We are in the month of May and the title race is rarely decided so early in the baseball season, but with the teams so tightly packed in the standings every game is a must win for every team. A loss could be the difference between an automatic NBC spot and the playoffs or missing out on the postseason altogether.
The top game this weekend is the NBL clash between the third-placed Herts Falcons (6-4) and the Southampton Mustangs (7-3) who are a game ahead in second place.
The Mustangs will be travelling to Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead after a defeat against the league-leading London Mets which ended their impressive 6-game winning streak. Despite this they will be in a confident mood as one of the major forces in the NBL this season. Their roster includes Gary Davison who leads the NBL in homeruns (3) and RBIs (14). Davison broke Falcons’ hearts in 2006 pitching a complete game win in extra innings as a player of Burgess Hill to relegate the team from Herts from the AAA down to the AA league. Southampton also brings a lot of speed on the bases with the leader in stolen bases Victor Aizpura (23). The Falcons will face their new signing Czech pitcher, Tomas Zondra, for the first time. He pitched 8 epic innings against the London Mets last Sunday but was unfortunate to end up as the losing pitcher in a classic 1-0 game. Sunday’s game will also see the return of legendary Herts slugger, Kimiyoshi Saionji, who changed the Falcons jersey for that of the Mustangs in the second week of the season.
The Falcons go into the game with some injury concerns. Arguably the best middle infield duo in British baseball of Robbie Unsell and Xavier Gonzalez sustained injuries last Sunday in the game against the Essex Arrows. It is uncertain whether or not they will be able to recover in time for Sunday’s titanic clash. It will all be decided in their last-minute fitness tests. Ace pitcher, Jordan Farkas, has also been unable to pitch over the last few weeks, so he is also a doubt. If they cannot regain 100% fitness, others on the Herts roster will have to step up and keep the club’s title hopes alive. Several players from Herts Ravens – the club’s AAA-affiliate – are on standby and could make an appearance.
The photos of Farnham Park published this week have injected extra excitement in the British baseball community as the brand new purpose-built facility will host its first ever NBL postseason final this September. Herts Falcons Manager, Lee Manning, already stated the team’s goal to get there and try to win the NBL title. If they are to achieve this they will need strong support from their fans in home games like this Sunday’s doubleheader, especially in weeks when the roster is decimated with injuries. It will certainly be good to see the Falcons back at home after a 7-week road trip. First pitch is at 12pm.
CAN EAGLES EXTEND WINNING STREAK
Before the start of the season no one would have believed that the Eagles (2-2) could go top of the Single-A table this Sunday, but that’s exactly what will happen if they manage to overcome the visiting Milton Keynes Coyotes (3-1). The two teams met on Opening Day. The Coyotes came out on top on that occasion but there is a new sense of optimism among the Eagles who will be looking to make it 3 wins in 3 games. Duncan Hoyle’s players will have home-field advantage (first pitch 12pm).
At the same time in Finsbury Park the Herts Raptors (2-2) will be looking to restart their season. After two wins in their opening two games, the Raptors’ campaign has stuttered with two losses in the last two games. Both of these games were lost by the smallest of run-differences, but that will not make the losses easier to swallow. They will face the London Marauders (3-1) who top their Single-A Pool.
HERTS YOUNGSTERS HEAD SOUTH TO RICHMOND
While the Herts U17 players take part in the promotional event in St Albans and others join up with the Great Britain U16 National Team, the club’s U14 and U11 teams will be making the trip down to Richmond for a very special event bringing together some of the best youth teams in those age groups from around London. The hosts have put a great deal of effort to make this a very special event. Apart from the baseball, those who take part can look forward to the gourmet BBQ and pig roast, pastries and more. A great way to start the Bank Holiday weekend.