Report from Herts Baseball Newswire Correspondent, DAVE HAMILTON
A thrilling eighth inning rally led the Herts Hawks to a come-from-behind victory against the Northampton Bucks in a fiercely contested match in Milton Keynes on Sunday, lifting them back up to third place in the British AA league standings.
Forced to battle against the elements (most notably a gusting wind that made every fly-ball an adventure in the field) and some highly contentious umpiring decisions that resulted in a ninth-inning ejection, the Hawks pulled together producing a team effort full of controlled aggression that led them to victory.
The game started badly for the visitors as the Northampton Bucks took advantage of a couple of defensive lapses to jump out to an early four-run lead. With the Hawks failing to mount any meaningful offense in the early innings it was 4-1 to the home side at the half way mark.
The Herts bats sprung into life in the six inning though, with a run-scoring triple from Louis Hare being followed by a booming double over the centerfielder's head by catcher Dave Westfallen. With the tying run now at second base, the momentum appeared to be shifting until Westfallen was called out on a pick-off move, despite having clearly slid back safely under the tag. Understandably frustrated by the call, the Hawks rally died out and Northampton retained their slender one-run advantage.
Meanwhile in the field, the Hawks were producing some excellent defence. Shortstop Luis Goncalves showed off a strong arm to fire out one runner, and also helped to complete two double plays as the visitors managed to cope better than expected with the windy conditions. With relief pitcher Louis Hare looking strong on the mound, the Hawks were playing well but time was running out for them to overturn the deficit.
Finally, in the eighth inning, the Hawks broke through. First the middle order took advantage of some weaknesses in the Bucks infield to string several hits together and tie the game. Their aggressive baserunning disrupted the pitcher's concentration to such an extent he then walked in a run, before an rbi single by substitute Nick Russell completed the rally. With two men being thrown out at the plate, the damage could have been even greater, but with six runs having scored Herts now led 9-4 and were six outs away from a thrilling victory.
Northampton chipped away slightly, with a run of their own in the bottom of the eighth inning, before controversy struck in the ninth inning. With runners on second and third base, Dave Hamilton was called out on a check-swing to end the inning. Whilst not contesting the call, the Hawks outfielder asked whether his strikeout was the result of a called strike or because he had failed to stop his swing in time, but was simply told again 'you're out'. Manager Carlos Casal came over and (also very politely) tried to clarify the situation but was given the same answer before astonishingly being ejected from the game.
This bizarre twist led to a quick defensive re-shuffle as the Hawks completed the game under protest, but pitcher Louis Hare made sure justice was done, striking out the last three hitters to clinch victory.
Whilst he has been known to have hot-tempered outbursts in the past, the Hawks' fiercely competitive manager was still stunned after the game at his first ever ejection from a baseball match, not least because it resulted from one of his calmest ever conversations with an umpire! Nevertheless, he was thrilled with the team performance which returns the Herts second team to a .500 record for the season. Further challenges lie in store for the Hawks though as they face the two teams above them in the table in their next two games, the Sidewinders visiting Grovehill next weekend.
|Herts Hawks at Northampton|
|Score By Innings||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|Herts Hawks 9, Northampton 5|
|Ross Asquith lf||3||0||0||0||Player 1 p||3||0||0||0|
|Tim Elkins rf||3||0||0||0||Player 2 c||4||1||0||0|
|John Oliver 1b||3||1||0||0||Player 3 1b||3||2||1||0|
|Carlos Casal 3b||5||2||1||0||Player 4 2b||3||0||0||1|
|Louis Hare p||5||3||3||3||Player 5 3b||4||1||1||0|
|Dave Westfallen c||5||1||3||3||Player 6 ss||3||1||1||0|
|Humberto Goncalves 2b||4||0||3||0||Player 7 lf||4||0||1||1|
|Dave Hamilton cf||4||1||0||0||Player 8 cf||4||0||1||0|
|Luis Goncalves ss||3||0||1||1||Player 9 rf||4||0||1||0|
|Nick Russell b-rf||2||1||0||0|
|Paul Auchterlounie b-lf||2||0||0||1|
|Rodney Naghar b-pr-3b||0||0||0||0|
|TEAM TOTALS||39||9||11||8||TEAM TOTALS||32||5||6||2|
|E: Humberto Goncalves(2), Luis Goncalves, Player 4, Player 5, Player 6. LOB:
Northampton 7, Herts Hawks 8. 2B: Luis Goncalves, Dave Westfallen, Player 3. 3B:
Louis Hare. SB: Dave Westfallen, Humberto Goncalves, Rodney Naghar, Player 1(2),
Player 6, Player 4, Player 8. CS: Luis Goncalves, Player 1(2), Player 4.
|Louis Hare W||8.67||6||5||1||5||11|
|Player 1 L||9.00||11||9||4||5||12|
|HBP: by Louis Hare (Player 1). . . PB: Dave Westfallen, Player 2(2). T: 3:00. A: 0.|