[written by: Aamir Husainy, Hamid Malik, Riyad Ramjaun, Zain Khilji & Hashim Ghazi]
And then, there were
six seven? The Seljuqs officially exited the playoff conversation last week, and the Sultans need a myriad of miracles to punch their ticket for the big dance. The first Super Sunday brought plenty of fireworks, BSL firsts, and intense matchups, and we expect much of the same to close out the regular season. Expect a playoff-like atmosphere, as teams jockey for position and try to gain that last little bit of momentum to take into the postseason.
Also, the League is excited to host an end-of-year carnival this Sunday from 3 to 7PM at Birchwood. We'll have food for purchase courtesy of Mina Halal Foods, and a number of activities for your kids. All proceeds raised will go to Islamic Relief Canada, and we hope to see you and your families out as the regular season comes to an end.
Now, hot off the presses heading into the final Super Sunday, the rumours.
SULTANS (@ Nasrids 2:00PM BW2 & @ Ottomans 3:30PM BW2)
The defending champion Sultans came into Super Sunday with their backs against the wall in what would be a crucial day for the franchise. Losing a single game would all but eliminate them from the playoffs. It didn’t help that GM Shamil Khadaroo was missing in action. The Sultans started the day off against the high flying Ottomans and managed to steal that game with a crucial two-run win. Shahzad Ahmed, Khuram Channa and Shoaib Gaya combined for 3 HR and 8 RBIs in this one to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive. The next game however would make or break the season for the Sultans as they moved on to face the unpredictable Abbasids who were also looking to stay alive in a tight playoff race. The Sultans were boasting with confidence as they were coming off a 3-game winning streak and were looking deadly to start. Basil Jeelany was superb on the mound as he threw a combination of deadly pitches, keeping the Lions at bay. He also contributed with a solo homerun that seemed like the Stallions had what it took to pull off the upset. However, the Abbasids rallied late and a timely Sultans error led to the Abbasids holding a five-run lead heading into the last frame. That proved to be too much for the White Knights as the Sultans saw their season slip away and along with it, a chance to defend that championship. Dare we compare the Stallions to 98-99 Bulls, who fell so hard from grace that they’re still recovering 20 years later? Mathematically, the Sultans are still alive and if they can come in and mercy both their opponents on Sunday, they can potentially stamp a postseason berth if the other games fall a certain way. Rumour has it that Shaz has been making frequent trips to his local masjids praying for a Softball Miracle. Although we wouldn’t exactly hold our breath, if the crazy world of sports has taught us anything, it’s that anything could happen at any given moment.
NASRIDS (vs Sultans 2:00PM BW2 & vs Abbasids 3:30PM BW1)
Super Sunday 1 saw the Nasrids once again do what they do best – split their games. As has been the case all year, the Spaniards can never string together two wins great games in a row. Fortunately, that was not the case for their superstar Osman Buttar. The Nasrids game plan should be to let Osman think he’s affecting people’s fantasy teams for the rest of the season, as he came out swinging, to the tune of six (!!!!!!) homeruns in a single weekend, eclipsing the record of five set earlier this year. Not to be outdone was the Nasrids own rookie of the year candidate Safwan Khan, who also hit 4 homeruns on the day. Unfortunately, the rest of the team needs to step up to unload the burden off their MVP and ROY candidates. Heading into the final Super Sunday, the Spaniards are in a 3-way tie with the Mughals and Abbasids, and are only 2 points out of that integral second-place bye. Gaining that bye during the playoffs would go a long way in providing the necessary rest to their squad of elder statesmen. Unfortunately for them, this week they play the Sultans in game 1 this week, which will no doubt be a tough match since the Sultans are still mathematically able to clinch a playoff spot. Things don’t get any easier as the Spaniards play the Abbasids in game 2, a team they are currently tied with and could potentially meet in the playoffs. The 2019 version of the Nasrids could be the team that finally takes the franchise to the promise land. With so much firepower (they lead the league in homeruns, runs scored and extra base hits), and arguably one of the best pitchers in BSL history on the mound, it will come down to the defense and whether others can alleviate some of the burdens put on their two stars. With one weekend to go, two wins could help the Nasrids not only move up in the standings but help them gain that momentum needed to finally secure that trophy that has eluded them forever.
ABBASIDS (@ Ottomans 2:00PM BW1 & @ Nasrids 3:30PM BW1)
How about those 2019 Abbasids. Unfortunately, this team is not a topic of discussion at this time of the year, having not made the playoffs for the last three years, and a lot of times this season looked as if it’d be four straight. Nevertheless, as the rumours have said all season, do not poke the Lion. Once the Abbasids are in full form, they’re a force to be reckon with. On this past Sunday, the Lions were dialed in and started the game had a perfect day. The top of the batting lineup was doing what they have been primed to do all season long and smoked balls over the fence, while the bottom of the lineup joined in on the fun as well. The highlight of the day was when Ahmed “Big” Butt, cranked one over the centre field fence against the Nasrids with the bases juiced, and circled the bases waving his adoring fans only to become aware that the Abbasids were at the homerun limit and the moonshot was called an out. Butt flashed some leather in right field that had his teammates hyped throughout the evening as well. Zayd Ramjaun also gets a special shout out for cranking one of the biggest and timeliest hits in his career against the Sultans with a shot that burned the centrefielder that got his team charged up to go on a late-game run to put the Stallions away for good. Nobody wants to play the hungry Lions, as they’re known to have one of the best lineups and seem to finally be coming to full form just in time. With the playoffs clinched, the Abbasids now will enjoy taking on the Ottomans and Nasrids (again). A pair of wins may put them in contention to secure a bye (an Abbasid first). Let’s keep that train chugging!
OTTOMANS (vs Abbasids 2:00PM BW1 & vs Sultans 3:30PM BW2)
The Ottomans are coming off a down week where they lost both of their games and are sitting deadlocked on points in second place with the Mamluks. With the bye in jeopardy, the Turks are feeling some heat and looking to turn it around in the final Super Sunday showdowns. Usman Ali, who recently channeled his inner Fred Van Vleet, has found a new power stroke, and with a little more consistency from the rest of the lineup, thanks in part to Kashif Irshad and AR being available, the Turks are feeling optimistic about their pending business. This week, the Ottomans will start by taking on the Abbasids, who are looking to lock up the final playoff spot. This will likely be a playoff intensity game given all that may be at stake. The afternoon will conclude with the Sultans and Ottomans in a rematch from last week, where the Stallions squeaked out a win. Depending on how the 2PM games go, this might be meaningless for the Stallions, but expect them to come out and play spoiler. Perhaps sitting pretty in the top two had the Turks let the foot of the gas for a bit. It will definitely be something to watch to see how they rebound from last week’s debacle and right the ship in time for the second season.
SELJUQS (@ Mughals 5:00PM BW2 & @ Ayyubids 6:30PM BW2)
After a promising start to the weekend, the Seljuqs lost to the Mamluks and after seeing how the other results on the day panned out, have officially missed the playoffs for the second consecutive seasons. Well, someone’s got to sit out (…regardless of their potential…and unlucky results…and the number of walk-off losses…), and again it will be the Bulls on the sidelines while others take turns battling it out come September. This marks the third straight year that superstars Umair Jabbar and Omer Dhaduk will be missing out, a thought that neither man can seem to get off his mind. The Seljuqs couldn’t help their case after a long and damaging losing streak where they took too long to figure out their best recipe. It didn’t help that they had to substitute some key ingredients for a chance to taste the playoffs. Collectively and stats wise, the team had a decent season, but a season that didn’t end well relative to the League. A lot can be left to unavailability of players, as two Seljuqs rank in the bottom-five for games attended this year that forced guys out of position and led to too many holes. While Hassan Chaudhary was excellent when he available and showed his range both in centre-field and at the plate, Hashim Ghazi failed to get into a routine because of his absences and his inconsistency led to a below-league average season. While all teams deal with absences throughout the season, you cannot help but wonder if this team’s outlook would have been better had someone like Ghazi gotten a bit more reps and played at least at an average level. Now that the pressure is off, the Bulls will give it their all to abandon last place before the season ends. They will not make it easy for those looking to pick up free points against the last place team. Expect a meteor shower over Birchwood 2 as the Seljuqs will be launching a homerun series full of vengeance and regret – home teams, please bring extra game balls.
MUGHALS (vs Seljuqs 5:00PM BW2 & vs Mamluks 6:30PM BW1)
With Super Sunday 1 in the books, the mighty Badshahs find themselves locked into a playoff spot going into Super Sunday 2. Last week, the Mughals showed off their new shiny shortstop in Usama Mahmoud, and as anticipated, Usama lived up to the hype and made plays at SS that others would not. Additionally, the Mughals displayed their depth by switching things around on the defensive side and brought in Rehan “Ray-K” Ahmad as their starting pitcher. Ahmad proved himself on the mound in both games and helped his team to earn a long-awaited win in Game 2 against the Ayyubids. With Rehan pitching, the league was also introduced to a brand new outfielder in Riyad Ramjaun. Riyad has been tabbed Mr. Utility by many, but had limited reps in the prior to this past Sunday; through 2 games though, he looks to be as capable on the grass as he is on the mound or on the dirt. Game 1 pitted the Mughals against the Mamluks, in a back-and-forth game between these two evenly matched clubs. The Mamluks would squeak out a one-run win to leapfrog the dynasty in the standings. Game 2 saw the Mughals against a depleted Ayyubids team, and desperate for a win, the men in baby blue stepped up on both sides of the ball and handed the top ranked Ayyubids a loss. With the Mughals all but certain to make the playoffs officially, they enter the final Super Sunday looking to jockey for position, while also making any final tweaks to show out for the playoffs. In game one, they will play the Seljuqs, who have officially been eliminated from the playoffs and only have pride to play for. Then, they take on the Green Machine (again? It feels as though these teams face off every week) for the nightcap in what could potentially be a first-round matchup come playoff time. The Mughals dropped all three meetings to the Mamluks this year and look to turn the tide against them when it counts most. Have the Mughals finally broken out of their slump? Will Rehan continue to pitch or will Riyad re-emerge on the mound? With one last regular season weekend left, and we have no idea what to expect.
MAMLUKS (@ Ayyubids 5:00PM BW1 & @ Mughals 6:30PM BW1)
The Mamluks are coming off a huge two wins on the first Super Sunday, and now sit in contention for a playoff bye. For majority of the season, they were treading water and fighting to re-establish an identity giving missing players; but now, it appears that the Green Machine is well oiled and primed to be revving on all cylinders. Fielding a full team has certainly helped, as did a key walk off hit by Umair Wasim against the Mughals. Additionally, Ibrahim Sardar has been a stabilizing presence, both with the bat, and especially on the mound, allowing the rest of the team to settle in more naturally defensively. Don't look now, but the Mamluks are gunning hard for a return to their Championship ways. This week has the Mamluks facing some stiff competition. If they want a bye, they will definitely have to earn it, first by playing the top team in the league in the Ayyubids. This will be a good measuring stick for the Mamluks, and they can put the league on notice by having a good showing against the Kurds. They then take on the Mughals for what seems like the hundredth time; both sides matchup evenly well, and though the Mamluks have won all three games against the boys in baby blue, they know they cannot afford to rest on their laurels with so much at stake. This is what super Sunday is all about – plenty of intrigue, box score watching, and natural nail cutting. Let the games begin!
AYYUBIDS (vs Mamluks 5:00PM BW1 & vs Seljuqs 6:30PM BW2)
The Kurds had a rough go on the first Super Sunday, as they were forced to field different guys on the mound to fill in the big shoes of Ali Jabbar. The first game against the Seljuqs saw the Ayyubids go with Zia Ali in the beginning and then Jibran Waqar to close out. The duo struggled to find the plate and the Seljuqs, starved for points, capitalized on the opportunity. It is nice to know that we finally found something Jibs is not good at – pitching. However, credit to the superstar for giving it his best shot for the benefit of the team. In game two, the boys in black went with Zia on the mound and the Mughals firepower proved to be too much, leading to the Kurds dropping both games. The good news is that the Ayyubids had already punched their ticket to the big dance and remain in top spot going into the final Super Sunday. They only need a single point to clinch a bye, and with Ali Bhai back from Hajj now (mabrook), we expect them to get back to their old ways. Of note on the day was the stellar play of Aqib Khokhar. It seems that Khokhar’s eyes light up every time he sees red jerseys, as the young infielder has gone 9/11 with four homeruns and 11 RBIs against the Seljuqs this season. The Ayyubids workmanlike approach to winning games this season should be in full form on this final regular season weekend. First, they take on the Mamluks in a game that features a personal rivalry amongst a group of friends and former teammates draped in opposing colours. They then close out against the Seljuqs, much to the enlightenment of Aqib. The Ayyubids need just one win to lock up top spot, and look to fine-tune their game and build some consistency after a weekend that featured anything but that.