The Raptors came into the season with two big weapons, and both served them well on their visit to Tonbridge this weekend — a powerful offense, and a seemingly endless supply of talented young pitchers.
It was the bats which got to work first on a blustery day at Deacon’s Field. Brodie Caress hit the opening pitch of the day for a single, before stealing second, advancing on a passed ball and then scoring on a double by shortstop Gilberto Medina.
The first five batters had all reached base, when Tonbridge got a sniff of luck and hope, turning a double play to get back into the inning. It was a brief respite, though. Herts batted around, with John Kjorstad and Mark Caress among those scoring runs. In all, 12 runs were on the board before the side was finally retired.
Then it was the turn of the club’s latest pitching phenom. Tom Everex-Armstrong took the mound and gave the Raptors a solid four innings. The Bobcats were able to get in 4 runs in the first, as everyone settled down. But Everex-Armstrong put up zeroes for two of the innings he threw, and there were noticeably few big hits.
The middle period of the game actually seemed quite sedate, compared with its opening and its finale. Tonbridge were able to bring in a couple of runs, while Herts tacked on but were also held scoreless twice. The Bobcats pitcher was finding the zone more consistently and even picked up a couple of strikeouts in the fourth inning. But the Herts offense had not been defeated, it was merely resting…
And it woke again in the sixth inning. Third baseman Ken Pike got one of his five hits, while the former Little Leaguer Jose Morillo scored one of his four runs. The Raptors were both smart and aggressive on the bases all day and this helped them put seven more runs on the board, and put the game beyond doubt. For example, catcher Ben Marques — who hit well all day — also manufactured a run in this inning, working a walk before stealing two bases and heading home on a passed ball.
By this time the starting pitchers were both out of the game. Brodie Caress had come in to pitch for Herts, and showed admirable control and poise for a young player. Tonbridge were finally able to get a couple of big hits out into left field, but none of them was enough to take advantage of the lack of an outfield fence.
And so it was the Herts offense, the big bats, that had the final word. There was no more stealing in a 9-run seventh inning, but there were plenty of hits. Everex-Armstrong showed he could wield the bat, and Rob Jones reached base again with a single — they were both driven in by a triple from Medina.
Fittingly, the 35th and last Raptors run of the day was scored by the manager, Arnie Longboy, who had played a leader’s role. He ended up with 5 hits and 4 runs, and when he moved from DH to the field in the closing stages he seemed a magnet for the ball, and made a series of plays to retire Tonbridge batters. His side played with spirit and determination, and showed no mercy to secure their first “mercy rule” win of the season by 35-8.
Raptors have now won two in a row, and are poised to test themselves against the division leaders, the Essex Archers, at Hemel Hempstead this coming weekend.