The Herts Falcons suffered a setback in their mission to reach the National League playoffs. A spirited fight back by the visiting Essex Arrows in the last inning resulted in a heartbreaking loss for the Falcons. Despite this, a combination of results in the other NBL games and a convincing win in the second game of the day meant that the loss in game one was not as costly as first thought.
Having beaten the Arrows in their previous two meetings this season, the Falcons went into the game with confidence but the tension of the postseason race was evident. Herts took a slender lead early in the game, but the visitors kept in touch with their starting pitcher Matt Gilbert keeping batters off balance by changing speed very effectively. Herts went into the seventh and final inning with a 3-2 lead and it looked as though starting pitcher Pete Kikel would complete the game with a win after he struck out the lead off batter, Ben Sayer. A great deal of credit has to be given to the Essex Arrows at that point as they didn’t give up. Their next two batters got on base after they were both hit by pitches. A double by the always dangerous Rich Chesterton tied the game. Up next was Essex’s cleanup batter Matt Gilbert and the Falcons decided to walk him intentionally to load the bases. Leftfielder Brandon Florence was the next to bat and he drove the ball all the way to the outfield wall to bring in 3 more runs. In total 5 runs came in and that proved to be too much for the home team to recover from in the bottom of the inning.
Stung by that loss, the Falcons came back fighting in the second game. They took a 14-1 lead in just three innings of play. Their bats were on fire. Third baseman Alex Ganster went 4-for-4 driving in 5 runs. Carlos Casal from Hemel Hempstead and Jason Greenberg had two hits each but the biggest ovation was for shortstop Brandon Deal who launched the ball high over the left-centerfield wall for a 3-run home run. He was 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs in the game. He will miss the remaining games of the season as he will be on military duty overseas over the next few weeks, but that was a great way to end his season and send the Falcons on a high going into next week’s do-or-die last game of the season against playoff rivals Mildenhall.
After the games Herts Falcons Manager, Jason Greenberg said: “”It was a disappointment that we let game one on Sunday slip through our fingers. We had a slim one-run lead going into the final frame, but it wasn’t enough to secure the win. But the boys battled back in game two, and I was pleased with the confidence and momentum we found right from the first pitch. That’s how we need to begin our series against the Bulldogs this Sunday: with the knowledge that we are going to get ahead early, and stay ahead until the final out is made.”
With Mildenhall picking up two wins against Southampton, losing game one against Essex has turned out to be not as costly as first thought. The Herts Falcons will be travelling to RAF Feltwell this Sunday knowing that they must win one of their two games against the Bulldogs to book their place in the playoffs. If they win both games they would jump over both Mildenhall and Croydon which would give them better seeding in the playoffs. Losing both games is not an option as that would signal the end of the season for the boys from Hemel Hempstead.
images courtesy of www.HP2photographic.com