The way the game ended spoke volumes about the sort of luck the Herts Raptors had all day.
In the seventh inning, Herts had scored 6 of the 7 runs they needed to keep the game alive. There was one man out, and the bases were loaded, when Gilberto Medina hit a laser shot down the third base line.
But rather than driving in the crucial runs, the ball was spectacularly snared by a leaping third baseman. Ken Pike, the runner moving off from second, was helplessly stranded and was tagged out to complete the double play and end the game. Marauders had won by the mercy rule on a score of 20-9.
The incident also demonstrated the importance of London’s defence throughout the game. They had made the play on every bobbling ground ball, they had caught every fly ball, and they had made the most of their scoring opportunities early in the game.
Starting on the mound, Ken Pike had struggled to make his strike zone match up with the umpire’s. As a result, the home side had taken seven walks by the end of the day. And when the Marauders did get bat on ball, the Herts fielders were unable to make the plays — in all, there were 15 errors, including 5 wild pitches. The visitors were also on the wrong end of some close calls, and the home side quickly took a 10-run lead.
Frustration soon set in for the Raptors on a baking hot day, and it was not made any better by the bats being consistently stifled by Thomas Flack’s pitching. A tall pitcher, benefitting from a high strike zone — the result was an unusual amount of balls popping up into the blue north London sky.
Pike did manage a couple of hits, and Glen Downer got on board, but it was the fourth inning before the visiting Raptors managed to get a man across the plate. Jake Caress — who was the most consistent performer with the bat — drove in his father, Mark. Three runs scored in all, but there was a mountain to climb, as the Marauders already had 20 runs on the board.
Zack Longboy came in to relieve in the fourth inning and he was able to quiet the London offense. He racked up five strikeouts over three innings, and put zeroes on the board. Longboy Sr — team manager Arnie — helped out with a diving catch at second base to rob the Marauders of a surefire hit. Now Herts’ powerful bats had to do their job.
Jose Morillo came in for Arnie Longboy and immediately sparked the offense in the top of the seventh, with the Raptors needing 7 runs to avoid the mercy rule. He hit a single, stole a base, then scampered to third on a passed ball. Glen Downer’s double brought him home. Ben Marques added an RBI single.
The Marauders’ relief pitcher, Saadaab Janab was struggling with his control, and Herts were patiently waiting him out, ticking round the runs. Two came in on bases-loaded walks. The stage was set for a dramatic finale.
And the drama came. Although not the way Herts had hoped. Instead, it came with that last flash of leather from the home team, and the tag which killed the rally. Suddenly, when it seemed unlikely, the game had got close.
The manager was reassured by the way his side had made a fight of it. Arnie Longboy said “This game was huge for us, so it was disappointing that we did not get the bats going. But it was really good to rally at the end, and everyone contributed.”
The Raptors now have another — slightly unwelcome — week off, but the derby game against the Herts Eagles in June could be the perfect moment to level their season record at 2-2.