written by Ken Pike
Herts hosted Leicester 2Sox at Grovehill to mark the half way point of the season in a rematch of the opening day game which saw the Raptors walk away with a cricket score win on the longest road trip to start the season. With the home side having seen strong early results undone by a pair of embarrassing defeats, coach Arnie Longboy was not about to let his team take things easy. He insisted on the same clinical professionalism that had dispatched the powerful Marauders and solid Redbacks III in the last two games to bring the season back on track powering the young side to the top of the standings. Furthermore, while the 2Sox had been an easy win the last time round, they had also proven capable of upsets beating the Blackjacks and taking several other games to the wire.
Nerves were settled quickly though when the first inning went strongly in the home team’s favour as they demonstrated a solid defence while new pitcher Matt Kiddie’s powerful arm took some time to knock off layer of rust developed from four years away from the game. Despite walking several players, only 1 scored before the offense got to flex the muscles that have produced the most runs of any team in the single A. They started up where they had left off six games earlier and drove in 10 runners, drawing out an early lead that would never be threatened.
The second innings went briefly in Leicester’s favour as they pulled back two and briefly held the Raptors in check before normal service resumed. On the mound the Raptors starter got his groove back and started to overpower the Leicester side allowing no runs in the next two innings while the home side continued to punish the visitors with 13 Raptors making it round the bags to draw out a 20 run lead.
Having seen well over 100 pitches in his first game back Kiddie conceded another 2 runs in the fifth before giving way to young reliever Charlie Mayhew in the sixth. Having pitched for the youth teams the day before Charlie’s slower delivery proved little more fruitful for the away teams offense who only managed another 2 runs in the sixth, but the end result was still not in doubt as the Raptors had 33 points on the board by the end of the inning. Closer Sony Lama’s first appearance in a competitive game came with a comfortable margin of 15 runs before the mercy rule was even overcome. Despite some wild pitches for the rookie pitcher, and a solitary homerun giving minimal solace to Leicester, the rest of the team did their part with a solid defensive display and the pitcher helped himself by snagging a line drive straight at his face and fielding it to take out a runner. While 3 runs scored the damage was nowhere near sufficient and the mercy rule closed out a short but sweet 3.5 hour game to a decisive close.
“I insist that the guys bring their A game to every inning in every game, and I am proud that they showed real professionalism out there today playing with clinical precision,” said coach Arnie Longboy who made the game winning out with a short throw from second to first. “We keep generating runs thanks mostly to speed and great base running, but as the saying goes ‘defence wins championships.’ That was demonstrated when we lost to the Eagles and Coyotes despite scoring heavily, but now that our young stars are coming to the end of exams our pitching rotation should be complete again which will be a big boost. The big boost today was bringing three new players to the mound for the very first time. We also seem to have cut out most of the errors that troubled us earlier this season and adding that improved defensive aspect to our awesome batting and another 20 stolen bases means we are definitely progressing in the right direction.”
The final result of 10-33 in favour of the Herts Raptors keeps them in joint first with the Coyotes in Pool A, an ominous position considering they achieved that largely in the absence of clear starting pitchers who return to the side over the next few weeks as GCSEs end. Across the league they are also matched by London Marauders in Pool C, and potentially the Blackjacks in Pool B if they win their game in hand. The Raptors team face their sister team the Eagles next where they will look to avenge the loss earlier this year before they host the Blackjacks (June 23) and Coyotes (July 7) in quick succession. Those three games could be decisive in determining the look of the playoffs, with the remaining opposition’s records at a combined 10 wins to 11 losses at the midway point.