Herts Eagles 18-16 Essex Redbacks III
So far this year, whoever wins the first inning of an Eagles game has gone on to claim the victory. The early exchanges have decisively set the tone. But, in a windswept field in Essex, that was about to change.
Theo Scheepers was on the mound as the Eagles visited Essex Redbacks III looking to bounce back from a defeat by the Old Timers, and to even their record for the season. Senna Ashida had driven in the only run in the top of the first, but when Essex came in to bat, the normally solid Scheepers had trouble finding the zone. Without the home side ever recording a big hit, they ran up a clear lead. After one inning, it was 4-1, then 7-2 after three.
But the Redbacks had not been allowed to pull away. The Eagles struck back in the fourth inning, scoring 6 to swing the game back their way and take the lead. There were runs for Oz Kemal and Craig Le Roux, and the second of three hits for Theo Scheepers, who had also found his rhythm on the mound.
The biggest hit of the day came from catcher, Adrian Smithers, who opened up the fifth inning with a booming home run over the left field fence. After trotting round the bases, he was met with applause and high fives from a jubilant team. As well as being solid behind the plate all day, his bat was a threat every time he came up.
The measure of the match was perhaps shown in the fact that the Redbacks hit a home run of their own immediately afterwards, with the lead off man clouting a pitch over the same stretch of fence. The lead seemed to change hands constantly as the two sides traded blows. There were some miscues but some good plays too.
And it was Duncan Hoyle’s Eagles who stepped up their defence to cling on to the lead decisively. The manager helped his own cause, turning a neat double play from his post at second base. Hoyle took a grounder and stepped on the bag before lobbing a throw to retire the batter at first. Joseph Osborne added to his three runs scored by saving runs, with a running outfield catch on a line drive which could have been dangerous. And Oz Kemal — who started the game out of position at first base to cover for missing starters — recovered from tough throws to get runners out at vital times.
Leading 15-14 going into the eighth, Herts desperately wanted to pad their lead. But although runners got aboard, some bad luck on the base paths meant that Smithers was the only man to cross home plate. 16-14 now, and then Essex nibbled one back. 16-15. Then in the ninth the Eagles were able to produce more goods. Hoyle was driven in by Tak Ashida, who finally secured a deserved hit with a double, before he too came in to score a run.
Herts were left with a 3-run lead to protect in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win. Tak Ashida — after what had been, for him, a quiet game — was suddenly the centre of the action. First a pop-up came his way. Then a sharp grounder, which he hauled in to get the second out. One run had come in on a ground-rule double, but would it be enough for the Redbacks?
At this point, the story returns fittingly to Theo Scheepers. He struck out the final man with his bat on his shoulders, and completed a tremendous win for the Herts team. He had pitched all nine innings, fielded his position flawlessly, scored 3 runs, and clubbed three hits. It was a great win for the Eagles, and one which takes them back to 2-2 for the season. Manager Duncan Hoyle said: “I think that was the most enjoyable game I have ever played in. Theo definitely earned a beer. And it was a great team effort.”