lead. They added a second as aggressive, savvy baserunning from Lippert saw him steal second and third, then race home on a wild pitch. 

Oxford battled back. Another electric inning from Williams, taking advantage of a low strike zone to whiff three more batters with blazing fastballs in the bottom corners, kept them off the scoreboard in the top of the second. But in the bottom of the second, Dark Blue pitcher Tom also began to settle into his rhythm, using a nasty slider to strike out two and quickly despatch of the bottom of the Cambridge line-up. And in the top of the third, the Cubs ran into trouble. Struggling with location for the first time in the match, Williams walked the first two batters he faced, and a sacrifice bunt from number three hitter Tom brought one of them home for Oxford’s first run. Number four Mach dribbled an RBI single to third, before a wild pitch allowed another runner to scamper home, giving Oxford the lead for the first time in the match. 

With two runners on base and just one out, the Cubs were in a jam, but two excellent defensive plays saw them out of it. First, catcher Lippert stood his ground to tag the imposing Mach as he attempted to thunder home. Then, third baseman Ryan Limbocker scooped up a bobbling grounder and fired a precise throw to first, where a stretching Dean Ashley gathered to ball on the bounce to end the inning. 

Cambridge scored 14 runs, including 7 in the 6th innings Kari Jackson

Going behind seemed to spur Cambridge on. They levelled the match in the top of the fourth, then scored three in the fifth. First Williams rocketed from a 0-2 fastball into left field. The ball just clipped the fence as it sailed out of the park, turning what would have been a grand slam home run into a double. Still, it brought two runners home, and Limbocker scored another in the next at bat with a line drive single to centre.  

While the Light Blues were busily accumulating runs, Williams was dialling in to shut down the Oxford offence, fanning four between the fourth and sixth innings and conceding just one run on a sacrifice fly to centre. Still, it was a close, tense game, with Cambridge leading 6-4, when the Light Blues unleashed carnage in the bottom of the 6th. 

With the Dark Blues’ starting pitcher tiring, they brought on reliever Mach, and Cambridge immediately took advantage. Lippert led off the inning with a towering double that sailed over the centre fielder’s head, then rattled off two steals and scurried home on a wild pitch. Williams walked, and Limbocker wore a wayward fastball to join him on base. Second baseman Henry Cousins snuck an RBI single past the shortstop, and Ashley ripped a ground ball past the second baseman to score another run. When left fielder Roman Rzycki drew a walk, the bases were loaded, Cambridge led 9-6, and Oxford were yet to get the first out of the inning. Mach managed to strike out right fielder Ward van der Schoot with a low fastball, to gain a semblance of control, but shortstop Chiang forced another run over by drawing another walk, and then Ashley scored on a wild pitch, sliding home to beat the tag by inches. The Cubs managed another two runs before the inning finally ended with a strikeout by Williams, giving them an imposing nine run lead. 


Mountain View

Ain’t no mountain high enough as Cambridge reign supreme

The end was not straightforward. It began to rain, at first gently, but with increasing persistence, making it more and more difficult for pitchers to grip the ball, and turning the already saturated diamond into a boggy morass. Oxford refused to buckle; they loaded the bases in the seventh, and it took a spectacular catch from Limbocker, diving to his left at second, to snag a blazing liner to end the inning. Then in the eighth they took advantage of a tiring Williams to load the bases again. Ryan Limbocker was brought on in relief after Williams walked a run in, but was unable to hold the runners and Oxford scored four in the inning. 

Light Blue nerves really began to jangle in the ninth, as Oxford scored two runs and had the bases loaded with two outs. But closer Henry Cousins kept his cool in the pounding rain to quench the rally, securing the final out and sparking jubilant celebrations from the sodden Light Blues.

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