The Herts Ravens roster is gradually returning to full strength and they are starting to see the results. They went into Sunday’s clash with the Bristol badgers with a 0-4 record and they needed a win.
AAA League: Bristol Badgers 2 Herts Ravens 4 (click to view box scores)
Returning to the starting lineup were Jake Caress, Jon Lewys, Louis Hare, Matt Johnston and Vassil Botev. Louis Hare started on the mound and controlled the game from the first pitch locating the corners consistently. The Badgers were unable to get any runs on the board in the first 4 innings.
In the bottom of the second inning Ravens player-manager, Carlos Casal, hit a laser down the left field foul line to bring Jon Lewys home and give his team a 1-0 lead. Usually a hit like this is a sure double for Casal and he may even try to take third base, but he had to stop at first as he picked up a knee injury during a relay drill in the pre-game warm-up. He managed to play the whole of this first game, but sat out in the second game. He has been placed on the disabled list awaiting news of a MRI scan next week.
Herts extended the lead with 2 more runs in the bottom of the fourth after a single by Matt Johnston, a walk for Casal and a rare defensive error in a game which saw only 2 errors by Bristol and 1 by Herts.
The Badgers put together a big rally in the top of the fifth with 4 hits but even then the Ravens managed to restrict them to only 2 runs in that inning getting a key out in a close play at home. This was the first out of the inning and perhaps the Bristol third base coach was a little too eager to get on the scoreboard or perhaps they made the decision knowing that Herts pitcher Louis Hare had not allowed any runs in the previous 4 innings and felt that this is a rare opportunity to take a risk and force a run in.
The score was 3-2 and it seemed like the game was going to slip away from the Ravens. Up stepped Louis Hare in the bottom of the fifth with two outs to hit his second double of the day deep into right centerfield. Gilberto Medina followed up with a single to bring Hare home, giving his team a little more breathing space with the score at 4-2, but there was still a lot of work to be done as the surging Badgers had two more innings to try to come back into the game.
Louis Hare continued his outstanding pitching performance and produced two perfect innings retiring 6 consecutive batters to complete the game and secure the first win in the history of the Herts Ravens. The game ended very fittingly with Louis Hare making an amazing diving play against the dugout on the first base side of the field to grab a foul ball. The play has already been nominated for the Play of the Year Award and it would take something very special to beat it. Seth Lipstock did make a claim of his own in that same inning with a leaping catch at first base after a laser line drive, but the votes are likely to sway in Louis Hare’s favour as his catch seemed impossible to make.
AAA League: Bristol Badgers 11 Herts Ravens 2 (click to view box scores)
In game two it was the turn of Bristol’s pitcher Peralta to put on a show. He pitched a complete game allowing only 1 earned run on 3 hits and, similar to Louis Hare, did not allow any walks. Liam Green was back on the mound for Herts after recovering from a shoulder injury. Just seeing him back throwing is very positive news for the Ravens for the remainder of the season although he and the coaching staff would have to be careful until he builds up strength again and returns to 100% fitness. In view of his recovery Coach Carlos Casal made the right decision to use him sparingly and to substitute him after 3 innings of work.
Seth Lipstock came in to pitch for what was his first appearance on the mound, ever. The coaching staff had started discussing the idea of trying Lipstock on the mound earlier in the week as he has one of the strongest arms in the club even including the Herts NBL players. It took him 2 or 3 batters to get comfortable with the strike zone, but after that he did tremendously well pitching the remaining 4 innings against a hard-hitting Bristol team. He even managed to add an offspeed pitch in the later innings to accompany his good fastball. This is another positive news for the Ravens adding an extra player to the pitching staff as the season heats up.
Bristol won game two deservedly with a score of 11-2, but for the Ravens there were many positives to take from this doubleheader with more players like Kyle Lloyd-Jones, Mike Cattermole, Nic Goetz and Rod Naghar expected to make their come back shortly.