written by hertsbaseball.com correspondent, Chris Jones
Saturday’s skies were clear across Southern England from Penzance to the Wash. Three days on from the summer solstice, the air was hot, heavy, humid. A dog lay on the pavement, motionless but for a pant of the tongue and a flick of the ear. Dragonflies hovered over the river, their faint buzzing the only sound to be heard. In the distance a flag drooped, still, like the pendulum of a long-stopped grandfather clock. The sun was merciless, the black streets baked like the hot charcoal of a barbecue. Young children took refuge in cool, blue, rippling paddling pools, old women closed their shutters and waited for the cool of evening.
Meanwhile, Grovehill enjoyed its unique microclimate, thick black clouds moving across the sky in a cold force 8 wind with occasional rainfall. Our two teams, the Herts Dodgers and the Herts Giants eyed each other up cautiously. One-one in the series so far. Who would feel the pressure, who would crack, who would emerge with the vital win ?
Team changes. For the Dodgers, no Rory Vangundy, while the Giants were missing Joshua Jones and Lewis Auchterlounie. The Dodgers lent Cameron Manning to the Giants for the day, and for no obvious reason Alex Jones and Jamie Clark swapped sides.
The Dodgers batted first. A ground-out to first, then three singles, a strike-out, and three more singles (RBIs to William Morillo and Katie Everex-Armstrong) before a force-out ends the inning.
Now the Giants. Single! Single! Single! Single! Single! Single! A ground-out and another single, and it’s the maximum five runs for the Giants: a 5-2 lead.
The second innings showed both teams at their defensive best – no runs for either side. Particular kudos to Ozan Martin with a sharp catch at short stop, and Jonathan Wakelam for tagging out Cameron Manning at second.
The Dodgers were now three down at the top of the third. Another string of singles brought three runs home to tie the scores at five apiece. Rose Burgess-Van Dort and Alex Jones had base hits; then Christian Lynch reached first safely, only to see Alex forced out at second. An identical play with the next batter and the Giants were two down. Rose came home for the run but Noah Lynch struck out to close the inning. 6-5 Giants.
The Dodgers squeezed just one run from the fourth inning to level the scores, but we sensed now that the Giants had the measure of this game. They scored two more, the inning ended by a Cameron Manning fly-out to Ozan at short stop. 8-6 Giants.
But the Dodgers weren’t finished yet. Singles from Garton, Durer, Wakelam, Clark, Morillo. Then up steps Ozan Martin… bang! Line drive to the left field fence for a single. Katie moves him to second, now here’s Thomas Garton… bang! Another line drive to the left field fence. Four runs for the inning, and the tables are turned. 10-8 Dodgers.
Could the Giants respond in the last inning of the game ? Not if pitcher Nicholas Durer and first baseman Thomas Garton had anything to do with it. Katie picked up a run, but a trio of 1-3 ground-outs were enough to close the inning and seal the win. 10-9 to the Dodgers to take a 2-1 series lead.
Shivering they may have been, but the spectators knew they’d seen a game today, one they would talk about long after they drove away, back into the heat of Southern England.
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