Takehito Kawakami was integral to the Cubs defensive showingMatt Lewns

Baseball Varsity had the most exciting elements of America’s favourite pastime — standout pitching performances, a grand slam, and a thunderous comeback — but they were not enough to lead Cambridge to a victory.  On a windy Sunday afternoon on Coldham’s Common, the Oxford Rangers bested the Cambridge Cubs 15-10 in front of a raucous home crowd in what is the youngest tradition amongst the oldest rivalry in sports. Cambridge’s late-inning offensive heroics were stymied by inconsistent relief pitching and an untidy defensive effort.

Pitching ultimately decided the game’s outcome.  After Cambridge’s starting pitcher, Takehito Kawakami, carried the Cubs through a mammoth seven-inning, eight strikeout performance on the mound, relief pitching relinquished Cambridge’s slim lead in the final two innings.  Meanwhile, Oxford’s left-handed starting pitcher, Kazumi Nomura, held Cambridge scoreless early and relievers Caleb Miller and Nehemiah Wilson were able to hold off a late-game rally from Cambridge to secure the victory for the Rangers.

Jay Sullivan's Grand Slam went down well with the home supportCUBS/Matt Lewns

Oxford took an early lead in the top of the first inning and held it for the first half of the game, notching four runs on timely hitting and defensive miscues by Cambridge in the first 3 innings.  The Rangers’ run was capped by a solo (one-run) homerun by star infielder and pitcher Nehemiah Wilson in the 4th inning that put Oxford ahead 5-0.  Wilson finished the game on the mound registering a victory and adding three singles to his tally for the day.

The Cubs woke up in the bottom half of the 4th inning manufacturing a run from Captain Naif Al-Mulla with aggressive baserunning.  The game opened up for Cambridge in the 5th, as a trail 6-1 quickly gave way to a 6-6 tie as the Cubs scored rapidly registered five heading into the final half of the game.  Timely hits from infielder Matthew Russell and Kawakami along with inaccurate pitching from Oxford’s Nomura and Miller fuelled the comeback.

The Rangers responded to the rising Cubs by scoring 3 runs in the top of the 6th and 7th innings courtesy of hits from Miller, Captain A.J. Callis, and infielder Joe Tulloch. Cambridge held off the surge with impressive defensive plays from Centerfielder Joe Popp, who closed the game for the Cubs on the mound, including an acrobatic diving catch to end an Oxford rally.

Cambridge Cubs valiant Varsity squadMatt Lewns

Going into the seventh inning stretch down 9-6, Cambridge mounted another comeback of a lifetime capped off with an epic grand slam, a 4-run home run, to give the Cubs a late-game lead.  With the dominant Wilson on the mound, infielders Yuze Cao and Russell got on base with a lead-off single and a hit-by-pitch respectively.  With two outs and the game on the line, catcher Cameron Owen reached first base on a Wilson-bobbled ground ball loading the bases for infielder Jay Sullivan.

After taking a first-pitch breaking ball, Sullivan unloaded on a hanging second-pitch breaking ball to deliver a rocket over the right-field fence and a miraculous four-run home run for the Cubs, who took the lead 10-9. The Coldham’s Faithful cheered and the Cubs’ bench cleared to welcome in the go-ahead run in the hope of closing out the day with a slim, comeback victory.

The celebrations, however, were quickly suppressed as Oxford retaliated with six runs in the eighth. Cambridge relievers gave up six walks and three hits combined to Rangers’ hitters in the top half of the frame. The Cubs turned to reliever Joe Popp to stem the bleeding who got Cambridge out of the inning, but the damage had already been done.

With the momentum out of Cambridge’s sails, the Cubs were unable to catch fire at the plate and were shut out the final two innings by a dominant Wilson.  With a final score of 15-10, Oxford won its second consecutive Varsity Baseball match over Cambridge to make the score 2-1 since 2018. 


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“It was a team loss,” said Cubs’ Captain and outfielder Naif Al-Mulla. “Overall, our defence and pitching weren’t at their best, but we battled the whole game. We’re still the best team in our division, and the comeback spirit on this team will serve us well as we look to Nationals in April.”

Of his grand slam heroics, Sullivan said “Both teams played their hearts out today. It felt like we just needed a spark to turn the game back in our favour, and in baseball sometimes it just takes one swing,” He added, “[Wilson] is an incredible pitcher, and I was lucky to connect on a rare mistake from him to give us a chance to win the game.” 

The Cubs are in a prime qualifying position for the British National Baseball Championship in April where they may face Oxford again with a national title on the line. The Cambridge side sits atop their division at 5-1 and will finish their regular season with a doubleheader at Coldham’s Common against Loughborough II on Saturday, March 7 with first pitch at 11:00 AM and an away doubleheader at the University of East Anglia beginning at 1:00 PM on Sunday, March 8.

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