Clark 2-run blast takes Falcons back to the top of the NBL

Phil Clark launches a home run in the sixth inning to give Herts the lead (photo by British Baseball Magazine more available on their website. Click image to view more)

The Herts Falcons are back on top of the NBL after sweeping the Croydon Pirates. Game one was a blow out win but game two required some outstanding pitching and late-inning heroics form Herts to secure the win.

The team returned home to their ballpark in Hertfordshire after spending the previous 6 weeks on the road. They jumped on top of the Pirates quickly taking a 16-0 lead after just 3 innings. Two-time League MVP, Ryan Bird, was on fire going 3-4 with two doubles and a triple (2 RBI). Robbie Unsell, Jake Michels and Kevin Niedringhaus also had a multiple-hit game. New signing Jeff House made his debut on the mound pitching a complete game allowing only 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 8 in the process.

Click to view Game 1 box scores and play-by-play

After such convincing victory for the home team it was hard to imagine what Croydon could do to avoid defeat in the second game, but the Pirates once again proved that they are a very stubborn opponent.

They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. All of the runs were unearned after Herts uncharacteristically committed 3 errors. Jose Sosa took the mound for the Pirates. Despite tying the game at 2-2 the Herts bats were kept very quite. Sosa has always been a fighter and he enhanced his reputation further with today’s performance. Thankfully for the Falcons, starter Louis Hare was pitching a gem. He went the distance pitching a complete game allowing only 5 hits, 1 walk and no earned runs.

Dave Tretheway representing the go-ahead run is greated at home plate (photo by British Baseball Magazine more available on their website. Click image to view more)

Another 3 errors allowed the Pirates to regain the lead. It was 3-2 now and the Falcons needed a spark to get back in the game as time was starting to run out. Jake Michels provided that spark driving in Robbie Unsell with a double to tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. It came down to the bottom of the sixth. With Tretheway reaching base on four balls, up stepped left-handed batter Phil Clark to launch a 2-run bomb over the right field fence and put the Falcons in the lead for the first time. Another 3 runs scored in the inning after a 1-run single by Unsell and a second double by Jake Michels driving in 2 more runs. Louis Hare completed the game with three-up-three-down final inning. He allowed only one Croydon player to get on base in the critical last three innings of the game.

Click to view Game2 box scores and play-by-play

After the final pitch Herts Falcons Manager, Lee Manning, commented on the games: “Dominant hitting won us the first game with a strong outing from Jeff House. Game 2 was challenging as Croydon played very good baseball. We were chasing the game from the start and if it wasn’t for Phil’s bat we could have ended up on the losing end like we did against Lakenheath last week” He added that “Louis also pitched great not allowing any earned runs”.

The two wins put the Falcons half a game ahead of the chasing pack in the NBL race which is proving to be the most exciting for years. In their 4 seasons as an NBL team the Falcons have been top of the table only once. That was back in 2009 and lasted for 1 week only. Will the team manage to sustain the current impressive run all the way to the end? One thing is certain – the rest of the league is starting to notice that something is happening at Herts.

Next game for the Falcons is a home encounter versus the surging Essex Arrows next Saturday, 27 May.  First pitch 12:00pm.

CORRECTION: The report from last week’s NBL game between the Herts Falcons and the Lakenhetah Diamondbacks incorrectly stated that the losing pitcher was Mike Osborn.  Osborn started the game but was later relieved with a “no decision” situation and the game going to extra innings.


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