The Herts Falcons clinched top spot in their Herts Spring League group in the most dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth with two outs in the deciding final game against the hard-hitting Mildenhall Bulldogs. This sets a mouth-watering HSL Final in the Majors division against the 2009 British National Baseball League Champions, the Bracknell Blazers on Sunday, 11 April.
The Bulldogs eased their way to a comfortable 12-2 win against the Milton Keynes Bucks earlier in the day which meant that the final group game between the Bulldogs and the Falcons would determine the group winner. The visitors from Mildenhall managed to take the lead early in the game, but Herts kept coming back to tie the game in the third and dramatically in the bottom of the eighth when newly-recruited Sri Lancan national team centerfielder, Mahendra Prasad, ripped a two-out single into right field to drive in two runs. With two outs and the game tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth Carlos “the Jackal” Casal managed to get to third with his trademark aggressive running, stealing second and then third after getting on base on a hit by pitch. With Casal representing the winning run on third base, all eyes were on Falcons player-manager Jason Greenberg who stepped into the batter’s box. Deep into the count Greenberg made solid contact with a fastball. It seemed that the ball was taking an eternity to come down as the Mildenhall centerfielder was comfortably waiting under it to take the game into extra innings. Most of the fielders were already heading to their bench when the unthinkable happened. The ball popped out of the centerfielder’s glove and Carlos Casal came home to score and win the game for the team from Hertfordshire. After the initial few seconds of joy in winning what was a fantastic game of baseball, the Falcons players visibly tried to subdue their celebrations in an effort to avoid rubbing salt into the wounds of the Bulldogs. Freakish moments like this do occur in the wonderfully unpredictable game of baseball. This may have cost Mildenhall the game and a place in the HSL Championship Game, but on a positive note for them, the law of averages would suggest that they will not make another error like this for a very long time especially judging by their accomplished defensive performance. This, in many ways, is bad news for all the other NBL teams. The HSL games have shown that Mildenhall will be a major player in this year’s National Baseball League.
The weather played havoc with the HSL games in Richmond on Saturday, which means that the Bracknell Blazers finished top of Majors-A group on conceding less runs per game than Southampton. The Blazers will meet the Falcons in the HSL Championship game in the Majors Division. The game will be played at Grovehill Ballpark at 4pm on Sunday 11 April.
Mildenhall will meet the Southampton Mustangs in the Bronze medal game. To determine 5th and 6th place the Essex RedBacks will play against the Herts Eagles, who bounced back on Saturday with a 7-1 win against the MK Bucks in which Darrin Ward pitched a complete 9-inning game allowing only 1 run and 3 hits.
LEICESTER CRUSH WINDSOR AND HERTS TO CLINCH PLACE IN THE HSL MINORS FINAL
Despite losing to the Thames Valley Bisons in week one of the HSL, the Leicester Blue Sox knew that they still had a mathematical chance of finishing top of the group, but they needed to win two games in a row. Their first test was against Windsor and they passed it with flying colours. Next up were the Herts Hawks and although they kept in touch for five innings, they ran out of steam and the Blue Sox took advantage to win convincingly 24-13. Slugger Shanon Henry continued to impress with a home run which went deep over the right field wall. He is 5-for-11 (.545) so far in the HSL with two doubles, two triples and a home run (10 RBIs). The win went to the versatile Richard Hu who got on the mond in the fourth inning to settle the Leicester nerves with the game tied 10-10.
To determine the 2010 HSL Minors Champions, they will play against the Sidewinders who kept up their 100% record with wins against Richmond and Guildford on Sunday.
For more information about the Herts Spring League visit the official HSL website links below:
HSL Scoreboard and Schedule (links to box scores are available for all games played at Herts)
HSL Stats (League Leaders)