As advertised, the NBL Summer Classic turned out to be a true celebration of British Baseball. The event started at 10:00am and ended just as the sun was going down at 9:15pm. It had everything from home runs, strikeouts, spectacular plays and late inning drama, to hot dogs and the signing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the …ninth inning stretch.
HERTS RED SOX SETTING THE PACE
The Herts Little League teams opened the day. The Herts Yankees and the Herts Red Sox picked up convincing wins against the Herts Cubs (14-1) and Herts Cardinals (8-0), respectively. This set up a top of the table clash between the Red Sox and Yankees and the Red Sox came out on top 13-5. This means that they are now leading the league with the Yankees one game back on them, followed closely by the Cardinals in third after they beat the Cubs 9-0.
Click here to view full Little League report by reporter Tracey Manning
BLAZERS EXTEND WINNING STREAK
At the same time the National Baseball League action commenced on diamond 1. 2009 champions, Bracknell Blazers were the hot favourites to win the clash against the Croydon Pirates, but the team from South London had plans of their own. They kept fighting and it was only the loss of concentration at critical moments that cost them the game at the end. This was the tenth consecutive league win for the Blazers with a chance to move top of the table depending on the outcome of London’s evening game on diamond 2.
FALCONS SURVIVE LATE ARROWS ONSLAUGHT
The game between the hosts Herts and rivals Essex saw a record attendance for an adult league game in the history of Grovehill Ballpark. This was thanks to the loyal support from the Herts Little League families who had packed the spectator area on the first base side and it was their support right up until the bottom of the ninth inning that contributed to the win for the Falcons.
Before the start of the game the newly built second diamond was officially opened by Mike Penning, Member of Parliament for Hemel Hempstead, who was one of a the many supporters of the Grovehill Ballpark project. Others who supported the project include Dacorum Borough Council, Awards for All, BSUK, Sport England, PropertyLandeArchitercture, Royal Bank of Scotland and many others.
The ceremonial first pitch is usually thrown out by one or two celebrities. On this occasion there were 40 ceremonial first pitches and they were all thrown at the same time by 40 celebrities from the Herts Little League. The unlucky player who had the impossible task of catching all 40 balls at the same time was Falcons catcher, Andy Cornish. Ultimately he didn’t manage to catch any of them, which was not a good sign for Herts ahead of this vital league game.
The Falcons took a comfortable early lead. Kimiyoshi Saionji’s home run was followed by two home runs by Pete Kikel. Despite this the Arrows never lost hope and produced a sensational come back. Going into the ninth inning Essex were on the verge of claiming their first win of the season trailing 12-10 with runners on first and second base and the winning run at the plate. Richard Chesterton came through with the clutch hit. It went over the head of centerfielder Jamie Munn and all the way to the outfield wall. With the runner from first rounding third base and being waved home to tie up the game, the Herts Falcons needed to execute the relay perfectly, and they did. With a runner in scoring position the Falcons needed to get one more out and they ended the game in style, Pete Kikel striking out Lance Louw.
Click here for box scores and images from the Essex vs Herts game.
SOUTHAMPTON IMPRESSIVE WIN
Southampton Mustangs maintained their strong recent form by dispatching the slumping Mildenhall Bulldogs with ease in the day’s only one-sided victory. The majority of Mildenhall’s players work at the airbase in Cambridgeshire and their team was significantly weakened by the absence of the majority of their roster due to an emergency military exercise. Despite this Southampton did produce an impressive performance to pick up another good win.Chuck Druelson pitched the win, with Oscar Sierra clubbing a home run.
LONDON STILL TOP THE LEAGUE
The showpiece game of the day was the match-up between London and Richmond. A large crowd had gathered at the new diamond to watch this eagerly anticipated clash, and then the storm came resulting in a rain-delay. This did spoil the occasion slightly but when the game was restarted it did not affect the quality of baseball with both teams producing a real classic. The Londoners broke out early, cashing in on a number of Richmond errors. The Flames managed to claw their way back, only to fall just short. Jason Roberts claimed the win, pitching a complete game that required over 200 pitches, with Kyle Hickson adding a home run for the Mets.
For full NBL report and reaction from the teams click here.
Images from the NBL Summer Classic.