Herts U11s: The Late, Late Breaking News

“Hey, Jones. D wants to see you in his office. Now.”

Jones sighed deeply. This didn’t sound like good news. He trudged across the hallway, and knocked twice on the door. “Yeah,” barked the voice from within.

“You wanted to see me, Chief.” Jones glanced around the familiar room. Piles of newspapers covered the floor, some stacked higher than the filing cabinets that lined the wall. The window shades were drawn; the only light came from the green lamp on the huge mahogany desk. Behind it sat the editor himself: a lean man of vaguely eastern European appearance, hunched over a Remington typewriter. Behind his left ear was a chewed-up pencil.

“Jones – where’s your copy? Late again, huh? What’s the excuse this time – the dog ate it?” The editor stared across the desk. “Well, Boss, I… it’s just that… well, sorry Boss,” stammered Jones.

“Look – this isn’t some two-bit local rag. This is the leading baseball website in the greater Hemel Hempstead area, ya hear me ? We have literally tens of readers from around the world relying on us to bring them breaking stories of under-11 games, and it’s down to you to write them. Now, get outta here and start writing. I want reports on the Richmond trip, and the last two Grovehill gamedays on my desk first thing tomorrow morning. Or you’re fired. Ya want me to call Trautman?”

The Richmond Trip

On Saturday 25th May, a combined Herts under-11 side took on the Essex Redbacks U11 team in a double-header at Richmond. The games were held as part of Richmond Baseball Club’s 20th anniversary celebrations,and involved teams from Herts, London Mets, LYBL and Leicester Blue Sox. The club had set up five diamonds at its field in Ham, and laid on a pork roast too. But far from being lambs to the slaughter, the Herts team brought home the bacon, with a tie in game 1 and a win in game 2.

Despite traffic problems on the M25, we had a good showing of Herts regulars by the first pitch at 10am. In a break with our normal practice, it was agreed that runners could steal bases on wild pitches or passed balls, which would prove a new challenge for our players.

Game 1 started off quietly. Herts were first up, but three quick strike-outs later, we were on the field. Taking the mound, Christian Lynch confidently struck out the Essex side allowing only one run. Herts were again scoreless in the second; in reply, despite two early strikeouts, Essex took full advantage of passed balls to advance around the bases and score three runs. Herts heads drooped a little with the score 4-0 to Essex after two.

In the third, a trio of Zneimers plus Alex Trautman all got on base with a combination of singles and fielding errors, before a Lewis Auchterlounie double and a Noah Haines single brought Herts the maximum five runs for the inning. Christian kept things tight, conceding just one run after combining twice with Joe Gipple to make ground-outs at first. The ballgame was tied 5-5. And there it stayed, after a scoreless fourth inning pitched on the Herts side by Ozan Martin. Joe Gipple was again solid at first base.

At this stage, the Herts U14s were starting on the far diamond, but were a little short-staffed. Christian Lynch, Alex Trautman and Ozan Martin moved across to face the imposing Essex U14 team, while Herts recruited a couple of floating players, Alex Sollecito and Stephen Aboucher. Herts’ starting pitcher for Game 2 was Josh Jones. Some strong Essex hitting saw Herts conceding three runs in the first, replying with one run thanks to a Joe Gipple single.

Josh hit his pitching stride in the second inning, with two strike-outs and a pop fly well taken by catcher Alex Sollecito. Herts picked up another run in the second on fielding errors, keeping the score close at 3-2 to Essex. The Redbacks piled on the runs in the third, with some confident hitting before Josh despatched three Essex batters in ten pitches.

7-2 down, Herts fought their way back into the game, batting through the order to record a five-run maximum, including singles from Joe Gipple, Alex Jones, Josh Jones and Stephen Aboucher.

Stephen took over pitching duties and duly struck out one batter and partnered with Josh Jones, now at first base, for a couple of 1-3 groundouts. More solid Herts batting brought two more runs at the bottom of the 4th, with singles from Noah Haines, Alex Jones and our two guest players. Essex were unable to score in the top of the 5th, and that was the ballgame, with Herts winning 9-7.

The day’s work done, your correspondent headed over to watch the under-14 game, about which an excellent (and timely) write-up was filed by Jennie Lynch.

Gameday: 1st June 2013

After an extended training session, the Dodgers and Giants met for game 4 in the series. The Giants went into the game with a 2-1 lead, although with both Durer brothers and Ben Jupp missing this week, were somewhat under-strength. But we were delighted to welcome Caitlin Rainford and James Dullea to the Giants line-up.

Josh Jones pitched again for the Giants, following a successful outing in Richmond. The Dodgers worked a run thanks to singles from Thomas Garton, before Josh caught a flyball and struck out the next batter to end the inning. With Alex Trautman pitching for the Dodgers, the Giants also earned one run, as Josh hit an RBI single to bring home Christian Lynch.

The second inning continued in a similar vein. The Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs, but Joe Gipple could only drive the ball to Josh on the mound, who threw to Christian Lynch for a regulation tag on Leo Zneimer at home plate. The Giants then took a 2-1 lead at the bottom of the 2nd, as Lily Zneimer rounded third and reached home on a fumble by the catcher.

The Giants now secured three quick outs in the third, but were two down themselves when Josh Jones came to the plate. He clubbed a majestic solo home run clear over the right field fence, the second home run in this series.

The Dodgers were now 3-1 down after three innings, and Christian Lynch now took over pitching. However, the Giants failed to press home their advantage, and a few fielding errors later, the Dodgers had closed the gap, as both Leo Zneimer and Noah Haines reached home plate. Pitching for the Dodgers, Ozan Martin was clinical, taking just eleven pitches to account for three Giants batters.

Neither team could find a run in the fifth and last inning, so the game was called a tie. This was as close as we get in U11 to a classic pitchers’ duel: 11 hits, and a 3-3 scoreline.

Gameday: 8th June 2013

This was the first double-header of the year between the Dodgers and Giants. The Giants went into the day leading 2½ to 1½.

It was a cold, early Saturday morning, and we were missing a few regulars, so we started with coaches pitching and Ben Jones making a guest appearance as catcher.

The first inning was scoreless on both sides. A somewhat messy second inning from the Dodgers’ fielders saw the Giants score twice, before Lucas Lebrato closed things out, tagging Sebastian Bohn at third base. The Dodgers chalked up a run after singles from Joe Gipple and Alex Trautman. Alex nearly made it two, but was tagged at home. 2-1 Giants after two innings.

The Giants left two on base in the top of the third, but couldn’t score. The Dodgers, though, moved nearly all their batters around the bases, including singles from Alex Trautman, Jonathan Wakelam and Thomas Garton, before Lucas Lebrato stepped up to pound the ball to the fence. Lucas gets credit for an inside-the-park home run and three RBIs, although only two were needed to reach the five-run maximum. 6-2 to the Dodgers.

But the Giants have shown this season that they don’t know when they’re beaten. In the next inning, they hit ten singles, went more than twice through the batting order and scored 12 runs to leave the Dodgers reeling.  Shell-shocked, the Dodgers crumbled in the bottom of the final inning, adding no runs to limp away with a 14-6 loss and conceding a two-run deficit in the series.

After a short lunch break, we played the second game. After one inning, the Giants had a one-run lead; the Dodgers levelled at the top of the second as Lucas Lebrato singled, then took advantage of a fielding error at short stop to run home.

It looked bleak for the Dodgers, when the Giants piled on the runs at the bottom of the second. Singles from Sebastian Bohn (2), Ben Jupp, James Dullea, Christian Lynch and Alex Jones brought the maximum five runs and left the Giants 6-1 up.

But the Dodgers were up to the challenge. Singles from Joe Gipple and Lucas Lebrato, and a double from Josh Jones generated five runs to level the score.

Back came the Giants in the bottom of the third, to add another four, as most of the lineup contributed a base hit. The Giants were back in front, with a 10-6 lead.

The Dodgers weren’t finished this time, though. Lucas Lebrato continued his sparkling form with the bat, with a 2-RBI triple, and Joe Gipple doubled, amidst a string of singles which produced seven runs and gave the Dodgers a 13-10 lead. Could the Giants produce one more turn-around in this up-and-down game ?

Not this time. With two men on base, a ground-out from Alex Trautman at 2B to Josh Jones at 1B closed it out, and brought the Giants back to a one game deficit. The series stands 3½ to 2½.

It remains a puzzle why we saw so few runs the previous week and so many this week. Perhaps our batting improved dramatically in the space of a few days. Or maybe it’s that our U11 pitchers are more fearsome than our Head Coach. Only time will tell.