FARNHAM PARK, Bucks. – In a game that will go down in British University Baseball lore as an all-time classic, Durham University came from behind to defeat Loughborough University for the 2016 National University Baseball Championship. The 3-2 victory for the most recently founded English university team put an end to a 24-game Thunderbird winning streak, the longest ever recorded.
Both sides hurled their aces, with Great Britain Baseball’s Jacob Dean representing the three-time defending national champions, while Durham’s Taiga Satou toed the rubber for the third time this weekend.
After a long weekend of baseball and four games each under their collective belts, neither club could muster its usual offensive firepower against the pair of dominant hurlers. Dean, who was on the roster for Great Britain’s appearance at the 2016 European Championship, is widely regarded as the best pitcher currently at a British university. Satou, meanwhile, only joined the Durham side at the start of the current academic year.
Both clubs managed to put a single run on board in the first before Loughborough plated a single run on a Kyle Pyne-James sacrifice fly in the second. Dean and Satou matched zeroes in the third before the Palatinates once more drew even in the fourth.
With the minutes counting down in the timed game, club co-founder Will Zucker ripped a double off of Dean to start the fifth and advanced to third on an error. Satou then ensured himself the go-ahead run with a RBI grounder, and Durham needed only three outs for its first-ever baseball championship.
Satou was up to the task, and the Black-and-Purple never looked back in putting the victory on ice and completing a storybook first year since Zucker and Gabriel Fidler re-founded the club in January after a seven-year dormancy.
Satou earned his third win of the weekend with a complete game effort. His 3-0 mark to begin the 2016-17 season has already erased Sam Ross and Fidler from the pitching books for most wins and innings pitched in a season.
“Originally it was going to be me against Loughborough but Taiga said he felt hot so I let him pitch,” explained Zucker on the decision to pitch Satou in back-to-back games. “He is definitely our new ace.”
The impressive performance unseated a Loughborough team that had lost only once to a university side since it was founded in 2013, and echoed the Thunderbirds’ rise to NUBC glory in its first year.
“The whole weekend has been unreal,” concluded Zucker. “The team has just been amazing from the top of the order to the bottom, and the bench as well. It’s amazing!”
Durham now begins the autumn regular seasons as the favourites in the newly formed National University Baseball League (NUBL) North Division. It will field two teams in a five-team conference that also includes the Universities of Hull, Leeds, and Leeds Beckett.