The British Youth Baseball League season is up and running. Herts welcomed the Forest Glade RedBacks to Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead with the Under-14 and Under-17 teams of both clubs going head-to-head in two doubleheaders.
In the U17 games Herts started the season with a win after a very impressive offensive display. They had 15 hits over 5 innings with Kyle Lloyd-Jones (4-4), Marty Cullen Jr (3-4), Jonny Compton-Weight (2-3), Liam Green (2-3) and Tom Everex-Armstrong (2-4) each contributing with multiple hits. On the mound Zack Longboy and Liam Green struck out 5 batters each allowing only 3 and 1 earned runs, respectively. Despite being outhit, the RedBacks put up a good fight staying in the game right to end.
In the second game the Herts All Stars continued their offensive assault taking an 8-1 lead after two innings and they seemed in control with starting pitcher Marty Cullen Jr. allowing only 2 hits and no earned runs recording 5 strikeouts over 3 innings. The RedBacks bounced right back with an amazing come back. They scored 9 runs in the next four innings taking advantage of 7 fielding errors by the Herts defence. Going into the final inning Forest Glade had a 10-8 lead. Herts reduced the deficit to 10-9 after Kyle Lloyd-Jones worked a walk and then advanced all the way home thanks to several wild pitches. Jonny Compton-Weight, representing the tying run, also reached base with a walk and quickly made his way to third base, but there were already two outs. The pressure was on Everex-Armstrong to get a hit or to see enough pitches in the hope of inducing another wild pitch from the flame-thrower. At the end the RedBacks pitcher kept his composure ending the game with a strike-out.
The Herts All Stars will be disappointed that they let an 8-1 lead slip away, but Manager Cristobal Hiche felt that the visitors from Essex deserved a lot of credit. “We played two great games with very good hitting from all our players. We need to give a lot of credit to the RedBacks who bounced back and were able to beat us in the second game” said Hiche. He added: “We still need to improve in many areas but I’m very happy with what I saw. I’m looking forward to the next two games”.
Next up for Herts is another home series this time against one of the championship contenders, the Horsham Hornets. First pitch is at 11am.
With many of last year’s players moving up to the Under-17 age group, this is expected to be a transitional year for the Herts U14 team. A brand new generation of Herts players will be coming through this year and in the team’s first league game of the year many of the players were aged just 10 or 11. They lost both games of the double-header against the visiting Essex RedBacks U14, but the performance showed that the team has a lot of potential to build a team which will be able to fulfil its potential in the next 2 or 3 years.
The RedBacks took a 5-1 lead in the first inning, but Herts soon caught up with them and just missed out at the end losing 16-10. With the Herts coaches using the game to assess a large number of young prospects the second game proved to be more one-sided but it was still a very productive day for Herts. The Herts coaches now have the difficult task of reducing the size of the squad but this does not mean that the roster for the next game will be final. It is expected that there may be significant movement between the teams and the evaluation and development of players is likely be an ongoing process throughout the whole season.
Manager, Kent Peterson, was very much looking forward to the season ahead after the positive performance against the RedBacks. He said: “Obviously we have some very young players but I saw effort and that is many times at least half the battle.”
Next Saturday there is another home double-header for Herts U14 against London Sports, a team which is new to the BBF leagues.
The Herts U11 teams commence their season next Saturday as teams from London make the 20-minute trip up the M1 to Hemel Hempstead.