Report from Herts Baseball Newswire correspondent, DAVE HAMILTON
To quote Yankee legend Yogi Berra it was “deja vu, all over again” for the Hawks on Sunday as for the second consecutive week they watched their opponents secure victory with the last swing of the bat. This time it was the Brentwood Stags who came out on top, winning 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth inning.
A much more good natured affair than their contest in Bournemouth, the games were otherwise almost identical as the Hawks nine battled their way into a hard fought lead only to let it slip in the late innings. Yet again, Louie Hare was the hard-luck losing pitcher after once more pitching the complete game, another ninth inning squeeze play was unsuccessful, and again it was Hawks outfielder Nick Russell who was left to retrieve the ball from the fence after the opponents' game winning hit.
Herts started the day confident of beating Brentwood after previous victories against the same team, and were fielding eight of the nine who had fought so hard against Bournemouth, Kal Dimitrov acting as an (almost as speedy!!) replacement for Ross Asquith in the outfield. However, yet again the Hawks failed to put a first inning run on the board, despite John Oliver reaching with two outs.
The scoring started in the second inning though, with Carlos Casal contributing a two-out RBI single, although outfielder Dave Hamilton was furious at being called out at home, having clearly slid across the plate before he could reach the tag of the Stags catcher. At the time, the Hawks players shrugged off the call, but later in the day it emerged this run could have proved crucial.
A huge home run from the Stags star player quickly levelled the scores before the Hawks knocked the home team's starting pitcher out of the game in the third inning with a string of hits.
The Hawks defense was once again proving strong with Luis Concalves pivotal in two double plays, while catcher Dave Westfallen also managed to gun down two runners in a single inning.
The Hawks extended their lead with some patient hitting and aggressive baserunning, their biggest hit of the day being John Oliver's huge two run double to the deepest part of the ballpark in centre field. The Stags were battling hard too though and fought their way back to tie the scores.
So we got to the eighth inning tied 8-8 and, after a scoreless inning we were once again in a 'sudden death' scenario. Kal Dimitrov led off the Hawks inning with a single, advancing to second on a wild throw. He was then successfully bunted across to third base and the go-ahead run was just 90 feet away.
Determined to bring the run home, Carlos Casal attempted a squeeze play only to see it go horribly wrong as indecision on the basepaths saw the batter thrown out at first and Dimitrov then thrown out at the plate. Inning over. Still 8-8.
Louie Hare did well to restrict the Stag's power hitter to a single to lead off the bottom of the ninth but their catcher cracked an RBI double to right field, just out of the reach of the despairing Russell to see Brentwood home with a 9-8 victory.
Even the generous donation of post-match beer from their opponents was not enough to cheer up the shell-shocked Hawks who had seen victory once again slip through their fingers. Manager Carlos Casal was on this occasion much calmer in defeat though, refusing to be drawn into any arguments about umpiring decisions, commenting “it was a good hard-fought game and we had our chances – we just didn't take them”.
The Hawks will seek to end their season on a more positive note with a victory over regular rivals the Richmond Dragons in what looks set to be a fourth place playoff in the AA league.