Report from Herts Baseball Newswire correspondent, DAVE HAMILTON
A fearless team – 9 of the Hawks' finest – made the trek down to Bournemouth on Sunday, keen to prove once again that they could compete with the best in their division as they took on the league leading Sharks in a AA league match-up.
Their fierce determination was in contrast to the cockiness of the home side who believed their playoff spot was already assured (mistakenly as the Hawks manager pointed out) and felt they would coast to another comfortable victory over mid-table opposition. Conditions ruled out a slug-fest though, with a strong gusting wind blowing in from the outfield meaning the fence would barely be threatened all day, even in batting practice.
In the first inning, there is a single by John Oliver for the Hawks but no other baserunners. Bournemouth meanwhile are quick to emphasise why they are top of the league, jumping out to an early lead with four quick runs.
The Hawks stem the tide though with solid defense, preventing the Sharks from extending their lead. Meanwhile, the bats are starting to come alive and Bournemouth aren't looking so secure. Back to back doubles from Dave Westfallen and Humberto Concalves make it 4-1.
Fourth inning – Hawks rally. Consecutive hits from Dave Hamilton, Luis Concalves and Ross Asquith to lead off the inning get Herts going as they send 10 men to the plate. Four score. The visitors lead 5-4 and the Sharks are stunned.
An immediate response from the home team though…half way through, we're all tied.
Luis Concalves hits a booming ground rule double for the Hawks – the biggest hit of the game. In defense, the Hawks are proving strong – with all three outfielders (Nick Russell, Asquith and Hamilton) making impressive defensive grabs to deny the Sharks baserunners.
The Hawks grab a run, and the lead. 6-5. It's the seventh inning stretch and the Sharks are rattled – time is running out and inconceivably (to them) they are trailing. Bournemouth continue to rotate their squad pulling fresh legs from the bench in a search for inspiration, while the Hawks team battle on knowing their fate lies in the nine men on the pitch – their bench is empty. Their seemingly untiring pitcher Louie Hare leads the way but there are contributions up and down the order with no weak links for the Sharks to prey on.
The top of the eighth, and the Hawks add an insurance run with a two-out bases loaded RBI single from their ninth placed hitter. Unfortunately manager Carlos Casal is thrown out at home trying to score on the same play, ending the Herts threat. Even so, it's 7-5 and the visitors are six outs away from a phenomenal victory.
The Sharks are getting desperate, but they manage to mount a challenge with a little help from the umpire whose previously consistent strike zone suddenly shrinks to a fraction of its previous size [conspiracy theorists note the fact that the umpire is a Sharks player and question a possible link but our journalist is unable to substantiate any claims of deliberate foul play]. Pitcher Hare is left with an unenviable choice – walk batters or throw pitches down the middle to the highest scoring team in the league.
Despite this handicap, the Hawks almost escape the inning unscathed, but a wild throw on what could have been an inning ending ground ball allows two runs to score. A few 'walks' (seemingly inevitable under this new strike zone), including one with the bases loaded, appear to give Bournemouth a crucial 8-7 lead.
The game is increasingly bad tempered, as the Hawks are frustrated by the umpire's new approach. Valid complaints about the Sharks' young pitcher licking his fingers on the mound are derided by the home fans who seem personally insulted that the Hawks are seeking a fair finish to this titanic battle.
Hawks first baseman John Oliver uses the revised strike zone to his advantage in the ninth inning, working a walk for the visitors but a deep drive by Louie Hare falls victim to that wind blowing in from the fence – it is hauled in by the grateful left fielder to end the inning. Devastated, and frustrated at being robbed of victory, the Hawks think it is all over, and form a huddle only to see the umpire and Sharks players waiting for them to take field again…
…WAIT A MINUTE!…
…it is NOT all over…
In the excitement (and without the Dimitrov brothers to keep track of such details) the Hawks had lost track of the score. Apparently it was still 7-7 and the Hawks had a life-line.
Battling the strike-zone, the Hawks got an out, before a Shark runner made his way to third base. Bournemouth attempt to bunt him home with a squeeze play – but it's not hit hard enough. The infield pounce, and the lead runner is cut down. The batter reaches second…and next pitch breaks for third…where he is gunned down by catcher Dave Westfallen. Finally the Hawks have a close call go their way and we are going to extra innings…
Top of the tenth…the Hawks threaten again. A single, and a two out walk puts two runners on…but a ground out ends the inning and the runners are stranded.
Bottom of the tenth…the Hawks are hanging on. Astonishingly Louie Hare continues to pitch well despite being into his tenth inning of work. But the new reduced strike zone makes it almost impossible for him and this time the walk proves decisive. A stolen base. A good pickoff attempt at second is ruled unsuccessful. Another steal…and then a game winning single to left field clinches it for the Sharks.
The exhausted Herts players file off…defeated but unbowed, knowing they put in a very strong performance that deserved a win. This fine performance was arguably their best of the season, and having also threatened victory against the Sidewinders at Grovehill, they have proven conclusively that they can compete with the best in their league.
Carlos Casal is proud of his team and furious they've been robbed of victory – sadly I cannot quote him in a 'family-friendly' website. All the players know they've been in a hard-fought battle, full of drama with many twists and turns, and all nine have performed admirably in contributing to the contest. Sadly, the result hasn't gone their way this time, but they are confident of ending their season with a flourish.
What a game! GO HAWKS!!
|Herts Hawks at Bournemouth Sharks|
|Score By Innings||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||R||H||E|
|Bournemouth Sharks 8, Herts Hawks 7|
|Bournemouth Sharks||Herts Hawks|
|Rob Cochran 2b||4||1||2||0||Luis Goncalves ss||6||2||3||0|
|Johnny Pew c||3||2||0||0||Ross Asquith rf||5||0||0||0|
|Harmon Killabeer 1b||5||1||1||0||John Oliver 1b||4||0||2||0|
|Greg Hoe p||6||2||3||2||Louis Hare p||5||1||2||0|
|Willie Might ss||5||1||2||1||Carlos Casal 3b||4||1||1||2|
|Hank Errand lf||4||0||0||0||Dave Westfallen c||6||2||4||0|
|Crooks Robins 3b||4||0||2||1||Humberto Goncalves 2b||4||0||2||2|
|Jose Canhito cf||5||0||1||1||Nick Russell lf||5||0||2||0|
|Ron Gnat rf||4||1||1||0||Dave Hamilton cf||5||1||2||0|
|TEAM TOTALS||40||8||12||5||TEAM TOTALS||44||7||18||4|
|E: Willie Might, Luis Goncalves(2). LOB: Bournemouth Sharks 13, Herts Hawks 18. 2B:
Willie Might, Ron Gnat, Dave Westfallen(2), Luis Goncalves, Humberto Goncalves. SB:
Rob Cochran(6), Ron Gnat(4), Johnny Pew(4), Greg Hoe(3), Jose Canhito(2), Harmon
Killabeer(2), Willie Might. S: Ross Asquith.
|Greg Hoe W||9.33||18||7||4||8||9|
|Louis Hare L||9.33||12||8||6||9||5|
|T: 4:00. A: 0.|