Falcons bounce back after dramatic walk-off loss

Falcons player-manager, Lee Manning, came up big with a 3-run double in game two (photo by Will Baxter)

written by Cristobal Hiche

The weather was perfect for some great baseball if it wasn’t for some strong winds from right to left field which effectively killed the “long ball” from the game. This set the tone for the first game in which solid pitching by Jordan Farkas (Herts) and Ryan (Diamondbacks), kept batters at bay with few hits and no runs scored by either team in the first 4 innings. Added to that was the fact that both teams weren’t efficient and both teams left too many men on base. In fact, Herts had men on 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the first inning but the heart of the order couldn’t bring the runners home. Lakenheath also had the bases loaded with 1 out in the bottom of the 3rd but ended up empty.

Both teams realised this game was going to go down to the wire and a small mistake could prove costly. Also, both teams realised they needed to manufacture runs and switched strategies by playing small ball. Sacrifice and drag bunts were attempted but a great play by third baseman James Brooks prevented Herts left fielder John Blose reaching base on a great surprise bunt down the line.

It wasn’t until the bottom of the 5th when Xavier Gonzales made an error on a very routine ground ball. The ball made an unusual bounce due to poor ground conditions and Xavi couldn’t do anything about it. Tough luck but this sparked the Dbacks to go on and score 3 runs. Herts felt the blow and quickly bounced back to tie the game at 3-3 in the top of the 6th inning. All looked like it was going to extra innings with quick two outs in the bottom of the 7thinning, but Jordan Farkas’ pitch count was rising and he gave up the first and only walk of the game for him, which at the end of the day proved to be costly. Matt Mulvaney, who was already 2-3 in the game, hit a timely line drive for a double in the gap in left-centerfield. The runner was held at 3rd base, but Shawn Benton became the hero with a single up the middle, which neither Robbie Unsell (2B) nor Xavier Gonzalez (SS) could reach. Walk-off single – game over.

This was truly a MLB-type game, with solid pitching, changing strategies by both teams, and with a nail biting finish which unfortunately didn’t go the way the Falcons wanted. “We left too many guys on base and we didn’t give Jordan the run support his pitching deserved” said Falcons manager, Lee Manning, after the game.

Click to view game 1 box scores

Given the disappointment by the Herts players and believing they should have won the first game, they were hungry to respond in the second game. They came out of the dugout with determination and in the top of the first they scored 5 runs. The highlight of this inning was a great 3-run bases-clearing-double by Lee Manning, proving the manager still has the skills to play at the top level. This proved to be enough as Darrin Ward again pitched a solid game, managing the game and his pitching repertoire to keep the Diamondbacks’ bats quiet. It was only in the 3rd inning that the heart of the Dbacks batting order managed to string a few singles together and scored two runs. With 2 outs and a man on first and third, Matt Mulvaney who was 3-4 with that great double in the first game, came up to the plate with the potential tying run. However, Ward won the battle and Matt hit a ground ball to second for a routine 4-3 play. Herts managed to get an insurance run in the 5th and sealed the game with additional 3 runs in the top of the 7th.

Click to view game 2 box scores

Herts Falcons Manager, Lee Manning, felt that the team responded well after the difficult loss in the first game.  He said: “we quickly picked ourselves up and exploded on the ball. Wardy (Darrin Ward) coasted through the game and we never looked back.” Manning added that “It’s always hard to travel to Lakenheath with the extra players they have for their home games. The wind played its part and affected both teams. Losing the way we did in game 1 was hard for the boys to take but we showed spirit to get ahead early in game 2 and stay there.”

Standout Herts players:

Robbie Unsell: 3-5, 1R, 2RBI, 3BB, 3SB, 1K

Darrin Ward: 7IP, 2R, 2ER, 3SO, 3BB

Xavier Gonzales: 3-6, 4R, 2 doubles, 2BB, 1SB