The Herts Raptors wrapped up their season with a win on Sunday, August 21st. They beat the Tonbridge Bobcats 22-17 over nine innings at Grovehill Ballpark to complete an impressive end to their 2011 campaign. The side won three of its final four games, and recorded its best win total since 2009.
The game against the visiting Bobcats began well. Manager, Ken Pike, started on the pitching mound, and did not give up a single run in the first two innings. The Herts side, however, scored freely – Jon Gamble got two hits and Theo Scheepers was a constant menace with the bat.
After three innings it was 10-2 to the Raptors, and it was looking comfortable. But that can never be said for certain in a Single-A game. The visitors had started to have some impact and score runs – 2 in the third, 4 in the fourth, building towards a 5-spot in the fifth. But Scheepers – who has been a star of the second half of the season – had now taken over on the mound and pitched calmly to limit the damage.
The Herts defense also showed its mettle. Now moved to third base, Ken Pike made a series of good stops and throws, and showed impressive concentration to catch one line drive when the flying bat was so close to him he could have caught that instead. The father-son combo of Arnie and Zach Longboy were now in the game, too, and were bossing things on the infield to mow down a string of Bobcats on the basepaths. At second base, Longboy Snr was in on a couple of close double plays, while Jnr combined with his Little League team-mate Jose Morillo to tag out runners at home plate as they unwisely tried to score. In the outfield, Senna Ashida was once again clutch.
Even though their bats went a little quiet over the final innings, the Raptors did not fold under the pressure. They had the chance to secure mercy-rule victories in the seventh and eighth but were held to just one manufactured run. Each inning, the Bobcats inched closer. But the Raptors were always one step ahead, and they closed it out with a five-run cushion in the ninth inning.
The Herts club was delighted that after a tough start to 2011, its rookie team had taken three wins. The Raptors have shown great spirit and great all-around improvement in their game. In the second half of the season they competed well against the Old Timers and against Braintree even when they didn’t come away with the win. Some players will move up the ranks next year, while others will look to build on their success and make games against the top sides in the Single-A division much closer affairs.