The 2009 Herts Spring League ended on Sunday with the races for the Pool 1 and Poll 2 titles coming alive.
At the start of the final round of matches in Pool 1 three teams were in with a chance to win it. The Alconbury Braves knew that in order to jump above the leading Bracknell Blazers, they needed to win their final game by 3 runs. But in that final game they faced the Southampton Mustangs who were also in with a chance to win the title if they could overcome the Braves.
We were set for a clash between two title contenders and this certainly was no Spring Training game. Both Southampton and Alconbury went out on the field visibly motivated to win. There were even some heated clashes between individual players of the two teams when Mustangs pitcher, Ralph, was determined to get to second base and collided into the Braves’ second baseman who simply wanted to apply a routine tag on him for the third out of the inning. The Braves showed a lot of class by not getting physically involved after what was a slightly overaggressive play by Southampton.
Both teams will probably have their own different views on the incident but it was proof of the desire which both teams had to win the HSL title and that’s the way every baseball game should be played.
The Mustangs were holding on to the lead until Braves first baseman, Matt Walker, launched a home run over the right field wall to tie the game at 7-7. This was also the first home run at the new-look Grovehill Ballpark in Hertfordshire and its new permanent outfield fence.
With HSL games being timed, the clock was ticking for both teams as a tie was no good to either of them. In the top of 9th inning Southampton retired the Braves batters and they had just a few minutes left in the bottom of the inning to win the game. Alconbury held on and so the game was declared a tie. This meant that both teams had knocked each other out of the title race and the Bracknell Blazers were declared the 2009 Herts Spring League Pool 1 winners.
In Pool 2 the battle was just as exciting. Braintree Rays, Richmond Dragons and the Herts 3 were all in the running. Herts 3 were in pole position with a 100% record so far, but they stumbled against a tough MK Bucks team who won 13-5. This meant that Herts 3 had to rely results of the games played at Connare Field in Richmond. The Braintree Rays lost to the Kent Mariners and were no longer a threat to Herts 3. The only remaining contender were the Richmond Dragons. They were up against Herts 2 who were determined to help their club mates, Herts 3. After going neck-and-neck for a few innings, Herts 2 opened up a big lead with a devastating 9 runs in the fourth inning. Richmond were not able to catch up and so Herts 3 were declared the HSL Pool 2 Champions.
The second year of the Herts Spring League has proven to be better than the first year with more teams and fans taking part. Teams are already submitting their applications to enter the 2010 HSL, which is great to see.
But right now it is time for all the teams to get set for the real thing as the 2009 British Baseball season is about to get under way this coming Sunday, 19 April 2009, with games taking place across the whole country.
Images courtesy of HP2Photographic.com
For full list of results, standings and more about this year's Herts Spring League visit the official HSL website.