Ravens prevail in a fiery encounter

Liam Green had to perform under pressure in extra innings and he didn't disappoint (photo by Will Baxter)

The Herts Ravens have had a difficult time so far in their debut season in the AAA-League, but this weekend they secured two morale-boosting wins against the Leones de Feltham to put their season back on track. There was danger that the final innings of a thrilling second game in this doubleheader would be overshadowed by non-baseball events, but now that the dust has settled everyone who was at the game will begin to appreciate the exciting game which they witnessed.

AAA League (Game 1): Herts Ravens 16 Leones de Feltham 4 (click to view box scores)

The Ravens welcomed back starting pitcher, Petar Kikel, for his first league appearance of 2013. This was exactly the boost they needed. He gave the team 6 impressive innings allowing only 1 earned run on 4 hits and striking out 5. The team had put the nightmare 3-for-41 batting performance 7 days earlier at Finsbury Park behind them and produced 10 hits which included at least 1 hit from each of the batting spots from 1 to 9. Ben Marques also managed to steal home, although it wasn’t clear whether this play was put on by manager, Carlos Casal, and whether his team mate who was up at bat knew about it. The Leones didn’t help themselves walking 11 batters and this deadly combination of hits and walks produced 16 runs and a final score of 16-4 in 6 innings.

AAA League (Game 2): Herts Ravens 10 Leones de Feltham 9 (F/8) (click to view box scores)

The second game proved to be a much closer encounter. Tom Everex-Armstrong had an effective performance on the mound. He was relieved by Matt Spaulding who played his first game of the 2013 season did not allow any earned runs, striking out 5 over 3 2/3 innings.

The Ravens had a big third inning putting 5 runs on the scoreboard with a big hit from Gilberto Medina (2-2), and a 1-run double by Petar Kikel. Jon Lewys also had a good day batting 4-for-8 over the two games. Feltham responded with 4 runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game and then scored 2 more in the fourth to take an 8-6 lead.

The Ravens found it much more difficult to connect solidly against Feltham’s pitcher, Jeffry, in this game. He was mixing his curveball well with a good fastball, but the biggest hurdle which batters from both teams had to battle with all day was the inconsistent strike zone. Pitches at eye level were called strikes and at times batters felt helpless. The frustration was growing on both sides. The umpire didn’t help himself by allowing players to question decision of strikes and balls, safe or out, foul or fair, balk or no balk. Sometimes these discussions between players, managers and umpire involved 10 or more people and resembled a session to approve a United Nations resolution. A doubleheader would usually end at around 5pm. On this occasion the time was 7pm and the game was reaching an exciting climax.

The Ravens pulled one run back in the sixth but were facing defeat trailing 8-7 in the final inning. A lead-off single by Mike Cattermole was exactly what they needed. He moved to second after the next batter was walked and managed to get to third on a wild pitch. Up stepped player-manager, Carlos Casal, to pinch-hit carrying a knee injury. He grounded into a fielder’s choice but crucially brought Cattermole home to tie the game. Despite his injury Casal’s enthusiasm on the base paths could not be contained. He stole second base and then limped another 90 feet to advance to third (with 1 out) on the overthrow, visibly in pain willing to wreck his knee ligaments for the cause. Ultimately he was stranded on third base as the next two batters struck out after some very controversial umpiring calls.

Herts brought Liam Green to pitch in the bottom of the inning with the game on the line and no room for error. The leadoff batter for Feltham, Miguel, appeared to lose his cool on a slightly wild pitch from Liam Green and he stepped towards the mound accusing the pitcher of throwing to hit the batter intentionally. During that exchange there was fear that the game will not be able to restart as the tension had risen considerably. It took several minutes for the situation to calm down. The game resumed and Green managed to strike out the batter and calmly went on to induce two more quick outs and take the game into extra innings.

In the top of the eighth inning the Ravens somehow managed to manufacture two runs on two walks and two errors, without a hit. Leones responded in the bottom of the inning scoring a run and putting the tying run on second base but Liam kept his composure to secure the game, helped along the way by Jake Caress who made a spectacular diving catch in centerfield with the game on the line.

Despite the unpleasant incident in the final inning, the two teams shook hands at the end of the game and showed a great deal of appreciation and respect towards each other wanting to put the confrontation behind after what was a very exciting game of baseball.