Match report by Ben Marques
The Herts Hawks were absolutely chomping at the bit to begin their season, but with rain pouring down on Friday and again on Saturday, these hopes were looking in doubt. However, the baseball gods were looking down at Grovehill early on Sunday morning, as the sun beat down, drying out the boggy parts of the Old Diamond.
The game started off with the Mammoths scoring two runs on three hits, setting the pace for what was set to be a tight game. The bottom of the first also went the way of London, striking out the side.
The top of the second looked like the momentum was swinging back in favour of the Hawks, the only blip being a throwing error charged to second baseman Ben Marques, after he attacked a slow roller, picking up but throwing wide of Greg Bochan at first base. The error meant nothing, as Marques completed a 4-3 put out on the next play, and starting pitcher Nick Russell rung up the following hitter.
The Hawks’ momentum continued into the bottom of the inning with the Herts side getting one hit and two walks. However, a lapse in concentration cost them two base runners, with the third out being Callum Vangundy going down swinging.
The fourth inning contained eight runs, with a 4-4 split. Herts’ runs came from what looked like a sure fire triple from OF/C Paul Auchterlounie, however, the hole in the fence restricted him to a Ground Rule Double. Jose Morillo Jr. came in for Vangundy and singled, moving the runner over. Both Morillo and Auchterlounie scored on an error, which left Hunter Devine on second.
Bobby Gould earned a walk, which looked like a good rally starting to build for the Hawks. But Ross Asquith was out on an infield fly, and Bochan swiftly grounded out. Ilya Dimitrov (1-4, 1R, 2RBI) came to the plate with two outs, and came through with a two-out, 2-run single.
The Hawks couldn’t build on this momentum as Russell grounded out ending the inning, with the Hawks two runs behind, 7-5. The Mammoths then put six runs on three hits with four errors, one LOB in the fifth, shutting the Hawks out in reply.
After five innings, Nick Russell was finished pitching for the day. Hertsbaseball.com asked Nick how he felt after a long off-season:
“I felt a bit rusty and started aching after only a few innings.”
“Were you confident with AA rookies supporting you on the mound?”
“I wasn’t sure about the new Hawks, as I hadn’t seen them play before. The jump from A to AA will be tough on some players but with a bit more training and game time I’m sure they will be picking up their game. The new guys showed a lot of enthusiasm which helped us rally back and score a few runs.”
Greg Bochan came in to relieve for Russell, who had pitched better than his line score suggested: 5IP; 12H; 13R; 5ER; 2BB; 3K, and immediately made a statement, earning four outs in seven pitches. His AA rookies Marques and Devine both made great plays in support of their manager, Marques a 4-3 put out and Devine making a great backhanded snare L6.
Russell and John Kjorstad made the other two outs in centre-field and right field. After that though, London kept putting bat on ball and finding gaps, going 8-8, 1K and an F8.
The bottom of the 7th inning meant the Hawks needed seven runs to avoid a mercy rule defeat. Nick Russell (1-4, 1R) led off, and set the rally going, with Marques then reaching on an error after laying down a bunt down the third base line. Russell advanced to third.
Auchterlounie stepped up to the plate, and reached on an error, plating Russell (he ended his day 2-3 with 2R). Marques had stolen second, and advanced to third on the error, but as he rounded third, the ball was still a fair way out. He went for it, and a huge collision at home plate followed from a great throw. Marques was called out, and time was taken for the catcher to recover, who to his credit still had the ball in his mitt. This summed up Marques’ day at the plate, who struggled going 0-4, 1SB, 2Ks.
With one out, Jose Morillo Jr. popped up for the second out, leaving a huge task for the team, particularly Devine who reached on an error and later scored along with Auchterlounie from a 2-run single by Bobby Gould (1-2, 1R, 2RBI). This brought Ross Asquith (1-4) to the plate who, although still showing speed, was unable to beat out the throw, and grounded out, ending Herts’ hopes of an
Opening Day win.
After a 21-8 loss, it might be fair to say that the Hawks have yet to hit their stride offensively. On a warm but windy afternoon, the Hawks ended up scoring eight runs on seven hits, striking out six times. The Hawks also struggled with runners in scoring position, going 4-11).
“I think everybody is trying to get to where we want to be,” Ben Marques said. “Everybody is battling, we’ve had bad weather and limited training sessions, both inside and outside. A new group of players stepping up to AA: myself, John, Hunter and Jose Jr. As well as losing some great players like Nic Goetz and Rod Naghar…It has been a combination of things, but I don’t think anybody is concerned about our offense just yet, not after Game 1. I’m not. It’s a long grind.”
However, the Herts fielding was better than the line score suggested with Gold Glove performances from rookies Marques, Devine and Kjorstad, as well as Russell and Auchterlounie. All five had outstanding days in the field letting nothing past, with Marques the busiest at second base with a left-handed heavy lineup (1 tag, 6 put-outs).
After the game, we asked Hawks manager, Greg Bochan, for his assessment of the performance:
Next time around we need better organization. There were a lot of missed cuts from the outfield and a general sense of players not knowing where to be.
“Although the Hawks lost, what positives can the team take from the game?”
Stand out moments would be our middle infield. Ben made a bunch of great plays and Hunter made that
awesome grab at short.
“Finally, what are you looking for from your team next time around?”
Next time around I am looking forward to a little more attention to detail. A little more baseball smarts. I think that will have to start with pre-game infield/outfield.