Before the battle – Herts and Southampton clash in the HSL Majors (Group A)
Baseball returned to ballparks around the South East with the start of the 2011 Herts Spring League (HSL). 18 games were played at Herts, RAF Feltwell and Richmond.
MAJORS (GROUP A)
First up were the teams in the HSL Majors Group A and the most eagerly awaited game was 2010 National Championship rematch between Bracknell and Richmond. The Flames came out on top once again and the 11-2 score line was strangely similar to last year’s 10-1 win. There were several new faces in the Richmond line-up and it looks like they will be very valuable additions to the Richmond roster this year. Earlier on Saturday Richmond picked up another convincing win against the Essex RedBacks.
Another team to get off to a perfect start in the Majors Group A are the Herts Falcons. The HSL hosts started their Spring Training campaign with an 8-4 win against the Southampton Mustangs and followed that up with an 11-9 come-from-behind triumph over the Bracknell Blazers. With Richmond and Herts going into the final group games with a 100% record it sets up an exciting prospect of the group being decided in the direct game between the two teams at 5pm next Sunday, 3 April 2011, at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead. The other teams, and Southampton in particular, are not out of the race and they may have something to say about that.
MAJORS (GROUP B)
The Southern Nationals who earlier this week were confirmed as one of two new NBL teams for 2011 had a dream start in the HSL with two wins. They first overcame the GB Juniors National Team by a score of 10-0. They followed that up with another shut-out win over the Mildenhall Bulldogs, but this time it was a much closer encounter decided by one run. The GB Juniors were then involved in a real pitchers’ duel with the Essex Arrows, which the Arrows won 1-0. Richard Chesterton driving in the winning run. All the games in Group B of the HSL Majors were played at RAF Feltwell which is the home of the Mildenhall Bulldogs and the Lakenheath Diamondbacks, the latter also being confirmed as an NBL expansion team for the upcoming season. These two teams faced each other on Sunday but the game ended in a 5-5 tie. This will certainly be an interesting rivalry to follow in this year’s NBL.
MINORS (GROUP A)
The Sidewinders swept their opponents aside in style. They first took care of the Richmond Knights with a 24-2 win and followed it with a 23-2 victory over the London Marauders. Earlier in the day Guildford beat the Knights in a thrilling 7-6 ballgame. This would suggest that the race for first place in this group is between the Sidewinders and the Guildford Mavericks, but Sidewinders are expecting to be missing many of their players in week two which may open the door for all the other teams to get back in the race.
Essex RedBacks running over the Leicester Blue Sox on Sunday
MINORS (GROUP B)
Group B in the Minors section of the HSL got off to a great start with a very high quality game between the Milton Keynes Bucks and the hosts Herts Hawks. This was a rare encounter between AA Midlands and AA South teams which was a good opportunity to see how these two regions compare. The Bucks took an early 2-0 lead but the Hawks were always in contention. Thanks to good pitching and defence by both teams, this was a fast-moving and crisp game of baseball. The Hawks mounted a come back with two runs in the late innings, but it wasn’t enough as the Bucks won it 3-2 with a 6-inning game completed within one hour and thirty five minutes, which is unusually fast for a AA game.
MK Bucks maintained their perfect record with a 8-0 win over last year’s HSL Minors winners, the Leicester Blue Sox. This group remains nicely poised after the Essex RedBacks’ minor league affiliate also ended the day with two wins and no losses. Their first win was against Leicester and the second against the Herts Raptors who made an incredible came back from 15-5 down in the final inning to take a 16-15 lead, but in the bottom of the final inning the RedBacks struck back driving in the winning run on a sacrifice fly to right field with one out.
The HSL action continues next weekend with the final group games taking place at the ballparks in Herts, Essex and Richmond. For full details visit the official HSL website.