Cambridge Royals 23-3 Herts Raptors, May 15th 2011
The weather was cold and blustery, and the Royals had already demolished the Raptors once this season. But 11 players made the drive to Cambridge with spirits high. The Herts team had realistic expectations, but the main thing they want to do is play their best.
The first inning perhaps set the tone in that the Raptors fought well but were overmatched. An accurate sidearm pitcher got leadoff phenom Zach Longboy out on a line drive. Rob Jones then coaxed his customary walk, and had steals of second nullified by foul balls as Ali Hall battled hard at the plate. Hall was alert enough to run when the catcher dropped his third strike, but an equally alert Cambridge bench had him called out because first base had been occupied. Jones was stranded on third as the next man up grounded out. What could have been first and third with one out was turned around by the Royals’ years of experience.
With bats in their hand, they put that experience to good use. Over the first three innings they racked up runs with hits and walks, and took a commanding lead. The Raptors’ starting pitcher, manager Ken Pike, put in a solid performance but the strong wind and a tiny strike zone made life difficult. The defense had good moments to back him up, with Will Belbin hauling in a scorching line drive for one impressive out, but overall this was one-way traffic.
As the game progressed, the Longboy double act made the biggest impression for Herts. It was father Arnie who scored two of the three Herts runs — the first of them almost completely manufactured from a walk, a steal and overthrows. He has had a succession of good hits stolen by opposing defenses this season, and finally made one count with his second run. Zach battled against the strong wind to make two excellent catches in left field, and was praised by the Cambridge bench for his excellent technique.
There were also cameos by new acquisition Theo Scheepers, who came on as shortstop and made good plays including a smart tag with an added dance, and by lefty relief pitcher Phil Gover. He hit the strike zone more consistently than in the previous week’s outing against Guildford, and fielded his position excellently to help keep the Raptors battling.
This was another tough lesson for the Herts rookie team. Of their four defeats, two have been at the hands of a league-leading Cambridge team who can boast veterans with expertise, and power in both pitching and hitting. The host team was generous in its praise for the graduates of the Herts Little league, and for the team spirit of the Raptors. But Ken Pike’s men are itching for a straight fight with a rival team. Maybe it can come this week…