[written by: Hamid Malik, Ibrahim Sardar, Riyad Ramjaun, Taha Iqbal, Zain Khilji, Zuhair Fancy & Hashim Ghazi]
Some surprise results last week makes this weekend all that more enticing as we approach Week 6. The Ottomans were the true winners on the day, after securing top spot with a pair of huge victories despite only having eight men. The Seljuqs also picked up their first point since week 1 with a come-from-behind tie against the Nasrids. This week, we may finally see some teams clinch their spot to the big dance, while one team on the outside looking in made a huge trade in efforts to make a late playoff push. We got a lot of dish for you this week, let's see what's gwannin.
MAMLUKS (@ Sultans 2:00PM BW2 & vs Ottomans 3:30PM BW2)
The Mamluks are a difficult team to read at the moment. On one hand, they have clearly bounced back from the horrible start to the season with three weeks of promising play. On the other hand, they haven't been able to register more than one win on any given Sunday. Despite the mixed results, the team's confidence is riding quite high at the moment due to much improved individual performances. Returning BSL player Arslan Shahid is quietly stringing together an exceptional season at the plate, while Mohsin Zubair has been on a tear lately, picking apart the outfield with his versatile hitting. Although the hitting is coming together as the season progresses, the Green Machine is focused on refining good habits on the field. A balanced defensive lineup provides GM Hassan Chaudhry with options on finding the right mix as the playoff race gets tighter. This Sunday provides a contrast of opponents as they face the red hot Ottomans who are on a roll and the slumping Sultans who are counting on string of new players to get into a groove. It is not lost on the Mamluks that the Sultans found themselves in a similar spot last season prior to embarking on their championship run. The last Mamluks-Ottomans affair produced an offensive slugfest in which the Turks escaped with a one run win, whereas their game against the Sultans ended in defensive nail-biting 6-6 tie. Either way, this is shaping to be an exciting weekend, and the team is looking forward to having Salman Ahmad back after a lengthy absence.
SULTANS (vs Mamluks 2:00PM BW2 & @ Abbasids 3:30PM BW1)
The Sultans are beginning to remind us of the 1999 Chicago Bulls, and look to be the worst defending champions in BSL history. The freefall continued for the Stallions this week as they dropped two more games to bring their record to 2-6-2, a mere point out of last place. Game 1 was a close affair against the Nasrids where pitcher Basil Jeelany was in the zone, allowing only 7 runs as the starting pitcher and going 2-3 at the plate. Unfortunately, the rest of his team put up only 9 hits and caused 3 errors defensively, allowing the Spaniards to squeak out a narrow 10-8 win. In Game 2, the Sultans came in confident; their opponents, the Ottomans, were playing with only 8 players, and missing their top 2 draft picks. All factors pointed to a cake walk for the Stallions that would allow them to regain their confidence and move forward in the season. However, it was anything but that, as the 8-men Ottomans mercied the Sultans to the tune of 18-1. 3 more errors in Game 2 didn’t help the men in white, but the real issue is they only produced 7 hits against a defense that only had three outfielders on the day. The Sultans had 18 hits in 2 games this past week and once the game ended, the Sultans immediately held a team meeting to realign things. GM Shamil Khadaroo knew he had to do something, and something sooner than later. What resulted was a mega trade that saw four players, including All Star Omer Chaudhry, go to the Ayyubids in exchange for more depth in Hassan Zubair, Zuhair Fancy, Shoaib Gaya and Sikandar Aftab now donning Sultan white. The Sultans now boast a team that has the depth of a champion, but is it too little too late? This week, the Sultans will face a do or die week against the Abbasids & the Mamluks. Two wins puts them back in the race for the playoffs, but two more losses could be too much for them to overcome.
ABBASIDS (@ Ottomans 2:00PM BW1 & vs Sultans 3:30PM BW1)
Coming off 2 tough losses the prior week, the Abbasids were hoping to get back on track against the two best teams in the league. The mentality was that if we can give these top teams a run for their money, there is nobody in this league we can’t beat. The Ayyubids were up first and the Abbasids just laid into them. Captain Bilal Javed and MVP candidate Ahmad Ammad hit a pair of homers each bringing to bring in a combined 8 RBIs. Overall the Abbasids bats were flowing well and connected on 26 hits to the Ayyubids 9. With one win down, the Abbasids were riding high and were pumped going up against the top dawg Mughals. These two teams seemed evenly matched as both had 16 hits each and played lock down defense all game long. There were 4 homers in this game, courtesy of Ammad, Javed, Hamid Malik (the 1st of his BSL career) and Yousaf Chaudhry. Going into the final inning of this game, we were all knotted up at 9 apiece. The Mughals had a chance to win it as they were down 2 outs, with Rehan Ahmed at the plate. All they needed was 1 run and they would’ve won the game. Rehan, easily capable of knocking it out of the park, aired it out to RF and just as it nearly cleared the fence, Hamid Malik jumped up and snagged it, robbing the Mughals of their win and ending it in a tie. Not the desired result but the Orangemen escaped this one managed to get 3 out of the 4 points against the best teams in the league. The Abbasids have now earned 5 out of 6 points against the top 3 teams in the league, which goes to show that they’re no joke. Slow start aside, their bats are finally coming alive and the defense is starting to suffocate opponents. With team chemistry on the rise, so are the Abbasids. They’re feeling pretty hot right now and any team that goes up against them will have their hands full as these guys are ready to make a playoff push.
OTTOMANS (vs Abbasids 2:00PM BW1 & @ Mamluks 3:30PM BW2)
The Ottomans left Birchwood this Sunday singing “started from the bottom, now we here”. With two resounding wins this past weekend, their fans were heard mocking opposing fans with “too soon, too real” chants. Murmurs of a championship parade were in the offing as well. With their top two draft picks deciding to take a week off, the Mighty O were down to only eight players; what ensued was historic. The Turks mercied both the Seljuqs (who were shorthanded themselves) and the Sultans to not only get maximum points on the day but also go top of the table thanks to adding +32 to their run differential on the day. While every hitter on the team had a field day, five of them (AR, Taha Iqbal, Faheem Kotwal, Kashif Irshad and Rameez Siddiqi) went 34 for 41 combined – a remarkable average of .829. It is a good indication of league parity that even after going 5-0 in their last five games, the Ottomans still find the Mughals, Ayyubids and Nasrids hot on their heels. One bad week and they could find themselves back in the middle of the pack. The Turks play the Abbasids and Mamluks this Sunday, and both are expected to be fiery affairs with the opponents looking to solidify their playoff positions. Both teams have picked it up in last couple of weeks and have strong performances to show for it. The Ottomans came up short by a run against the Abbasids in the first leg of their matchup – that 3-4 loss was the lowest scoring game in the League’s history. Against the Mamluks though, the Royals made a monumental comeback to erase a 13 run deficit in two innings to win 20-19. However, Mamluks were missing their GM, Hassan, and ace pitcher, Ibrahim, in that game. The Ottomans know what they need to do this week, and are confident to keep that parade route intact.
AYYUBIDS (vs Abbasids 2:00PM BW2 & vs Mamluks 3:30PM BW2)
The Ayyubids came into their Week Five games hoping to grab a pair of wins to keep pace with the leaders in the league, but things didn't go their way this day. First, the Abbasids laid a beating on the Ayyubids as the Lions built a big lead early and coasted to an easy 20-6 win. The Ayyubids were not able to string much together and put up a paltry nine hits in this game (compared to 26 by the Abbasids). After their rough start to the day, the Ayyubids tried to salvage it against the Mamluks; things looked good in the early going as their bats woke up, and despite some base running gaffes, they had a 15-8 lead after six innings. That’s when the wheels fell off. The Mamluks managed to rally for eight runs in the top of the seventh putting the pressure on the bottom of the line-up to somehow save the day and that they did. Down by a run with two outs, Shoaib Gaya legged out an infield hit putting runners at the corners for Neal Irfan to single home the tying run of the game. Yasser Zia then walked off the game after crushing a ball to the wall that sent the team into a frenzy. Perhaps not the way the Ayyubids would have drawn up their day, but a win generated by the bottom half of the line-up may give the team the boost it needs as they have struggled of late. The Kurds went big on the trade market, sending four players, including Hassan Zubair who is having a career year, to the Sultans in exchange for a quartet of Stallions, the big name being Omer Chaudhry. The Ayyubids sacrificed some depth in exchange for a big bat, and hope that Payn (in addition to Zain Malik, Zia Ali and Asim Waheed) can be the final piece of the puzzle en route to a championship season. Week Six will see the Ayyubids face the Nasrids, who they tied in Week Three, and Seljuqs, who they defeated in Week Four. Another pair of critical games will give a better sense of what these guys are all about, as the Nasrids are hot on their heels and Seljuqs are in desperation mode to keep their playoff hopes alive.
NASRIDS (vs Sultans 5:15PM BW2 & @ Seljuqs 6:45PM BW2)
The Nasrids are getting comfortable in their all but certain expectation to suit up during the playoffs with another 3 points this weekend. They will be disappointed to drop a point against an 8-man, last place team known as the Seljuqs though. Do the Seljuqs deserve to be in last place? You can decide – Omer Dhaduk certainly doesn’t, but anyways… Asad Syed did not travel with the team again last week and it’s menacing to think his presence makes the team even more dangerous. GM Nirvaan Latif did not disclose that Asad would be missing when confronted by the media despite being pressured in the Nasrids pre-game press conference. We will have more on the story as it unfolds. In other news, the Nasrids will be investing in unbranded sunglasses, as the sun at Birchwood Park 2 burned too bright to field under during the late hours of the day, but the team has only invested in one communal pair to share amongst the team at this point. That’s because all their budget was put toward the training invested in Taqi Ahmed, who has been as bright as the sun for the Spaniards in all aspects of the game. His speed and versatility is allowing him to slot into important situations and increase trust with the coaches. The DC41 is certainly working for him more than others. The Nasrids will need everyone on deck against two top teams in the Mughals and Ayyubids this week, where a pair of wins will see them all but lock up a playoff spot.
MUGHALS (vs Mamluks 2:00PM BW1 & vs Abbasids 3:30PM BW1)
A big piece of humble pie was delivered to the Mughals in Week 5, as the top team in the league was brought back to reality and went winless against the Mamluks and the Abbasids. It was a tale of two halves, as the first game of the day saw the Mughals bottom order not able to hit against the Mamluks, while the second game the Mughals top of the order unable to hit against the Abbasids that led to a tie. The Badshahs had a chance to win against the Lions, but a big-time strikeout by former Mughal Zahid Merchant on last year's playoff MVP, followed up by a potential catch of the year by Hamid Malik, proved to be the difference in the bottom of the 7th. Even with the winless week, the Mughals still have a lot of things to be happy about for the rest of the season, namely the play of ROY candidate Tamour Sheikh. Big T hit 3 more homeruns on Sunday, placing him atop the standings amongst all rookies. Additionally, the play of Ali Wadee has been spectacular to say the least. Ali has proved that he is one of the most versatile players in the league that can play anywhere, and if not for his phenomenal play at first base this week, the Mughals would not have earned the extra point. This week, the men in baby blue will face the Seljuqs and the Nasrids. In their previous matchup, pitcher Riyad “Ice Man” Ramjaun [Editor’s note: self-anointed nickname] struggled against the Seljuqs, issuing 10 walks, but since then, has gone back to hitting the plate regularly. It will be interesting to see if the Bulls will test him out early and make him pitch. In the second game, the Mughals will face the Nasrids on Birchwood 2. This game should provide a lot of hits (and homeruns) as these teams boast some of the biggest hitters in BSL. Two wins this week can potentially clinch the playoffs for the Badshahs, but two losses would cause panic and self-doubt on whether the Mughals are as good as they think they are
SELJUQS (@ Ottomans 5:15PM BW1 & vs Nasrids 6:45PM BW2)
The Seljuqs had their backs against the wall and at risk of only having six players available for this coming Sunday. Zain Khilji wasn’t ready to let his team down, and came back from a family vacation early in order to suit up for his guys. The Seljuqs had 8 players for the two games on Sunday, and all in all, cannot be too harkened with a tie and a loss on the day given the circumstances. Of note was the absolute clinic dreamboat Omer Dhaduk put on at the plate on the day. Fresh off a sunny vacation on the US West Coast, OD came ready to contribute, and contribute did he ever. Dhaduk hit a pair of dingers in the first game and followed that up with three more in game two. No BSL player has ever hit five homeruns on the day, and Dhaduk’s 5 HR 11 RBI Sunday was every bit needed for a team looking to hook onto any positive momentum they can. Though a lot has not gone to plan for the Bulls this year, you cannot attribute any of that to the boy they call Oms, who has been a rock at third base and leaving it all on the line week-in, week-out. The boys in red will be pleased to have some semblance of a full squad this week, and against two powerhouses like the Mughals and the Ayyubids, they will need everyone to come up big. The Seljuqs are increasing their reps outside of Sundays with weekly practices, and know that this team coming together at just the right time will pay dividends. Let’s see if they can finally turn some heads with some big performance against a pair of League contenders.
We may finally see some teams lock up a postseason berth this Sunday (with 6 games to play) - let's see who's up for it.