The Herts Under-14 team ended their regular season schedule with an edge-of-the-seat walk-off win against the Bracknell Wildfire.
They started on a sour note as they came up against a very competent Bracknell pitcher who kept the Herts batters down to a total of 2 hits over the course of the game. Only Alex Guthrie and Alex Deacon managed to record a hit and the team as a whole scored only 1 run. Herts also struggled defensively. Bracknell drove in 19 runs making it a very painful 19-1 loss for the team from Hertfordshire.
Click to view game 1 box scores and play-by-play
They didn’t feel sorry for themselves and got down to business from the first pitch of the second game. Making his debut on the mound was Tom Jansson-Wright. Although he did walk 9 batters he allowed only 3 hits. He had much better run-support compared to the first game. Herts scored 10 runs in the first two innings and he reached his pitch-count limit with the score tied 10-10.
With several key players either unavailable or on tour with the Great Britain Under-15 team in Canada, Herts were running out of pitchers.
It was time to give one of Herts Baseball Club’s most promising young prospects the ball and to see how he performs under enormous pressure with the game on the line. Alex Deacon is only 9 years old and he was asked to go on the mound to face batters who are as much as 4 years older than him. The pitching mound behind his tiny frame reared like a mountain over him, conveniently providing shelter in the event of a slightly stronger breeze potentially blowing him off the rubber.
He took the mound with 1 out in the third inning and runners on first and second base. The first two batters he faced reached base on a walk and hit by pitch, but any tension, which he may have felt, was no longer there after that. He struck out the next two batters and went on to pitch a total of 3 and two-third innings all the way to the end of the game and completely shut down the Bracknell offence. No hits and no earned runs were allowed while he was on the mound. The two runs which were scored by Bracknell were unearned i.e. due to fielding errors.
Going into the bottom of the final inning Herts were trailing 12-11 and facing an agonising second loss of the day.
Alex Guthrie with only half a season of baseball under his belt, gave Herts a glimmer of hope when, with one out, he drove the ball deep over the centerfielder’s head for a double. Bracknell’s closer walked the dangerous Callum Vangundy and Alex Deacon who were 3-for-3 and 2-for-2, respectively, in the game. That loaded the basis and Alex Guthrie took advantage of a wild pitch to advance home and tie the game 12-12. However the next Herts batter struck out so with two outs and runners on second and third, all eyes were on leftie centerfielder, Tom Adams. A swing of the bat produced what appeared to be a routine ground ball out for Bracknell to turn and take the game into extra innings, however the ball was so delicately placed that it sucked both the pitcher and the first baseman to try to field it, which they did cleanly, but that meant that first base was left unattended allowing the speedy Tom Adams to take advantage and reach first base safely and for Callum Vangundy to score the winning run from third.
Click to view game 2 box scores and play-by-play
A walk-off win for Herts which sparked a field-invasion and wild celebrations for the home team. There are still many areas which the Herts U14 team will need to improve on, in what is a transitional year for the new generation of players in that age group, but the signs are very positive that the team has the potential to compete against the best over the next few years as these young Herts players develop.
With school holidays commencing this weekend, the British Baseball youth leagues will take a break for a few weeks and all attention will turn to the postseason playoffs which will take place in September. Herts will be represented in both the Under-14 and Under-17 playoffs. We will keep you updated as the teams prepare for the season’s showpiece events.