The Articles Presented here are from An Focal.

An Focal Week 6, Sem 2, Edition 10

Softball Club First Team Romp Through Opposition

U. L entered this leg of the tournament with high expectations after the disappointing loss to UCD in the previous round. These expectations proved justified as a new-shape team wiped all before them, conceding only twenty-five runs and comfortably out-scoring any of their opponents. Led by captain "Big John" the performances of everyone more than matched the results. This thoroughly enjoyable weekend kicked off with two nervy games against our own second and third teams, which were both way too close for comfort. Thanks lads!! Day 1 was a day where UL1 never really got going until the final game against UCD. It was in this game where the relatively small crowd witnessed the play of the tournament. The UCD captain hit a monstrous drive, which saw the ball land in the goals on the opposite side of the pitch. It was retrieved by James Chandler, bulleted to the short-stop Adam who in turn launched a pinpoint ball to catcher, Brian Hehir who was left with nothing else to do than tag the bewildered UCD hitter. John Ryan more commonly known as "Big John" was the day's most consistent hitter and with his what one could call 'different' fashion sense led the team on day1. One of the final plays of the first day saw Brian Hehir hit a grandslam against close rivals UCD.

The second day brought UL1's best overall play of the tournament. There were many fantastic individual performances. James Chandler had big hits all throughout the tournament but none more so than his gigantic strike against UCD in the final or the grandslam against WIT2, which along with his steady catching more than earned his MVP award. The rest of the outfield were also instrumental in bringing home the cup. Adam, Gerry Guckian and Kasey showed throughout solid defence, although seemingly simple high balls were rather memorably dropped in the Trinity game. After making up the ground and actually catching the ball, Gucky unbelievably dropped it as he crashed to the floor. However all was not lost as the ever-reliable Kasey cleaned up this play. This was only shadowed by Adam's similar blunder in the same game. Closer to the pitchers plate performances were of an equally high standard as pitcher John (Panda) Leonard held both Waterford teams scoreless with his solid pitching which was consistent throughout the tournament. More than matching the lads was Shannon Burke whose talents were even borrowed by Trinity in an effort to boost their performances. Thankfully we had her back for the final. With Stacey Gallagher continuously solid on first base leaving the opposition no room for error and Erika Jensen's bullet arm on third base always reaching its target, UL1 stormed the competition unbeaten and in all honesty relatively unchallenged. This victory will most definitely bring excitement to the final leg at Limerick's home ground this coming April as UL1 and UCD will fight it out for the prestigious honours currently held by UL.

U. L (2) Produce Solid performance in 'Varsities

The weekend of February 28/ 29 witnessed our counterparts from UCD host the second-leg of the popularly growing Softball 'Varsities. For the first time, a total of seven teams took to the fields of play in search of glory: representing the capital were the hosts UCD and Trinity, two teams travelled from Waterford I. T, along with our own three impressive teams from Limerick. After having being beaten in the final of the first leg held in Waterford last semester, there was a considerable amount of pressure on U. L (1) to produce a victory in this competition and keep their chances of retaining the trophy alive. Having won the plate last year, U. L (2) were also looking towards the victory trail, but first needed to overcome the sheer inconsistency which dogged them in Waterford. First game of the weekend for the second team was a match-up with our 'friends' from U. L (3). Despite an excessive amount of abuse throwing on the field, this game went right down to the wire. With the majority of the U. L (3) team being American, this was more like an Ireland V America game, which caught a lot of attention when in progress. A strikeout in the bottom of the final inning by U. L (2) pitcher Anthony Kilpatrick sealed a pulsating performance by the team. Now high expectations were beginning to creep in.

Concluding lunch on the Saturday, another dominant victory over Waterford I. T (2) prevailed, and when it came to playing U. L (1) who were also undefeated on the first day so far, there was a real sense of belief in our camp. In last season's 'Varsities held here in Limerick, the U. L (1) team beat our team in the bottom of the final inning. Revenge was on the cards for this game, but despite a close game, the strength of the U. L (1) batting order shone through and defeated us. Astounding performances from outfielders Bambi and Birdie kept us within touching distance of the defending champions' right through the game.

The final game of the day saw our team come up against the Might of UCD. I have to admit that after pitching against them for the last two years now, this team is the most intimidating of all to play against in my view, quite simply because of the way they make the pitcher do all the work and therefore make him/ her more susceptible to errors. When this happens, the morale of the pitcher decreases, and with that usually the morale within the whole team slumps also. With a heavily strapped ankle, Maria managed to go the distance and into the final inning with a tremendous pitching display, and regardless of never having taken the lead in the game, big plays from shortstop Chris and Ruth on second base kept our spirits high for the second day of play.

A victory by virtue of fourteen walks on Sunday morning against Trinity saw our record go to 3-2, but then a technically astounding performance in the field by Waterford I. T (1) destroyed us, and our chances for a good quarter-final draw. The quarter-finals saw us drawn against Trinity, who we had already played that morning and so we therefore knew what to expect, and we maybe even had a little psychological advantage over our Dublin counterparts. This game was in complete contrast to the one that took place that morning however, as only three walks were issued in a very error-free and competitive game. Once again there were great individual performances, this time from Brendan and Hatchets, but eventually our team, and our great 'Varsity run came to a conclusion when we lost by one run in the bottom of the final inning. And with that loss came the realisation that retaining the plate this year is now next to impossible. I'd just like to thank all of the members of the U. L (2) team for producing an unforgettable weekend of softball and on behalf of the team we'd like to thank everybody involved in making the trip such a successful and enjoyable one. The final leg of this year's 'Varsities are on the weekend of April 3/ 4 here at the University of Limerick. We'd welcome all support so we hope to see you there!

Anthony Kilpatrick.

Bad News Bears Sighting in Ireland

During the Irish intercollegiate softball tournament at UCD a couple weeks ago, the University of Limerick fielded three teams. The first team may have won the tournament but UL 3 won the hearts and affection of the fans and players in Dublin. The team was patched together while Tony, the bus driver, guided the famed Trinity Rooms bus across the country. This squad consisted of a heavy contingent of American Study Abroad students and one lone Irishman. What this team lacked in talent they made up with enthusiasm and team spirit. The Americans, led by the incessant bantering of Jon Davenport, brought over baseball chatter that had not been seen by the likes of these shores.

The only tournament veteran Mikey Dore led the charge in the first few contests capped by a valiant pitching performance in a hard fought battle against UL 1. Nate Pratt provided an offensive spark and vocal presence from his spot atop the order. His conspirator in chatter out in the outfield Brian Maguire tracked down numerous fly balls and had a couple of key hits from the left side of the plate. Cari Ann Hourigan and Caroline who both turned in nice defensive performances as well as a few big base hits rounded out the rest of the outfield. Melissa Bodnar also spent some time in the outfield and was probably the team's most patient hitter drawing a slew of walks throughout the tournament.

Meghan patrolled the hot corner at third and was like a rock keeping every ball sent her way in front of her. Both Dave Wagner and Jackie Price played exceptional defence at second with Dave chiming in with a few extra base hits of his own. Tim manned first as well as throwing in a solid pitching performance the first day. The team's high point came when catcher/ pitcher Skip tossed a gem of a game, shutting out Waterford Institute of Technology 6-0. UL 3 may not have won many games but lots of people felt that they definitely had the most fun and were the most cohesive unit during the tournament. They are looking forward to making a run at their fellow UL teams as well as the other college teams in the next leg of the tournament.