Baby Sharks Shut Down Parents in Walk-off Win

September is coming to a close and so is the baseball season. While the Elitserien finals are being played in Leksand, the place to be was Shark Park, where the Baby Sharks hosted their parents for one last game of 5 innings, defying the hurricane winds of Knud. And what a game it was…

Clearly there was some tension between the teams, and the score was 1-1 after the first inning. The veterans showed patience when the nerves were still playing a big part in the third inning, and the oldies took a 4-1 lead. In the fourth, the lead was reduced to 4-3, and the Baby Sharks had a runner on third when the last out of the inning was made.

Signs of fatigue were clearly noted, both by sight and sound on the parental team, as the Baby Sharks shut out their parents in the fifth, only allowing four batters to go to the plate. With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, the Baby Sharks tied the game on a wild pitch, and the next batter ended the game with a walk off single, final score being 5-4.

“We saw fantastic plays from both teams today, and it is clear that the Baby Sharks are not the only ones to have improved their baseball skills this 2018 season,”  says Rickard Kronqvist, head coach of the Baby Sharks. “The parents really impressed me. As for the game itself, it was the most exciting game I have experienced since Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.”

Sharks end season with split in Skövde

The Sharks closed out the regular season Sunday in Skövde with a 14-6 win and a 10-9 loss. The games reflected the season on the whole, with a mix of solid baseball and not-so-solid play, but still exciting to the end with Skövde coming out on top in a seesaw, extra-inning battle in game 2.

With both Alby and Tranås declining spots in the playoffs beginning next weekend in distant Umeå, it was enough with a split of the doubleheader to earn a playoff spot. But with the Sharks unable to put together a full team for the journey to Umeå, Gothenburg will also be staying home this year, leaving the field open to Skellefteå, Enskede and Umeå in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.

“It has been tough to field nine players at a couple of games this year,” says coach Jonny Edgren. “And though we see some individual improvements, as a team we did not reach the level of play we did last year.”

Gothenburg will be looking into wrapping up the season with a couple of SWBL games September 15-16, if Malmö and Tranås are interested.

Sharks back in contention

Last Sunday, the Sharks were pretty much assured of a first-round playoff spot, but two days later, this was no longer the case. After the Malmö Pilots were forced to forfeit their last two games of the season due to a temporary shortage of players, a special rule in the Swedish Baseball and Softball Federation’s regulations came into play, stipulating elimination of a team that is unable to play its final two games. The Pilots disappeared from the standings, along with the Sharks’ four wins against them. And without those wins the Sharks suddenly had a losing record. A return to the playoffs seemed unlikely.

But with Alby’s two surprising wins over Tranås today, the Sharks are back in contention. And if they can take two from a young and hungry Skövde squad next weekend, the team can pack their bags for a trip to Umeå and the first round of the 2018 regional playoffs.

Epic comeback + blowout = broomsticks

First regular games against the young Skövde Saints could have ended poorly.
Fortunately, the Sharks reached for some heroics late.
“Patience like snake,” Hiba Nabi says.

The Göteborg Hajarna (8-6) was indeed wriggling to start the first game against the Skövde Saints (4-10) on Sunday. Almost wriggling to stay alive at all. They did, however, start according to plan when earning a run in the first inning  to take the lead.

Skipper Jonny Edgren had a weird conversation with himself when he nodded to his reflection to take the mound and start game one. Then again, the Skipper needs to have full confidence in his starter.

Edgren actually looked kind of sharp, though on occasion rusty. Struggling with his control on occasion and gave out five free passes in his four innings of work. On the other hand, he only gave up three runs on three hits while punching out six.

“I always want to win. So when I gave the nod to Edgren to start the game I did have belief in him,” Edgren says… talking about himself.

Edgren handed the ball over to legendary pitcher Hiba Nabi and, well, it could have gone better. Game was all tied up at three in the fifth when Nabi struggled immensely from the get go. Walking five, he obviously struggled to get the ball over the plate as he gave up six runs on one hit in his 0,1 inning of work. Surely, Nabi will find his way back to his old days when the rust has been shaken off.

Josef Hussein relieved Nabi on the mound, but I forgot to write that.

Anyway, Skövde scored seven runs in the fifth and one in the seventh to lead it 11-3 in the last frame and the game looked all but settled. The Sharks faithful looked more interested in the delicious hot dogs than the field.

For some reason, Coach Edgren looked to this reporter to pinch hit and lead off the inning and he did not screw up. Starting it off with a single, the Sharks smelled blood. David Karadag struggled with his command and the young Saints squad showed some lack of experience on the defensive side to load the bases again and again.

The Sharks kept on hitting, walking and getting hit by pitches. As this reporter came up for the second time, he represented the winning run. A long single off the glove of Pontus Hummerhielm scored Josef Hussein and tied it all up. After stealing second, he come home as game winner José Muñoz slapped a single between third and short to end it in walkoff fashion 12-11.

“I never doubted these guys for a second,” Coach Edgren says.

Other than Muñoz, the Sharks were led offensively by Nic Ekström (2-4, 3 RBI), Rickard Kronqvist (2-4) and Klas Brinkfeldt (1-2) but really, all Sharks contributed offensively.

The second game really was not much to write home about. The Sharks found themselves in a hole as the Saints put up three runs in the top half of the first but quickly bounced back. Nine sharkfins swam across home plate as the rain started to trickle down in the bottom half and the game was pretty much done at that point.

The Sharks earned four more runs in the second and fourth inning before the game ended it the fifth with a score of 17-4.

José Martinez (4-3) earned the win as he gave up three runs (two earned) on two hits, walking four and striking out five.

Martinez was pitching.

“While the possibilities to make it to the second playoff round are slim, we sure want to do all we can to make it,” Edgren says.

“Although we do want to go up and face Ted Bratsberg in Umeå, he knows that winning is better than losing,” the assistant manager adds.

Notables:

Brinkfeldt played exceptional defense at second.

Toofan Khazal is probably the best catcher in the league.

Martinez was so impressed with Ekström that he was hit by three pitches on the day, trying his best to imitate him.

Ekström was only hit by one pitch.

Fernando Carvalho earned his first career base hit.

Time to sprint to the play offs!

We’re at the last games of the regular season. The Sharks (6-6) are currently located in the upper part of the Swedish second division (Regional series) at sixth place.

Here’s how the playoff works:
The top three teams qualify for the second round playoffs where the winner could earn a spot in the Elite series.
Teams placed 4-7 will have to play a first round qualifying playoff to earn the forth spot with the top placed teams in the second round.

The Sundbyberg Heat B will not take part in the playoffs since Sundbyberg Heat is already in the Elite series.

The Sharks are scheduled to play Skövde Saints in back to back double headers (this Sunday August 19th at Shark Park and Sunday September 2nd in Skövde). Four games to go. That will put us in an excellent position to reach the first round of the playoffs with an outside chance to go straight to the second round.

The Gothenburg Sharks are two games ahead of Enskede, Gefle and Skellefteå who are all in position to make it to the first round playoffs. Gefle and Skellefteå only has two games left to play while Enskede has six.

Looking upwards, Uppsala has nine wins and five games left to play. Tranås currently in a position to qualify straight to the second round also sits on nine wins with four games to go.

In the unlikely event of Tranås are swept by Karlskoga and Alby and Uppsala are swept by Enskede and Stockholm B (and possibly a postponed game vs Sundbyberg B) the Sharks has a chance to qualify straight to the second round.

Winning at least three games out of the four left versus Skövde Saints will guarantee the Sharks a spot in first round play offs regardless how the other teams perform.

The league just announced that the first round playoffs are held in Umeå (8-9/9) and the second round is hosted in Karlskoga (15-16/9).

Umeå is located some 1000km ride by car up north in Sweden.

Join us for the last home game of the season at Shark Park on Sunday 19/8. First pitch at 12!

Sharks play well, still get swept

Sometimes, playing well is not enough.
Sometimes, your opponent is just better.
“Karlskoga is the best team in the league,” Coach Edgren says.

The Sharks faithful was indeed perplexed as the Göteborg Hajarna (6-6) took the field on Sunday against the Karlskoga Bats (10-1). One could hear murmurs from the sold out bleachers; “Did skipper Jonny Edgren fill out the lineup card wrong?”.

Was Edgren busy dragging the field instead of writing the lineup card?

Seeing as long time, veteran catcher Toofan Khazal (0-1) entered the game without that breast plate and took his place on the mound – the astonishment was justified. Khazal got the nod for what might have been his first start in his storied career, and he made Coach Edgren look good in the process.

Despite being somewhat surprised himself by the fact that he was wearing a cap and not a helmet, he threw well. The Bats all day long managed mostly soft contact as Khazal pounded the strike zone, and was a ground ball machine. That made the infield, led by shortstop José Muñoz, work hard and looking good in the process.

“This rake likes winning better than losing. He told me! I promise!”

Unfortunately, Karlskoga was a little better. The Bats was very efficient on the few hits that happened to drop. Especially the double from Kent Karlsson in the first inning was clutch indeed. Khazals hard work, and good cooperation with battery mate Lars Karlsson, was to no avail.

“I never doubted him, not for a second,” Edgren says.

Khazal ended up giving up four runs (none earned) on five hits, striking out three and walking none.

On the offensive side, the Sharks looked extremely rusty coming off a long summer break. Even though this reporter does not agree with the official scorer on this particular matter, the box score says the Sharks were no hit byt Bats starter Simon Andersson (4-0). It doesn’t really matter as Andersson was highly effective giving up no (i.e. one) hits, striking out 14 while only giving up two free passes.

Somehow, the Sharks still managed to score two runs and kept the game interesting until the final out was made. Game one ended 4-2 in the Bats favor.

“We played well. Rusty at the plate yes, but still well. We face a good team today,” Coach Edgren says.

On to the second game… and it was pretty much the same story. While Khazal was back at his normal spot behind the plate and José Martinez (3-3) was back on the mound, it felt like it was same procedure as last game (James).

The Bats kept on batting and the Sharks kept on being hapless at the plate. While they did found hits in this one, it was only six and besides Eric Marquez and Lars Karlsson, no Sharks had ribbies to show for it. Scoring two runs is seldom a winning strategy in Regionserien and it wasn’t today either.

Marquez was roughed up… by a base. The base won.

The Bats got to Martinez who was plagued by timely hits and somewhat inconsistent defense, Despite striking out eleven, he gave up seven runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks.

“We need to work harder in the cage going down the stretch, this won’t do,” Edgren says as he sums up the day.

The Sharks did keep the game close pretty much all the way against the Bats starter, former national team pitcher Kent Karlsson (1-0). Going in to the last frame, it was a 4-2 lead for the Bats all over again but this time, they made sure of it and got three more in the seventh to make the final score 7-2.

Notables:

Nic Ekström was fighting fires instead of being hit by pitches. Honorable.

In his absence, Edgren put this reporter at first in game two.

Marquez was roughed up hitting beating a throw to second with his face (he was safe).

Legendary pitcher Hiba Nabi made his comeback, albeit not from the mound, but looking good in the outfield.

Legendary companion to Nabi, Josef Hussein, also made his comeback.

 

 

Li-Heng earn praise, win as Sharks sweep

His final game turned in to quite a send off.
As Li-Heng Chu returns home, he will be missed at Shark Park
“He was brilliant today,” the interim manager says.

The first game between the Göteborg Hajarna (6-4) and Malmö Pilots (1-11) last week started off in the usual manner – with José Martinez (3-2) on the mound. The battery looked a little different however with Lars Karlsson behind the plate. Regular starter Toofan Khazal, along with Daniel André and coach Jonny Edgren, were missing from the Sharks lineup card, citing “playing a softball tournament in the Czech Republic”. Like anyone would believe that…

Anyway, Martinez and Karlsson looked to get along just fine. Martinez struck out no less than eleven Pilots while going the distance and earning the win. Unfortunately, the game was closer than it should have been since the interim manager put in this reporter at second base. Only to have him give up three runs on a ball between his legs that should have been an easy double play to end the fourth inning.

Martinez’s final line on the day was defiled by that error as he gave up eight runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks while striking out eleven.

“They looked good together, I was quite content,” the interim manager said of his battery.

Offensively, the Pilots took the lead in the top of the first but the Sharks answered right back with a run of their own in the bottom half. In the bottom of the second, the Sharks opened the flood gates as they batted all through their lineup and scored six runs all in all.

Unsung, and perhaps unusual, heroes offensively in that first game was Niclas Ekström (2-3, 2 RBI) and Daniel Linnås (2-2, 2 BB) who lead the offensive onslaught. That costly error in the top of the fourth made the game closer than the Sharks faithful wanted and it was tense until the final out was made. Game one ended 9-8 in the Sharks favor.

The second game turned out to be more of the Li-Heng show. In what was most likely his final game in a Sharks uniform, Li-Heng Chu (1-0) got the nod and took the mound with confidence. While he did gave up four walks, that was it. Although he only struck out one, he induced pretty much only weak contact that the Sharks defense handled with care and put out all threats with ease.

 

In Sweden, Li-Heng learned that winning is better than losing.

The four innings that he was allowed to pitch, he gave up no hits and eventually earned the win and praise from his manager and teammates.

“Good teammate, good ballplayer, good kid,” Joel Earnest says about the Taiwanese rookie.

“A true class act on and off the field. We’re sad to see him go,” the interim manager says.

An unconventional move was made after those four innings. With many regular Sharks missing, the interim manager turned to offensive juggernaut José Muñoz to take the mound. While he battled his control, he was effective when throwing strikes and earned the save while giving up three runs on seven walks while striking out four.

 

Muñoz did not steal home, but everything else.

The most surprising thing offensively was probably that Johan ‘Wheels’ Weidolf went hitless in this one. ‘Wheels’ have been aging like a fine wine this season but looked to be cooling off on Sunday. Still, going 0-4 lowered his batting average to a measly .590…

To add to a decent sendoff, Li-Heng went 2-4 with three ribbies and Martinez was flawless going 3-3. Adding to that, Muñoz stole six bases to lead the league with a total of 16. Sharks won game two 10-3.

Notables:

Ekström was hit by a pitch.

Only one fly ball to the outfield was allowed by Sharks pitchers on the day.

Karlsson filled in admirably behind the plate and is quietly hitting a cool .440 on the season.

Reporter fails as Shark split the Tropical Thunderstorm

Eight days is a long time in this media climate.
Does anyone remember those games against Tranås?
“What?! I have no idea,” Coach Edgren says.

Sadly, this reporter was not at all great at performing in his main task following the games against the Tranås Royal Cranes (e.g. Tropical Thunderstorm) last Sunday. Not being able to post even a quick recap in eight days is just disgraceful.

“It can’t go on like this,” an anonymous source told Hajarna.se.

Anyway… the Sharks started their home opener with ace José Martinez (2-2) last Sunday and he was up to the task. While maybe not being at his sharpest, he did perform as the Sharks won the first game of the double header 16-6 in in six innings.

He earned the win going the distance, giving up six runs (four earned) on seven hits, while walking four and striking out four. As always, he was backed by the stellar backstop named Toofan Khazal who now might focus more on the softball side of things.

Earnest the younger, on his way to steal second.

On the other side of the ball, the Sharks wasted no time at all as they put up three runs in the first and second inning while holding the Tropical Thunderstorm scoreless through the first two frames.

Göteborg Hajarna (4-4) actually kept things interesting, not putting up more runs on the board, all game long but closed it out in the end. With the score at 10-6 in the bottom of the sixth, six Sharks swam across the plate to end the game on mercy rule.

In the second one, it would be the other way around.

As Shervin ‘Shervinator’ Shakki came back from the DL, he got the nod from coach Edgren in the second game but the rust was showing. That rust, however, was not from Shakki himself but from the Sharks defense that practically handed Tranås the game, making costly error after costly error.

Edgren, to no avail, explained why winning is better than losing.

Marcus Bernander, the legendary Sharks scorekeeper, had to score eight runs on Shakki but only two of them were earned in the end. While Shakki didn’t have his usual pinpoint command (walking five), he did only allow five hits and notched four strikeouts.

Offensively, the Sharks were hapless in the second game of the day and even juggernaut José Munoz couldn’t figure out Tranås starter Nils Bergehed (3-0). Instead, the offensive force was lead by veterans Klas Brinkfeldt and Erik Earnest who both went 2-3.

Brinkfeldt is sort of cute.

In the end, the Tropical Thunderstorms drowned the Sharks 15-5 in six innings.

“We should be better than this, we should be working harder during the weeks,” coach Edgren says after the game.

Notables:

Martin Sundh was (almost) flawless umpiring the game.

Martinez went 4-5 and Lars Karlsson went 4-4 in the first game.

Chu Li Heng stole six (!) bases in the first game.

Daniel André was scored for an outfield assist, probably because his walk up song was Aqua’s Barbie Girl.

This Week in Sharks Baseball

From Jose Munoz being named player of the month for the Swedish regional league to the club’s annual home run derby, a lot has happened this week.

Jose Munoz: player of the month
Jose Munoz is one of the very best players in Swedish baseball. Week after week, the Sharks’ Nicaraguan shortstop is out there providing solid hitting and highlight-reel fielding for the team. Congratulations Jose on winning the player of the month award for May!

 

Jose Munoz, Sharks MVP for 2017

Johan Weidolf: off to a blazing start
This might be Johan Weidolf‘s 29th season, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down, at least when it comes to hitting a round ball with a round bat. Four games into the season and Johan is 16 for 20, with a batting average of .800. Asked what is behind his hot start, Johan mentions two things; he is no longer playing with back pain and he has changed his approach to hitting: “I’m much more relaxed, not trying to do too much with the pitch I am given.”

First baseman Johan Weidolf

Home run derby: swinging for the fences
We have three new home run champs this year with Gillan André, Tina Atkins and Molkhlad “Momo” al-Ghanimi taking top honors in their respective categories. Momo has been eyeing that short and high home run fence (Gothenburg’s version of Boston’s Green Monster) at Shark Park since he first picked up a bat for the Sharks. Wednesday, the former Iraqi national team star pitcher finally hit one out,  winning the men’s baseball category in spectacular fashion.


Tina, Momo and Gillan, this year’s home run derby winners

Robbed in Karlskoga
The Sharks were robbed of a split against a strong Karlskoga team last Sunday, reinforced with imports from the US and borrowed players from Sölvesborg. They were obviously taking no chances after being swept the last time they faced the Sharks.

Losing is not better than winning

A late recap is better than none.
Winning should have been better on Sunday when the Sharks lost to Karlskoga.
“I want this one back,” bench coach Joel Earnest says.

The tough task of facing Karlskoga(/Sölvesborg) was not made easier when Göteborg Hajarna (3-3) made the trip with basically nine players. Sure, the lineup card had eleven names scribbled down but Joel Earnest was basically there as a bench coach and this reporter should probably not have been there at all.

José Martinez (1-2) got the nod from the interim manager since skipper Jonny Edgren was absent and Martinez fought admirably. Going up against former national team pitcher Kent Karlsson, Martinez held his own and battled the heat, his own arm and some questionable calls.

Karlskoga took an early lead after the Sharks made some defensive mistakes and went up 2-0 in the bottom of the first. Martinez kept on fighting but was erratic on occasion and walked a whooping five batters, which is not at all like the Sharks ace.

Martinez was also robbed of two runs when José Muñoz made a great catch at shortstop only to not get the call from the umpire. That catch would have been the third out and the end to a scoreless bottom half of the fourth inning with the Sharks on top 6-5. Instead, the Karlskoga Bats (6-1) went on to score two runs for the lead before the Sharks could get the fourth out of the inning.

Martinez fought to no avail.

The Sharks did fight back thanks in part to an inside the park home run from Muñoz and the second coming of Johan ‘Wheels’ Weidolf and went in to the bottom of the 7th with a 9-7 lead. After a run scored for the Bats, the Sharks turned a double play to get the last out and end the first game with a W.

No. That’s not what went down at all.

It really should have ended there, but the close play at first was called safe, the inning continued and and the Bats could get away with the win in the first game with a score of 10-9.

Martinez did go the distance and was charged with the loss. He ended up giving up the ten runs on ten hits and the five walks while adding eight punchouts.

Offensively, the Shark that really stood out was Weidolf who went 4-4 with a double and four runs batted in.

“I’m seeing the ball really well. Plus, I like winning better than losing,” Weidolf says.

Weidolf is playing like it is 1999.

With Shervin Shakki on the DL, Erik Earnest (1-1) took the mound for game two and pitched well. While he only struck out two in his 4.1 innings of work, he also only walked one and kept the game pretty close. Unfortunately for Earnest, this reporter decided to put himself in right field to start the game. In doing so, he committed two errors (although the official scorer did not score them) and looked awfully silly at the plate. Thankfully, he took himself out after the second at bat.

Things unravelled with those errors and some good batting from the Bats as they took a 7-1 lead after scoring five runs in the fifth. Chu Li Heng relieved Earnest and did not have his best stuff this day as he gave up three runs in the fifth and sixth inning over one inning of work.

After some discussion, Mokhlad al-Ghanimi made his 2018 debut on the mound in the seventh inning and started off with trowing twelve straight balls. After that, he did settle down and allowed one run while striking out two in his 0.2 innings of work.

Sadly, this game was pretty much lost as the Sharks could not get to Bats/Firehawks starter Anton Calson. Neither, it should be said, could they get to the Karlskoga/Sölvesborg pitcher Samuel Siddall who was overpowering the Sharks hitters in relief.

Weidolf kept on raking in the 7th and hit a triple to knock in three runs to make the final score 10-4.

“That first game eluded us. We definitely deserved to win that,” the interim manager said before denouncing himself of any future coaching duties.

Next, the Sharks play Tranås on Sunday June 10th in their home opener. First pitch at 12.

Notables:

Weidolf is hitting is hitting .800 on the season. With a .1879 OPS. Hello.

Muñoz and Eric Marquez is a pretty good double play combo.

Karlskoga/Sölvesborg will probably promote to the Elitserien this season.