(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by Fred Versluis)
Sparks Haarlem nips Terrasvogels to capture title!
SANTPOORT (Neth.) -
After winning the first two games with a convincing 8-1 score, Oolders Omaco Sparks Haarlem won only 1-0 today (Saturday, October 11) to win the best-of-five Holland Series and dethrone opponent Hotel Ambassador Haarlem Terrasvogels.
In today's third game of the Series, Sparks Haarlem faced a possible first loss of the season when the game remained scoreless for six innings.
But in the top of the seventh inning, Sparks Haarlem got the bases loaded, then scored the lone run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Saskia Kosterink.
With today's win, Sparks Haarlem completed an unique season, remaining unbeaten from beginning to end!
In the regular season, the team won all 30 games, then opened the first round of the Play-Offs with a 2-0 sweep to advance to the Holland Series.
Today, the team ended the season with a 3-0 sweep to capture its ninth Dutch national championship-title (predecessor HHC had won the title twelve times).
During the international break this season, a 6-week Summer League was scheduled.
Sparks Haarlem was the lone big league-team not to compete in this competition, as it didn't had enough players.
Most of their players were on the preliminary and later final roster of the Netherlands National Softball Team, which during the Summer League was in the USA, then played a series on home soil to prepare for the World Championship.
...Retiring coaches Juni Francisca and Marcel Schippers...
(© Photo: Fred Versluis)
Today's game not only ended the season, it also was the final game for the coaching-duo Juni Francisca and Marcel Schippers.
After having led Sparks Haarlem since 2008, the two earlier announced that this would be their last season with the club.
It already had been announced that Peter van Dalen will succeed Francisca as Head Coach next season.
A year ago, the Noordersportpark, the home site of Sparks Haarlem, was the location of a spectacular season's ending.
Hotel Ambassador Haarlem Terrasvogels then came from behind in Game 5 of the Holland Series to beat Sparks Haarlem and win the championship.
In 2012, Sparks Haarlem was left empty handed in Alkmaar, losing the Series to Alcmaria Victrix.
Both were disappointed endings for Sparks Haarlem, which also dominated during the regular season in those years.
In the seven seasons that Sparks Haarlem was led by Francisca and Schippers, the team won 217 of the 248 regular season games.
Since 2010, the team won 170 games and lost only eight!
Six of these losses came against Terrasvogels, which was the lone team to annually win against Sparks Haarlem, except this year.
The other losses were handed by Twins (2010) and Olympia Haarlem (2013).
Led by Francisca and Schippers, Sparks Haarlem reached the Holland Series each year, except in 2009.
It lost the Championship-final in 2008 to Tex Town Tigers, but then won the title in 2010 and 2011.
After losing the best-of-five in 2012 and 2013, Sparks Haarlem this year is the best team again.
In September, Sparks Haarlem also captured the European Cup Winners Cup.
The team earlier won an European Cup in 2008, 2010 and 2012 during Francisca stay with the club.
Dagmar Bloeming (Sparks Haarlem) and Femke van Dusschoten (Terrasvogels) both went the distance today.
Bloeming had the better stats, striking out seven batters and giving up only one basehit, while Van Dusschoten gave up six hits, struckout five and walked five.
But, the game was a thriller all the way and remained scoreless for six innings.
In the top of the first inning, it appeared that Sparks Haarlem would open the score quickly.
With one out, Areke Spel doubled, then Debby Connor walked with two outs, but both were left behind.
...Karin Tuk, Maxime van Dalen, Virginie Anneveld, Chantal Versluis,...
...Manoa Weijgertse and Nathalie Gosewehr celebrate the championship...
(© Photo: Fred Versluis)
Terrasvogels also had a good opening, as Marisèla de Wind led off with a single.
But then, Kimberly Jones grounded into a double play and a strikeout ended the at bat.
From here on, Dagmar Bloeming dominated.
The lead-off single in the first inning was the lone one she would allow in the game.
After giving up the single, only three of the next 21 batters of Terrasvogels would reach base.
Lisa Waasdorp reached base twice, as she led off the third and sixth inning with a walk.
In the third, she was called out for leaving first base too early.
In the sixth, she was forced out on a grounder by pinch-hitter Gabi Obia, who therefore became the last baserunner for the home-team.
But while Terrasvogels didn't reach second base, Sparks Haarlem reached base frequently, it was unable to score a run.
After leaving two runners in the first inning, another one stranded in the second at bat.
With one out, Maxime van Dalen walked, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Michelle van Driel, but stranded.
In the third inning, it was Saskia Kosterink who singled with two outs, but then was caught stealing.
In the fourth, Debby Connor led off with a single, but was eliminated in a double play.
Karin Tuk then singled, but also was left behind.
Another scoring opportunity came in the fifth inning.
With two outs, Chantal Versluis doubled and Areke Spel walked, but again the Terrasvogels-defense prevented Sparks Haarlem from scoring.
In the sixth, Karin Tuk was hit by a pitch with two outs, then the inning ended with a strikeout.
And so, the seventh inning began.
In the previous six at bats, Sparks Haarlem had stranded seven runners, including three in scoring position.
The seventh inning was the one in which Sparks Haarlem struck.
Michelle van Driel led off with a walk and Manoa Weijgertse reached on a bunt single.
The two moved on a sacrifice bunt by Chantal Versluis and so, two runners were now in scoring position and Sparks Haarlem came very close to opening the score.
To set up a force play, next batter Areke Spel was walked intentionally, but then Saskia Kosterink followed with a fly to centerfield.
The ball was caught, but it enabled Van Driel to score, giving Kosterink a sacrifice fly.
And that would be the lone run in the exciting game, as the inning ended when next batter Debby Connor lined out.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Dagmar Bloeming retired the side.
After a strikeout and groundout, the game ended when Anouk van den Heuvel popped the ball up, which was then caught by 2B Manoa Weijgertse.
Chantal Versluis was named Most Valuable Player of the Holland Series.
...The game was well-visited...
...Dagmar Bloeming gave up only one basehit...
...The defense of Sparks Haarlem turns a double play in the bottom of the 1st inning...
...Saskia Kosterink singles in the 3rd...
...but is caught stealing, tagged out by Lizzie Clarijs...
...Outfielders Michelle van Driel, Saskia Kosterink...
...and Areke Spel are standing in the rain...
...1B Maxime van Dalen shows what she...
...thinks of the weather...
...Debby Connor leads off the 4th with a single...
...but is eliminated in a double play...
...Chantal Versluis doubles in the 5th inning...
...but she is left behind...
...Juni Francisca discusses strategy in the 7th...
...with Michelle van Driel, Manoa Weijgertse,...
...Chantal Versluis and Areke Spel...
...Moments later, Saskia Kosterink...
...hits a sacrifice fly...
...Michelle van Driel scores the lone run...
...At left is catcher Courtney Hiatt...
...Areke Spel looks on from 1st base...
...At right is Jessica Waaldorp...
...Dagmar Bloeming completes the game...
...Manoa Weijgertse makes the final out...
...Final Score: Sparks Haarlem wins 1-0...
...Rebecca Soumeru uncorks the champaign...
...Terrasvogels congratulates Sparks Haarlem...
...Former teammates Virginie Anneveld & Meike Witteveen...
...Juni Francisca receives his championship-medal...
...Shannah van der Kaaij and Debby Connor...
...show the Championship Trophy...
...Winning coach Juni Francisca with...
...Holland Series-MVP Chantal Versluis...
...Dutch champion 2014 - Oolders Omaco Sparks Haarlem...
(© All Photos: Fred Versluis)