As the leaves slowly turn the colour of a baseball glove, the defending University Softball champions, the Loughborough Thunder, along with their second team, the Swans, made their way through the morning darkness to Farnham Park in London for the fall edition of the BSUK National University Softball Championships.
After a two-hour drive, both teams went straight into the action in their respect groups as they each took on teams from Portsmouth University. The Thunder immediately encountered adversity as a strong Portsmouth first team put up 10 runs in the first inning before the Thunder began to find their stride. With time running out the score was narrowed to 12-8 but that was how it would end as Portsmouth handed The Thunder their first loss in over a year. Elsewhere the Swans had much better form, winning their first game 13-2. Next up was another double-header of sorts as both teams faced off against Nottingham University. The Thunder had Nottingham’s second team in their pool and showed their class by holding Nottingham to a 12-0 victory to get their title defence back on track. The Swans faced Nottingham’s first team, and they showed it was not going to be an easy day for Loughborough as they capitalised on every small error the Swans made to win 15-4.
The rest of the group stage was plain sailing for the Thunder as they won their remaining Pool A games 11-5 (Brighton) and 9-0 (UCL) to secure their place in the semi-final against the Nottingham 1s. The Swans also came second in Pool B but not without surviving a tumultuous contest against UEA. Going into the final inning and with only 1 out remaining the Swans rallied from 6-3 down to beat the team from Norwich 7-6, having already beaten Manchester Metropolitan University Cheshire 9-2.
The Thunder played Pool B winners Nottingham 1s beating them 14-8, with some expert play and batting taking a 7-0 lead in the first innings. The Swans faced the Portsmouth 1s who had already tasted victory over a team from Loughborough and were eager to repeat the feat. The Swans however had other ideas and stunned Portsmouth early in the final by taking a commanding 8-1 lead after the second inning, eventually defeating the talented Portsmouth by a final score of 13-8, and setting up the first ever single-institution championship final.
In having two teams in the final, Loughborough made history before a pitch was thrown and once the game got underway The Thunder made the best of the early going, taking a 6-3 lead through the first 2 innings. With the Swans attempting to rally, the Thunder held onto the initiative as strong defence and powerful hitting kept both the Swans off the board and this allowed the Thunder to accrue a commanding lead. The highlight of the final was Thunder player and club president Luke Stott hitting a towering Home Run that sailed clear of the right field fence to cap a strong performance with the bat across the entire tournament, and helping the Thunder retain their title with the final score 14-3.