Raptors rally in vain

Herts Raptors 16-36 Guildford Mavericks II

Grovehill ballpark, Sunday 8th May 2011

This was, in many ways, a game of two halves. Raptors made heavy weather of the first, while picking themselves up for a brave rally in the second. The final result, though, was decided by the fact that the first half included two big meltdowns.

Photo by H2P photographic
Raptors' lefty pitcher, Phil Gover

The home team’s starting pitcher Phil Gover struggled to get into his rhythm as the game began, walking the first three batters. He settled down and the Mavericks only really got one good hit in the first inning, from a player they had borrowed, Jonny Compton-Weight.  Nonetheless, when it was over 10 runs had crossed the plate. A far from ideal start.

Herts looked to strike back quickly with both the leadoff, Rob Jones, and second hitter Zach Longboy getting aboard with walks. Gover then helped his own cause by driving in a run, which he did again later in the game. But even though the Guildford starter had his own control troubles, and Herts mostly seemed able to get bat on ball, they could only notch up 2 runs as a reply.

The game became tighter for a while, with Herts still giving up walks but also now getting strikeouts. The defence was doing its job, too. An infield double play, and a sure-handed outfield catch by newcomer John Kjorstad, helped keep the third inning clean. And by the top of the fourth it was 13-4 to Guildford.

That is when the visitors started to get their bats going and piling up runs. Raptors could not seem to get the outs they needed, especially that third out. Rob Jones was brought in as an emergency relief pitcher to try to close out the inning. But while he threw strikes, Guildford started to tee off on the pitches and the Raptors defence could not shut the door. A series of routine fielding chances were missed, including one by the pitcher himself, and each time a run scored.

So manager Ken Pike stepped out from behind the dish, where he had been umpiring, to come and fight the fire. Taking over on the mound, he was able to close it out. But in all, 18 runs had crossed the plate, possibly a record even for the Raptors. And that left the team in a deep hole.

And that is where the second half begins. As Herts Hawks started to gather on the sidelines, shouting encouragement, Raptors heads did not drop but lifted, and they fought for the game. They made some better defensive plays and most importantly had both belief and patience at the plate. Will Belbin made fine efforts to secure outs at first base, while third baseman Theo Scheepers had a stream of good hits.

The Guildford pitcher was now tiring and walked batters as Herts  loaded the bases in the seventh with nobody out. Kjorstad stroked a triple to right field, while the Mavericks defence also made a few errors, and an inspired rally was underway. Seven runs scored in all before the final strikeout was called, and the home side had made a respectable score.

There were clear positives for the Herts side. A bit of juggling with the stats would make a very different outcome — for example, Raptors outscored the visitors by a total of 13-8 in five of the seven innings; and they won the last three innings 11-5. But Guildford had complete control because of two innings in which they had scored 28 runs. Raptors will take the lessons on to their next contest in Cambridge.

While all this was happening, the Herts Hawks had been taking on Richmond on Grovehill’s other diamond. They twice rallied from deficits in an excellent game, but ended up as 16-12 losers.

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