This article and images were provided by Joe Gray and were first published on Mister Baseball


The only National Baseball League (NBL) action last Sunday was a double-header between the Herts Falcons and Richmond Flames at Grovehill Ballpark.  Richmond were missing  several players, including the multi-talented Ryan Bird (suspended) and the dangerous Cody Cain, but their line-up still contained enough talent for the spectators at Grovehill Ballpark to be expecting two victories for the visitors.

Those spectators were to be treated to two gripping contests, with the HERTS FALCONS coming from behind to edge both games by 1 run. While the FALCONS’ sweep came as a surprise, the same cannot be said for the ingredients of the victories: HERTS combined well-drilled fielding, intelligent pitching, and opportunistic base-running, as they have done all season.

Their off-field programme is widely acknowledged as being a beacon for baseball development in Britain, and now they have proven that their club also deserves recognition on the field at the highest level of the game. This last statement would apply even if the FALCONS had lost all four of their 1-run contests, because the fact that they have just been keeping scorelines respectable against established NBL sides is some achievement for a team making a jump from playing in the second tier of baseball in 2008


Richmond Flames 6

Herts Falcons 7


After Yoshi Saito led off with a single for the FLAMES and the home team then failed to convert the second half of a makeable double-play opportunity, it looked like RICHMOND might get on the board in the first inning. However, the FALCONS’ starter Nick Goetz served up a second ground ball, and this time the HERTS infield did turn the double-play, suggesting that the failed effort one batter earlier was merely indicative of early-game nerves.

Goetz’s mound rival was the experienced hurler Michael Osborn (pictured to the left), who had overpowered the FALCONS just 3 weeks earlier, striking out 11 in a 10-3 victory. Osborn looked strong once more, but he had lost the advantage of novelty and, more significantly, his pitching was not backed up by his infield in the way it deserved to be. By the time Osborn got out of the first inning, the FLAMES defence had already gifted the FALCONS 4 runs.

RICHMOND halved the deficit in the second inning, and despite HERTS scoring another run in the bottom of the fifth frame, the FLAMES were able to take the lead in the top of the next inning, aided by a two-out 3-run double off the bat of Brett Wakeley, the number-nine hitter. This made the score 6-5.


In the bottom of the sixth, HERTS levelled the game with Andy Cornish stealing third and then advancing home after the attempt to gun him down ended up in the outfield. The FALCONS then attempted a squeeze bunt to plate the go-ahead run, with Aspi Dimitrov on third, Riley Fisher at bat, one out, and a count of 1-and-2.  The bunt went foul, though, and a long fly-ball off the bat of Jason Greenberg, the next batter, was caught in centre field to end the inning.


Goetz retired the first RICHMOND batter in the top of the final regulation inning but then gave up a walk to the next batter (his third of the game), which was followed by back-to-back singles to load the bases. Up stepped Brad Crinion, who had worked 11 pitches for a walk in his previous plate appearance (as part of the FLAMES’ 4-run rally in the sixth). Included in those 11 pitches were three fiercely hit balls that just strayed foul down the third-base line. In the seventh, though, Goetz pitched masterfully to Crinion, striking him out on three swings.


With the bases still loaded, the left-handed hitter Matt Spaulding came up to bat. He hit a grounder straight at first baseman Darrin Ward, and for a moment it looked like a bobble might take the ball away from the dependable gloveman, but Ward managed to handle it and then got across to first to retire Spaulding by two steps.


In the bottom of the seventh, the FALCONS got their lead-off hitter, Lin Yuchih, aboard with a walk, but Darrin Ward grounded into a force-out at second for the first out. With Kimiyoshi Saionji at bat (pictured right), HERTS might have considered bringing in a pinch-runner for Ward but this would have taken his glove out of the game if it had gone into extra innings.


Saionji had delivered a walk-off hit when HERTS defeated LONDON back at the start of May, and he did the same once again with his double to the recently installed permanent fence scoring Ward all the way from first.


Tellingly, this was the first earned run that Osborn had given up in the game.



Richmond Flames 4

Herts Falcons 5


Darrin Ward (pictured right) picked up the win in this game to join Henry Collins of BRACKNELL and Michael Osborn as the first pitchers to get to three victories this season.


RICHMOND opened the game with a 3-run first inning, but HERTS scored a run in each of the first four innings, while RICHMOND added only a solo home run, hit by Grant Delzoppo, through the top of the fifth inning.


With the game tied at 4-4, Ward led off the bottom of the fifth with a double and advanced to third on a ground-out to short. Like they had in game one, HERTS tried the squeeze bunt, but the RICHMOND pitcher Brad Crinion was clearly wise to the ploy as he directed the pitch well above the strike zone, making it impossible for Lee Manning to put bat on ball. This left Ward an easy out at the plate, killing the threat.


After holding the FLAMES to no score in the top of the sixth, the FALCONS again found themselves with one out and a runner on base, Jamie Munn (pictured left). This time, the call was made to bring in Andy Cornish as a pinch-hitter. He connected for a single to score Munn and leave the FALCONS three outs away from a second victory of the day.


Despite having to face the heart of RICHMOND’s batting line-up in the seventh, Ward struck out the side to complete an unlikely sweep.


The results left four teams tied for first in the NBL: RICHMOND (7-5), HERTS (6-4), LONDON (6-4), and BRACKNELL (5-3). The CROYDON PIRATES, the NBL’s fifth team, are yet to register a win.


Joe Gray writes for BaseballGB and also looks after Great British top-tier statistics, Project Cobb, and the Great Britain National Team archive.

More images from the game courtesy of Joe Gray


Richmond Flames at Herts Falcons
Score By Innings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Richmond Flames 0 2 0 0 0 4 0 6 11 11
Herts Falcons 4 0 0 0 1 1 1 7 4 2

Herts Falcons 7, Richmond Flames 6
Herts Falcons Richmond Flames
  ab r h bi   ab r h bi
Riley Fisher 3b 4 1 0 0 Saito Yoshi ss 4 0 3 0
Jason Greenberg c 4 1 0 0 Mann Mike 2b 4 0 0 0
Lin Yuchih dh 3 1 0 0 Grant Delzoppo c 2 0 0 0
Darrin Ward 1b 4 2 3 1 Guy Lidbetter lf-3b 4 1 2 0
Kimiyoshi Saionji 2b 3 1 1 2 Mike Osborn p 4 2 3 1
Luis Goncalves ss 3 0 0 1 Brad Crinion 1b 3 1 1 1
Andy Cornish rf 3 1 0 0 Mitt Spalding rf 4 1 0 0
Aspi Dimitrov lf 3 0 0 0 George Naumczik cf 2 1 1 2
Jamie Munn cf 3 0 0 0 Brett Wakeley 3b-lf 3 0 1 0
Nick Goetz p 0 0 0 0
TEAM TOTALS 30 7 4 4 TEAM TOTALS 30 6 11 4

E: Nick Goetz, Aspi Dimitrov, Guy Lidbetter(4), Mann Mike(2), Brett Wakeley(2), Saito
Yoshi, Brad Crinion, Grant Delzoppo. DP: Herts Falcons 1. LOB: Herts Falcons 6,
Richmond Flames 7. 2B: Kimiyoshi Saionji, Brett Wakeley. SB: Aspi Dimitrov, Andy
Cornish. SF: Kimiyoshi Saionji, George Naumczik.

Herts Falcons IP H R ER BB SO
Nick Goetz W 7.00 11 6 6 3 4
Richmond Flames            
Mike Osborn L 6.33 4 7 1 1 8

PB: Grant Delzoppo. T: 2:08. A: 38.


Richmond Flames at Herts Falcons
Score By Innings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Richmond Flames 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 4 5 6
Herts Falcons 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 5 8 2

Herts Falcons 5, Richmond Flames 4
Herts Falcons Richmond Flames
  ab r h bi   ab r h bi
Riley Fisher 3b 4 1 3 0 Saito Yoshi ss 3 1 0 0
Kimiyoshi Saionji rf 3 0 0 0 Mike Osborn 3b 4 0 0 0
Lin Yuchih 2b 3 1 1 0 Delzoppo Grant c 3 2 2 1
Darrin Ward p 3 1 2 0 Guy Lidbetter 1b 4 1 1 2
Luis Goncalves ss 1 0 0 0 Brad Crinion p 3 0 1 1
Lee Manning 1b 3 0 0 0 Brett Wakeley lf 2 0 1 0
Aspi Dimitrov lf 3 1 1 1 George Naumczik cf 3 0 0 0
Jamie Munn cf 3 1 0 0 Matt Spalding rf 3 0 0 0
Jason Greenberg c 2 0 0 0 Mike Mann 2b 3 0 0 0
(t6) Andy Cornish c 1 0 1 1
TEAM TOTALS 26 5 8 2 TEAM TOTALS 28 4 5 4

E: Riley Fisher(2), Mike Mann(3), Saito Yoshi(2), Matt Spalding. LOB: Herts Falcons
5, Richmond Flames 6. 2B: Darrin Ward, Guy Lidbetter, Brad Crinion. HR: Delzoppo
Grant. SB: Lin Yuchih(2), Luis Goncalves, Aspi Dimitrov.

Herts Falcons IP H R ER BB SO
Darrin Ward W 7.00 5 4 4 3 5
Richmond Flames            
Brad Crinion L 6.00 8 5 1 2 3

WP: Brad Crinion. T: 1:55. A: 38.

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