When the BBF AAA League lineup was announced many fans were surprised to see the Cambridge Royals in the list. It is very rare for a team to rise by two league tiers which is what happened in the case of the Royals this winter. They may have played in the Single-A last year but have already had a strong performance in their first HSL AAA game beating the Sidewinders 32-5. With new additions like former Bracknell Blazers starting pitcher, Matt Maitland, they look like they will not be out of place in the AAA this year.
The Essex Redbacks were just as impressive winning 16-7 against the Herts Hawks. A grand slam by Matt Jennings put them in the lead and didn’t look back after that.
The MK Bucks managed to squeeze out a 7-4 win against the impressive London Mets Under-17 team. The boys from the capital were ruing a missed opportunity. They outhit the Bucks 10-to-4, but crucially left 11 runners stranded on base. Defensively they ended up committing more errors in this game than their last four Spring Training games combined.
Over in Guildford the HSL-AA action involved teams from South of London. John Kristensen took the win for Guildford Mavericks I in a close game that was tied at 5-5 until the 6th innings when Guildford broke it open with a 5-run bottom half of the inning. Guildford offensive highlights were doubles from James Guerra and John Kristensen, whilst Kent’s Jamie Morris also had an extra base hit. Mavericks starter, Sam Jones gave up just 3 hits in 4 innings of work. In a high scoring contest, Guildford Mavericks II scored early and often to ease to victory over the Barons. In a game dominated by offence, the Mavericks benefited from Owen Hazelby going 5-for-6 (2B), along with extra base hits from John Gray and Gillian Conway. Torbay had an extra base hit from Tony Watson, and Gabor Nemeth went 2-for-3. Owen Hazelby took the win for Guildford.
This year the HSL features the GB Under-15 National Team and it was fascinating how the superstars of tomorrow will compete against their older opponents. A strong start from GB and Herts pitcher Tom Armstrong, followed by Patrick Hansford produced a close game versus the London Marauders. They were tied 4-4 going into the 4th and GB put up 8 runs with two outs, but couldn’t close out the game as London came back with 10 of their own to win as the GB pitching and defence started to struggle. In their second GB faced the Essex RedBacks. They had another great start this time from Jonathan Fretheim who pitched two quick innings securing a 3-0 lead going into the fourth inning. Once again the fourth innings curse struck as a combination of pitchers struggling to find the zone and poor defence resulted in GB conceding 12 runs. Fretheim came back into the game to close out the inning and the game, but the damage was done.
The Herts derby game between the Raptors and Eagles ended with a win for the Eagles which featured a youthful lineup of Under-17 players. Starter Jake Caress pitched a complete game for the win supported by lively Eagles bats to record a 5-3 vistory. The Raptors remain without a win after they lost their earlier game against the Essex RedBacks II. The second game for the Eagles was against the London Marauders who were looking for their second win. Zack Longboy started for the Eagles. He needed one inning to get a feel for the mound and then produced a very confident pitching performance. Going into the fourth inning the game was tied 1-1 which is very unusual for two Single-A teams, but it must be said that the Marauders were always threatening and it took a 1-3-5 triple-play to keep the game tied. A combination of good hitting by the Marauders and too many London players getting on base after being hit by pitch or walking was costly for the Eagles and they couldn’t catch up.
The HSL AAA and AA action continues next weekend.