Disciples making believers of sceptics

A classic baseball cat-and-mouse game: Munich Caribes pitcher Steve Walker tries to keep an eye on a Fuerth Pirates runner at first base before delivering a pitch. The runner is watching for the best possible moment to take off and try to steal second base. Photo: Doug SuttonA split away against the powerful Regensburg Legionaires baseball club over the weekend by the Haar Disciples is starting to make believers of Haar and their chances of going far this season, especially after last season ended in turmoil.

In German baseball's 1. Bundesliga-South league, Haar were beaten 6-3 in a night game under the floodlights of the Regensburg stadium on Saturday. But Regensburg - the Bundesliga champions the last three years running - had to work hard for the win. Up until the seventh inning Haar were holding onto a slim 2-1 lead in a pitcher's duel between Disciple hurler Lukas Steinlein and Regensburg's Boris Bokaj.

Steinlein ran out of steam in that seventh inning, with Regensburg scoring four runs on a number of hits and, along with some errors in the Haar defence, they took a 5-2 lead. Haar managed a run to narrow the gap to 5-3 but Regensburg countered with a run in the 8th inning for what became the final 6-3 result.

On Sunday, Haar showed its tenacity, bouncing back to take a 9-7 come-from-behind victory. Down by 5-4 after six innings, Haar broke through for five runs to take a 9-4 lead in the seventh inning, chasing one Regensburg pitcher after the other. The big hit came off the bat of Chistoph Ziegler: With bases loaded he knocked a triple that brought in all three runners. Regensburg battled back to narrow the gap to 9-7 in the ninth and final inning. The hosts were threatening to score more and had the tying runners on base before Mic Weigl hit a line drive that was caught for the final out.

With the split, Haar's season record stands at 8-4, for a solid hold on fourth place (playoff-spot). But Haar has a double-header fixture in hand, conceivably giving the team under first-year head coach Keith Maxwell a chance to go 10-4, which would equal third-place Regensburg's record. Mainz currently lead the standings at 14-2, followed by Heidenheim in second place at 12-4.

It's still too early - just around the halfway point - to predict just how Haar's season will play out. The outlook though, is certainly better than at the start of the season when Haar had to scramble even to find a coach in the aftermath of the dissension that had threatened the club at the end of last season. Under Maxwell, the Haar players have apparently found not only stability, but also have regained their self-confidence.

But the same cannot at the moment be said for Haar's second team playing in the 2. Bundesliga South. The junior varsity saw their season record drop to 1-10 after losing a pair of games against local rivals Baldham Boars on Saturday. Baldham, with the home advantage, narrowly won the first game 5-4, but then blew away the Disciples in game two, 17-3. Baldham improved its season record to 4-3, good for 4th place in the seven-team table. The club still has six games to make up due to rain cancellations. Haar's second team remain at the bottom of the standings.

Meanwhile the two Munich-area clubs playing in the 3rd-division Regionalliga-Southeast achieved only splits in their weekend fixtures. The league-leading Munich Caribes lost 4-3 away against the Fuerth Pirates before gaining an 18-8 victory in the second game. Gauting, playing away at the Herrenberg Wanderers, lost the first game 11-6 but won the second 9-4. At roughly mid-way point in the season, the Caribes lead the table with a 12-2 record, ahead of the Fuessen Royal Bavarians (8-4) and Gauting (8-6).

Local baseball fans can look forward to a showdown between the Caribes and the Royal Bavarians on Sunday (first game: 13:00 CET) at the Oberwiesenfeld Baseballpark. After going 10-0 at the start of the season, the Caribes have stuttered a bit over the past two weekends with splits. Now they're happy that they finally will have a home game again for the first time in seven weeks.


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