x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai team falls short of Little League series

Dubai's junior baseball team saw their hopes of advancing to the World Series dashed after a lashing at the hands of the Saudi Arabian squad.

KUTNO, Poland // Dubai's junior baseball team saw their hopes of advancing to the World Series dashed yesterday after a lashing at the hands of the Saudi Arabian squad. The Dubai Falcons All-Stars lost 15-0 in the final game - falling at the last hurdle, just as they did a year ago against the Saudi team. Despite the Saudis' status as strong pre-tournament favourites, the Falcons went into the final game with some hope after beating their rivals earlier in the group stage.

At stake was a place in the biggest event in the world of junior baseball, next month's Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. "The day before the final, we played with the Saudis and we won for the very first time," said the coach, Mahmood Panjwani. "It was something amazing for us. The team showed outstanding performance. After the match we spoke one to another, 'Wow, the Saudi [team] are beatable'. We realised that if we beat them once, we can do it again."

The Falcons played Saudi Arabia twice in the round-robin phase. In first match, they lost 4-11, then lost to Kuwait 3-7. They needed a better performance to qualify for the final phase - and got it. In their last group match, the Falcons beat Saudi Arabia for the first time. The 9-5 victory, the Saudis' first defeat in the regional tournament in nine years, gave the Dubai boys a place in tournament's final.

But in the last game, the Saudi team proved too strong. "Our pitchers just had a very bad day," Mr Panjwani said. "Maybe we were not ready for the World Series. It was a fantastic experience for the kids; Maybe we'll [make the Series] next year. We lost twice in finals. Maybe the third time, we'll finally make it. "Next year is another chance, we have to double or even triple our training. I believe that someday the Dubai Falcons will play in the World Series in the United States."

The tournament director, Beata Kulesza, said the Falcons were "making big improvements every year". "This year they played much better than last year," she said. "The baseball developing programme in the Emirates is working really well. "They caused a real sensation, beating Saudi Arabia, which was the first defeat of the Saudis in our tournament. "Unfortunately for Dubai, in the final they had no chances and suffered a painful failure. But I can assure you that no one was crying."

newsdesk@thenational.ae