[written by: Aamir Husainy, Hamid Malik, Riyad Ramjaun & Hashim Ghazi]
The penultimate regular season weekend is upon us. After a long layoff that saw plenty of activity off the field, it's about time we had some on the field. Super Sunday is upon us, and all eight teams are still in the running for a playoff spot. Each matchup comes with major implications, with the Ayyubids one win away from guaranteeing a playoff bye and the Seljuqs one loss away from all but kissing their season goodbye. Tensions will be running high this Sunday, and it will be on GMs to keep their guys keep their composure amidst the pressure.
Transaction Notice: Faraaz Alvi has been forced to withdraw from the League due to injury, and the Mughals selected former all-star Usama Mahmood as his replacement. Usama cleared waivers and will be available for the Mughals this coming Sunday. We wish Faraaz well in his recovery and welcome Usama back to the league.
Also, the League has introduced Fantasy Softball for the last two weekends of the season. Enter your team for a chance to appear as a guest on the BSL Playoff Preview Pod. Each entry requires a $15 donation to Islamic Relief Canada by way of EMT to the League - sign up here: https://forms.gle/3rZcg5t8SVd58nKB9
And now ladies and gentlemen, the rumours.
MUGHALS (@ Mamluks 2:00PM BW2 & @ Ayyubids 3:30PM BW1)
Before Super Sunday happens, the League, and more specifically, the Mughals were faced with Tumultuous Tuesday. With the unfortunate injury to perennial all star Faraaz Alvi, the Mughals were required to select a replacement player and to have him clear waivers. After some misunderstandings, the Mughals landed themselves a 3-time all-star, all-star game MVP and gold glove shortstop stud in Usama Mahmood. Usama comes to the Mughals hoping to lead his new team to the promise land after coming oh-so-close in years past while playing with the Nasrids. Adding his glove at SS and moving other players around could be the blessing and luck required for the Mughals to turn their season around. After a red-hot start to the season, the Mughals are now winless in 7 games (not a typo) and though they still sit in a playoff spot, the first Super Sunday is almost a do-or die weekend for the team. Losing a heartbreaking game to the Mamluks by 1 earlier in the season, the Mughals will look to avenge that game in game 1, while they will face the top-seeded Ayyubids in game 2. Although, through most of this slump, the League has maintained that the Mughals are a team that can quickly turn things around, they are quickly running out of time and must right the ship by this weekend and play to the advantages the schedule has laid out for them. Playing game 1 on Birchwood 2 (a field the Mughals have been powerhouses on this year) against the Mamluks will be key, while benefitting from the Ayyubids not having Ali Jabbar on the mound in game 2 may prove crucial as well. Will the Mughals finally come together as the group that we know they can be, or is this the beginning of the swan song for the Badshahs? Super Sunday is only a few days away and all questions will be answered then.
MAMLUKS (vs Mughals 2:00PM BW2 & vs Seljuqs 3:30PM BW2)
The Mamluks come in to the home stretch of the season playing well, and sit in fifth place amidst a three way tie with the Nasrids and Mughals above them. Their mantra for the upcoming weeks is simply going to be "one at a time". With AGM Taher Mirza back in the fold, along with Ismail Akhter's resurgence, the Green Machine may be getting oiled up at just the right time. Umair Wasim and Imran Quereshi have also been experiencing an uptick in performance. If the ‘luks can really hone in on their ability to stay consistent, perhaps they can make their way back to a deep finals run. This Sunday they will kick things off against the spiraling Mughals. Knowing that there was an interval between the last time all teams played, look for the Mamluks to come out and really show the league that they are for real. That being said, their counterparts will likely be ready to go after a few weeks off and a new addition to show off. This game will be key for the Mamluks, since both teams have the same number of points and a win for the Mamluks, pushes them up the standings. In their second matchup, they will play the Seljuqs. Now don't count the Bulls out here, because they appear to be very hungry, and expect them to come out guns blazing. Both games should provide some excellent intrigue and clarity for the playoffs.
AYYUBIDS (@ Seljuqs 2:00PM BW1 & vs Mughals 3:30PM BW2)
While most other teams are searching for wins to get to the playoffs, the Ayyubids are sitting comfortably in the top spot and with one win this weekend, can all but secure a playoff bye. Knowing Umair “Flash” Sheikh though, a playoff bye is not enough for him or his group, and they will be looking at sweeping the first Super Sunday and ending the season in the top spot. Since the blockbuster trade between the Ayyubids and Sultans, the Ayyubids new players have proven that team management knew exactly what they were doing, however, it is the play of drafted Ayyubids that has helped maintain their top spot. Baseer “Bassanova” Yasseen is on a tear of late and is sitting currently sits just outside the top five for average on the season, all while playing stellar defense in the OF. Not far behind him is the other gem of the draft, Michael Arlitt, who is also batting above .600 and manning the OF as you would be expect a Gold Glover to. You know your team is built SOLID when Jibran Waqar is not even a top-4 average on your team. Super Sunday 1 pits the Ayyubids against the Seljuqs and the Mughals. Although the Bulls are in last place, if taken lightly, they will take a bite out of you as they are hungry for points. In the second game, the Ayyubids face the not almost as desperate Mughals, who are one of only three teams this to hand them a loss. Although faced with no starting pitcher this weekend, the Ayyubids are more than capable of filling that role while not losing a beat elsewhere in the field. And the one big advantage they have going for them this week, is their starting pitcher Ali Jabbar is performing Hajj (Masha’Allah) and we know he’ll be thinking of his comrades this Sunday.
SELJUQS (vs Ayyubids 2:00PM BW1 & @ Mamluks 3:30PM BW2)
The Seljuqs come into Super Sunday 1 as the bottom team of the league, but don’t let their record fool you – they have been hit with some extremely bad luck in losing close games by small margins. The upside is that the Seljuqs boast a deep roster with veteran players who know what it takes to win. With leaders Omer Dhaduk and Umair Jabbar leading the way, the baby Bulls will no doubt come out swinging this weekend looking to sweep both their matchups and ensure that Super Sunday 2 is meaningful for them. One of the keys for the Seljuqs this weekend will be the play of starting pitcher Hamza “The Kid” Waheed. Hamza has proven all his doubters wrong and has turned himself into one of the more reliable pitchers in the L, while also proving his worth with the bat with numbers eclipsing his career highs in many categories. The other key to the success of the Bulls this weekend will be the play of their bottom order. The bottom of the Seljuqs boasts a lot of quality players just having bad seasons, and If they can produce quality hits or get on base often enough, the top will make it count. Super Sunday 1 boasts the Bulls vs. the Ayyubids in game 1, while a date with the Mamluks awaits in the second slot. With the Ayyubids missing their starting pitcher, the Bulls need to take advantage of the situation and ensure all their batters are patient at the plate. With so much riding on this weekend, the Seljuqs need that luck they’ve been due all season to show its face and have some balls bounce their way. Two wins this weekend could potentially place them in a playoff spot going into next weekend, but a pair of losses? A pair of losses would basically have them miss the playoffs yet again, leaving team management to think what went wrong with such a talented group for the entire offseason.
NASRIDS (@ Abbasids 5:00PM BW2 & @ Ottomans 6:30PM BW1)
The Nasrids come into Super Sunday in a top-3 spot, but they know for a fact that it is anything but secure. With a three-way tie for third place at 14 points, Super Sunday could not be any more important for the Spaniards. Boasting a more complete team with gents like Safwan Khan and some guy named Osman Buttar in the lineup should help their cause. Their Sunday is going to begin with the Abbasids, a team who can player spoiler to any team one through five. Being only 2 points up on the Nasrids, their counterparts for the early part of the evening have some extra incentive to hit the ground running. In their second matchup, the Nasrids will get a hold of the Ottomans, who are directly above them in the standings. These teams have matched up evenly all season despite the Spaniards losing both games, as both losses were one run affairs. The Grey Goons have a full roster going into Super Sunday, we expect the day to live up to its name.
ABBASIDS (vs Nasrids 5:00PM BW2 & vs Sultans 6:30PM BW2)
The Abbasids currently occupy that last playoff spot and are fighting every week to hold on as tightly as they can. Every week, they find a way to steal a win and keep themselves in the race. Their first challenge was the Ayyubids who they beat a few weeks ago. The Abbasids had a tough time getting their bats working in the game, as the only two consistencies on this day were the bats of Yousaf Chaudhry and Hamid Malik combining for 12/15 on the day with 7 RBIs in part to Chu’s two homeruns. The second game fared much better for the top of the order as the Abbasids picked it up and started cashing in some runs. Sameer Rafique, Ahmad Ammad, Atif Akhtar, and Ahmed Butt combined for 6 HRs and 18 RBIs in this crucial matchup against the red hot Mamluks. Clearly the Abbasids have the fire power to stand with anyone in this league but it seems very selective as some games they come out looking flat and other times they come out firing on all cylinders. With two very important weeks coming up, the Abbasids better figure out their issues with consistency because if they don’t, the Sultans are hot on their tails and are hungry for that final playoff spot. All the kinks should be worked out by now; all the defensive woes should be addressed; and everyone needs to bat if they want a chance at the title. The Abbasids are dangerous but they seem to beat themselves when the games are on the line. After a three week break, the Lions will need to come out and play their best brand of softball. Doesn’t matter what any other team does, the objective for the Lions is simple – win your games and the playoffs – and dare we say, the championship – will be yours.
OTTOMANS (@ Sultans 5:00PM BW1 & vs Nasrids 6:30PM BW1)
The Ottomans sit in second place as Super Sunday rolls in. Although they are seemingly confident, the approach has been “business as usual” the entire season from this lot. They have built the success of their season off of outstanding pitching by Zia 'Doc' Beg and a fantastic defense that has been anchored by perennial Gold Glover Imran Merchant. The batting, although at times inconsistent, gets just enough done to punch out a solid day of work. That being said, when the bottom of their lineup is up for it, they have a lineup that rivals any other in the League. The Turks head into the weekend with the same mentality, and will start it off against the Sultans. The Ottomans have dominated the matchup to date; however, after a few gutsy performances, the Sultans have a renewed sense of confidence as they aim to fight for, and defend, the title. In the latter portion of the evening, the Ottomans square off against the Nasrids, who they have been neck-in-neck with throughout the year. Although the Super Sunday schedule is meant to reward upper teams, the Ottomans will surely be facing some stiff competition this weekend if they want to hold onto that playoff bye.
SULTANS (vs Ottomans 5:00PM BW1 & @ Abbasids 6:30PM BW2)
Just when we started to count the Stallions out, they pick up two big wins to keep their playoff hopes alive heading into the break. Shahzad Ahmed and Faisal Khan combined for 3 dingers, including a walk-off homer by the King to get that must win against the Seljuqs. Riding that high, they went on to face the Nasrids and escaped with a 1 run victory and two Ws on the day. The Sultans find themselves in a similar situation as last year as they were the 6th place team heading into Super Sunday – we all know what happened after that. The Sultans always find a way to get hot at the right time and are hoping for their luck to turn around again during the most crucial time of the year. In order for that to happen, they’ll need all their players to show up, especially GM Shamil Khadaroo. He was an integral part of the Sultans Championship run last year and his guys are hoping he finds his form in the nick of time. Aside from the Ayyubids and the Ottomans, all other teams will be playing for their playoff lives, which makes the task that much more daunting for the White Knights. But, never mind what other teams are doing; it’s time for the Sultans to control their own fate and focus on everything they can do rather than what other teams may. Shaz will do what he can to lead the offensive charge and will have his “urgh I’m so angry when I hit the ball” face on full display as the Stallions get set to show everyone that last year was no fluke. This is how we run the show… start slow barely making the playoffs but finish the season off with a championship. Will history repeat itself for the stallions on Sunday or will they succumb to the pressure and pack their bags for an early start to the long offseason? We’re about to find out.