This article written by Michael Jones and Oliver Mintz-Lowe was first published on britishbaseball.org
The Herts Falcons bounced back from their earlier defeat at the hands of Harlow to reach the final the hard way.
In a well-contested elimination clash with the London Mets, the number two seeds hit well to open up a healthy lead early on. London managed to grind out runs at regular intervals, and managed to make a game of it with a late rally.
But the Falcons hung on to set up an intriguing clash with the Nationals on Monday.
Herts, looking to bounce back from their tough morning loss, managed to shake off any potential hangover in a perfect manner – with early runs. After Jordan Farkas went through the top of the Mets lineup 1-2-3, their offense set to work establishing a quick lead.
Ryan Bird drove in Robbie Unsall, who had singled and stolen second, to open the scoring, and crossed the plate himself on a sharp Darrin Ward single. And following a well executed double steal by Ward and Dave Trethaway, Farkas picked up a smart contact hit to drive in a pair and give Herts a handy 4-0 lead.
They added another in the second, courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Ryan Bird, who had a 3 RBI night, capitalising on two more Unsall steals. The speedy leadoff man was a key offensive catalyst throughout, patiently drawing four walks, scoring three times and swiping four bags.
Looking to respond quickly, London managed to reduce the deficit. Trevor Allen advanced to third on a throwing error, after reaching safely with a single, allowing Josh Rappaport to drive in a run with a double. Alterto Cabalerro followed with another RBI to make it a three-run game.
But the number two seeded Falcons quickly managed to re-establish their commanding lead, through a mixture of intelligent small ball, opportune hitting and Mets miscues. Phil Clark and Ryan Bird both scored on wild pitches, while Chris Hiche drove in Robbie Unsall, and scored later in the inning from a Dave Trethaway sacrifice fly.
To their credit, the Mets continued to battle hard, and hit back with a couple of runs, courtesy of back-to-back RBI doubles from Martin Tucker and Jonathan Cramman.
And in the sixth, the number four seeds really managed to make a game of it, reducing the Falcons lead to just two runs. Trevor Allen (3-4 with an RBI and two runs) kicked off the scoring, driving home Grant Delzoppo with an RBI triple, before Rapapport batted in Cabalerro with a single. Rappapart himelf scored on a groundout, and Jonathan Cramman made it a 10-8 game with another RBI single. Unsall, taking the mound in relief, managed to strand a pair, picking up the final two outs of the inning.
Herts managed to tack on an insurance run in the bottom half of the frame when Farkas drove in Mike Cattermole for his second RBI of the game. And Robbie Unsall came out to pitch a solid 9th inning, working around a two-out-single, striking out two to pick up the save.
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Falcons player Chris Hiche said: “I think it was just a case of who wanted it more. Both teams were quite tired so it came down to a survival of the fittest.”
As Herts qualified via the elimination game, they will now have to win two straight games against the Harlow Nationals. Harlow, who qualified with a better 2-0 record will only have to win once to claim the title.
Hiche said: “We don’t really have the pitching depth to go five games, but I think we just need to try and win the first one and go from there.”
The Final between the Harlow Nationals will start at 11am on Monday, 27 August at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead. Can the Herts Falcons make history against all odds and be crowned the best team in Great Britain for the first time in the club’s history. If you can’t come to the ballpark you can follow the games using the links below: