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Week 8 Rumours

It’s the penultimate weekend of the regular season, and there remains to be a clear-cut second best team in the league. This weekend will all but settle who’s in and who’s out of the playoffs, but there is a lot left to play for in where positioning in concerned. Let’s see how each team is looking going into Week 8. 

Ottomans (vs. Nasrids – 2:00PM BW1; vs. Seljuqs – 3:30PM BW2)

So you have a team sitting in second place on the season, having an ace on the mound throughout the year and the league’s top defence, and what do they do to start off the season post-break? Put a new pitcher on the mound and switch up their defence. After AK dominated the whole season to a tune of only one loss (to the Mamluks, no less), the Navies went with Hamza Hussain for both games this weekend. Hussain performed admirably, settling in well and staying consistent throughout, but unfortunately found himself in the losing column for both games. On top of that, GM Hashim Ghazi moved Rehan Ahmad from shortstop to centrefield for the weekend, thereby stacking the outfield to feature all three of Shaheen Limbada, Michael Arlitt, and Ahmad. The Ottomans also tinkered with their lineup, moving Shaheen Limbada into the 6-spot in hopes of balancing out the lineup. The end result still led to the same number of runs they’ve been averaging all year, and makes you wonder if all the changes really made the team better. This was the first weekend the Ottomans lost both their games, and it will be interesting to see how they set up offensively and defensively this weekend with big matchups against the free swinging Nasrids and in-form Seluqs. The Ottomans dropped all the way down to fourth and will need two huge wins and some help if they want to regain the second seed. They have already locked up a playoff spot so will just be playing for seeding. 
 
Nasrids (@ Ottomans – 2:00PM BW1; @ Ayyubids – 3:30PM BW1)

Man, another tough weekend for the Spaniards. The Nasrids are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs this year, with only one win to show for the season. However, there continues to be stories that bring optimism. Bilal Javed reached vaunted BSL territory over the weekend, joining the three HR in one game club after his stellar performance at the plate against the Mughals. He’s putting together an All-Star caliber season, batting .714 (!!!) on the year. Osman Buttar had his worse BSL performance to date, which he surely voiced displeasure in last weekend to the rumour team. Hamza Waheed also went from an All-Star season last year to a disappointing one this year. Every year we hear the same whispers – “we can’t do this family thing anymore, it becomes frustrating and it leads to more stress than fun” – and yet, year after year we see the same familiar unit come together at the beginning of the season. These guys need to band together as a unit and play hard to end out the season. With bats like Javed, NK, Buttar, Usama Mahmood and Nirvaan Latif, they have the talent to play spoiler. They get their chance to do so this weekend against the Ayyubids and Ottomans this weekend. The only way they can make the playoffs is by winning out and hoping the Sultans only gain one point the rest of the season.  

Seljuqs
 (vs. Ayyubids – 2:00PM BW2; @ Ottomans – 3:30 BW2)

The Seljuqs have made a night-and-day transformation between the team we saw in the beginning of the season and the one we see now. A team that looked helpless on both sides of the ball in the first few weeks now appear to be in every game, and even showed they can give a rollicking themselves to opponents. After grinding through a clutch win against the Sultans and smacking the leather off the ball in a mercy victory over the Abbasids, they look as threatening as a 5th place team can look. This team has a lot of characteristics of the Seljuqs that made its way to the finals last year. They solved their pitching woes with Taha Iqbal settling in nicely. Sameer Rafique gets stronger at short stop every week, and the use of an aggressive rover in the outfield has limited opponents from getting bloop singles against the angry birds. They’ll need to keep that momentum going against two teams above them in the standings – the Ayyubids and Ottomans – this week. This team firmly believes going 2-0 against these teams is not out of reach, and if they show up like they did last week, they may find themselves in a battle for the second or third spot heading into the final weekend. 

Ayyubids (@ Seljuqs – 2:00PM BW2; @ Nasrids – 3:30PM BW1)

The Ayyubids also had a great weekend after the break, winning both their games and moving into third spot in the standings. They pummeled the Abbasids in their first game, while squeezing by Sultans in game two. Management must be happy to see the team coming through with big wins and grinding out tough ones. Zain Khilji has yet to miss a game this season – a surprise considering many GMs kept them off their draft board with concerns of his soccer league taking priority to BSL. Maybe there was something the Ayyubids knew all along that the rest of the teams didn’t? Or maybe Khilji simply relished playing the game again after the last few years were clouded by injuries, the stress of GMing, and family politics. Also, why is nobody talking about Khilji leaving his team for the team that stopped him from winning the championship like people did KD/G-State? Oh, right – because the only thing ‘KD’ about Khilji is his frame. Nevermind. The Ayyubids hope to go perfect again and challenge for that all-important second spot in the standings with matchups against the Seljuqs and Nasrids this Sunday afternoon. The Ayyubids be hoping to take care of business and then hope the Mughals lose a game.
 
Mamluks (vs. Mughals – 5:00PM BW2; @ Abbasids – 6:30PM BW1)

The Mamluks continued the second half of the season much like they ended the first half – domination. Though Riz Merchant had some trouble finding his groove after the hiatus, the Mamluks offense continues to blow teams out of the water, scoring eighteen runs in each of their victories. Of greater concern to their opponents is where the runs are coming from. Ergo, everywhere. The top of the lineup is hitting, the heart of the lineup is connecting, and the bottom of the lineup is stroking. There are virtually no holes, and this past weekend, it was the bottom that really turned it on against their foes. If Baseer Yasseen, Asad Moten, Sikandar Aftab, and Mohamed Kala continue producing like they have been – all four hit home runs last weekend – we may as well just give these guys the trophy right now. The defense has also been solid, and we see a bit of a position battle going on at third base. Shahzad Ahmed has performed admirably there all season, but in the innings we’ve seen Riyad Ramjaun lace ‘em up at the hot corner, he’s always impressed. May the Regulator give his big bat a DH role while Ramjaun takes control of the position? I guess we’ll wait and see. This week, the Mamluks face the Mughals and Abbasids as they continue their quest for perfection during the regular season.

Mughals (@ Mamluks – 5:00PM BW2; @ Sultans – 6:30PM BW2)

The Mughals didn’t look their best after the long layoff, but fought through it and got two huge walkoff victories to move them into second place in the L. Ismail Akhter continued his strong rookie campaign with a pair of dingers this past Sunday, moving into third place amongst the leaders in both home runs and runs batted in. Also, Faraaz Alvi is putting together his most complete season to date, surpassing his hit total from the last two years with still a few games to play. With Rafique Choudhry unavailable for the doubleheader, Mohammed Ali Pasha played the full game at short and despite some errors in game two, held down the position really well. The Mughals did field some calls around the trade deadline in an effort to put them over the top, but felt that no deal really made them better off than where they stand right now. After a statement win against the Ottomans, they look to continue their winning ways into this weekend in a massive matchup against the Mamluks and the Abbasids. The Mughals control their own destiny in the playoff standings with firm control over second place and just need to win out to hold on to the first round bye.


Abbasids (vs. Sultans – 5:00PM BW1; vs. Mamluks – 6:30PM BW1)
 
After weeks of our writers talking about how the Abbasids are better than their record shows, the Abbasids proved us wrong this weekend – they really are as bad as their record shows. The Orangemen hit rock bottom over the weekend, losing both by a combined score of 36 – 6. With GMs Ahmad Hussain and Haris Mallick not in the lineup Sunday, the wheels just came off and the lions all but waved a white flag of surrender against their opponents. Omair Zuberi has had a tough go this season. Just how everything was just going the pitcher’s way last season both on the mound and at the plate, the complete opposite is happening this year. Also, some love must be given to Atif Qureshi. After batting .340 in his BSL career coming into the season, he leads the team with a .563 clip this year – good enough for top-15 in the league. Despite the debacle last week, they find themselves just one point out of the last playoff spot with three games to go. The bad news is that the Abbasids play the Mamluks and Mughals in their final two games. The good news is that they play the Sultans this week for a chance to move into a playoff spot and the Sultans play the top 2 teams in the league to close out the season as well. If the Abbasids can't get motivated for their game against the Sultans, there is probably nothing that can motivate this bunch.

Sultans (@ Abbasids – 5:00PM BW1; vs. Mughals – 6:30PM BW2)

The Sultans went into the break with a big two-win day to put them back into the playoff hunt, but found themselves on the other side of the winner’s column last weekend. The Stallions were short-handed without big bat Suhail Taji and others, and both contests were very close. GM Amir Khalil’s side lacks situational hitting. In their first game against the Seljuqs, the Sultans found themselves down two with the bases loaded and no outs in the last inning with the top of their lineup coming up. All three players popped out and so ended their chance of stealing one against the team one spot ahead of them. If guys cannot shorten their swing and just hit clutch singles when needed, it will be very tough for this team to stick out close games. This team can clearly hit, but when your best hitters cannot come through in clutch situations like that and play the percentages, it makes winning that much harder. The Sultans sit in sixth place with just one point separating them from the Abbasids in seventh. They’ll need everyone to show up for their matchups against the Abbasids and Mughals to cement their spot in the second season. 

This weekend will determine if teams will have something to play for next Sunday. We expect games to have a playoff like atmosphere this weekend as teams push towards the playoffs. See you on the diamond.