The Herts Falcons battled the elements and a well drilled Bournemouth Sharks team last Sunday, 29th August, in their most important game of the season…so far.

The promotion playoff semi-final, between table-topping Herts and a Bournemouth team who finished second in the other half of division 1, started in overcast weather at 2pm.

Starting pitcher Paul Raybould and the Herts defence held them scoreless in the first inning, and the Falcons quickly staked out a 4 run lead in their half of the first.

However, the normally potent bats of the Falcons were mis-firing all through the line-up, and Bournemouth slowly pegged them back, as they proceeded to bring in runs over the next 3 innings, to take a lead 6-4 part way through their half of the 4th inning. Raybould was replaced on the mound by American Jim Denison, who held the Sharks to just those 6 runs across the next 4 innings. They managed to sneak in 2 runs in the 8th inning, to leave the Falcons down by 4 with just 2 innings to play.

The elements came into play in the Falcons half of the 8th inning, when a fierce rainstorm delayed the game, the teams leaving the field and waiting out until it stopped after about 20 minutes. Some ground maintenance was required to remove as much water as possible from the diamond, before the game could continue.

The rain delay seemed to affect the Sharks more than the Falcons, as their replacement pitcher Lawson found it hard to find the strike zone, and the Falcons scored two to make it a 2-run game.

A scoreless 9th for the Sharks, with them unable to catch up with the heat thrown by Denison from the mound, and the Falcons had their chance.

8th batter Aspi Dimitrov was walked on 4 pitches, as again Lawson was not able to find the strike zone.

9th batter Lee Manning was also walked on 4 pitches, and then lead-off hitter Shunji Kakutani was thrown 3 more balls before Lawson was finally replaced on the mound by the first baseman. Another ball, and the bases were loaded with no outs, 2 runs needed to tie, three to win. Takashi Hirai, a replacement for Paul Raybould in right field, hit a sharp ground ball to third base; the Sharks third baseman unable to field it cleanly meant Hirai reached first base, the run scored, and still no outs.

John Delborello, who had been masterful behind the plate, stepped up, and hit a fly ball to right centre field, that landed between the two fielders. That brought home Manning from third and Kakutani from second, and the Falcons triumphed with a final score of 9 – 8.


The Falcons now look forward to their promotion final against Croydon Pirates, who overcame Windsor 29 – 28 in the other semi-final. The Falcons hold the slight edge, having beaten Croydon twice in the regular season. However, this is the playoffs, where anything can happen, as was shown on Sunday.

The Falcons also qualify for the division 1 Final Four tournament in Halton, Lancashire on the weekend of September 18 / 19th. This places the two top teams from the South against the top two from the North, to determine the National Division 1 champion. So, it seems that even at this late stage, the Falcons still have everything to play for.


written by Paul Auchterlounie

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