American reinforcements lead Blackjacks to a nail-biting win over the Eagles

BBF A-League, Herts Eagles 7 Haverhill Blackjacks 8

report by Duncan Hoyle


Herts Eagles made the long trip over into Suffolk to take part in the first meeting between a Herts team and the newly fromed Haverhill Blackjacks.

After losing their first two games of the season, Haverhill had stormed back into play off contention by winning 3 games in a row in impressive fashion to sit top of pool B, and despite showing substantial improvement themselves since the seasons start the Eagles knew they would be in for a tough afternoon.

Haverhill have signed some impressive players from the nearby US Air bases, and it was American Jerred Estenson on the mound for the home team, up against the returning Tony McDowell for the Eagles.

And as the game developed, defence and pitching dominated. Estenson was as quick as anything your likely to see at single A, with the Eagles struggling to hit his rapid fastballs. However he didnt always have the best control, Michael Cresswell had a painful introduction to the game taking a fastball straight onto his arm, and Estenson also issued several walks, meaning the Eagles were able to get onto base.

However the problem the Eagles then faced was trying to steal. Usually a gimme stealing 1st to 2nd at single A, it became obvious after Cresswell was caught stealing by what seemed an eternity on the arm of catcher Matt Schellhaas that this wouldnt be an option. Schellhaas’s arm would seem more at home in the National League rather than single A and after a quick first inning the Eagles had to regroup.

With the impressive Tony McDowell on the mound, the Eagles were able to put the Blackjacks batters under pressure, and despite conceding 3 in the first inning, they werent allowed to get away. The score was 8 – 3 to the Blackjacks at the end of the 4th. Rory Hutchinson and new boy Charlie Day both managing to take impressive confidence boosting hits of Estenson to begin the Eagles fightback

The Eagles kept on chipping away at the lead. 3 runs were scored in the 6th to narrow the lead to 2 and with Estenson having now left the action it was Ryan Pflugh who came into relief for the Blackjacks. Despite being no where near as fast as Estenson, the Eagles found Pflugh just as troublesome to hit with a wicked deceptive change up that caused no end of problems. Manager Duncan Hoyle managed to get a hit and got into score his 3rd run of the day in the 7th to narrow the lead to one, and with McDowell’s combination of fast and curve balls now well on top of the Blackjacks batters the game was all to play for.

Unfortunatly for the Eagles that was to be the end of the days scoring. Getting batters on base was hard in the remaining innings and despite Cresswell managing to get round to 2nd in top of the 9th the Eagles couldnt get him in to score. Pflugh kept his cool to close the game for the Blackjacks to ensure their 4th successive win in what was a uncharacteristically short Single A game which lasted just over 2 and a quater hours.