Herts Falcons extend winning streak to stay top of the League

Xavier Gonzalez was in the zone on Sunday hitting two homeruns for the Herts Falcons in their wins against the Bracknell Blazers (photo by Richard Lee richardleephotography.org)

written by Randy Brenzen for britishbaseball.org

The Herts Falcons extended their winning streak to 13 games in the BBF’s National Baseball League on Sunday 7 June with a doubleheader sweep over the Bracknell Blazers at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead.

NBL (Game 1): Herts 8 Bracknell 3 (click to view box scores)

Robbie Unsell’s two-run single, followed by Xavier Gonzalez’s two-run home run, both in the bottom of the sixth inning, propelled the Herts Falcons to an 8-3 victory over a tough Bracknell Blazers squad in Game One.

Crafty veteran Darrin Ward took to the mound for the Falcons in search of his third win of the season but instead found himself in a bit of a pitcher’s duel with Blazers’ youngster Jordan Edmonds. Both Ward and Edmonds lasted 5.1 innings but did not factor in the result.

Ward struck out two and allowed six hits, three runs (two earned) and two walks while Edmonds surrendered four earned runs on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts. Both then gave way to the bullpen.

Ryan Bird replaced Ward for the Falcons and held down the fort en route to his second relief win of the season. Henry Collins took over for Edmonds but was shelled by the Falcons offense. Collins gave up four runs (all earned) on three hits and a walk in just two-thirds of an inning for his third loss of the season, but his first from a relief appearance.

Xavier Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with three RBIs and a stolen base to lead the Falcons’ offense while Robbie Unsell also had a good game, going 2-for-3 for a double and two RBIs in the win.

Blazers’ starting pitcher Jordan Edmonds had the best game at the plate for Bracknell, going 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a walk in the loss.

NBL (Game 2):  Herts 15 Bracknell 1 (click to view box scores)

The Falcons put their hitting trousers on for Game Two and exploded for 13 hits in a mercy rule-shortened 15-1 victory over the Blazers.

It was a start that Camrin Opp, fresh off a win in his NBL debut last weekend, will hope never happens again in his career. The rookie southpaw got rocked by the Falcons’ bats, surrendering 14 earned runs on nine hits and five walks while striking out three batters in just two innings of work.

Brendan Hassan then took over for Opp and did well in relief. Hassan allowed just three hits and one run while walking one and striking out two in his two innings of duty.

For Herts, Robbie Unsell allowed just two hits, a Camrin Opp single and a Fraser Duggan double, over three innings before letting Jordan Farkas get some work in on the mound for the final two innings. Unsell was his usual spectacular self, giving up just those two hits while walking one and striking out five. Farkas, meanwhile, surrendered one run on three walks in his two innings of mop-up duty. He also struck out one Blazers batter.

The dominant Falcons offense was once again led by Xavier Gonzalez. The talented Venezuelan went 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored while Cristobal Hiche (3-for-3, double, walk, one RBI) once again reached base safely in every at-bat. Other men to pick up RBIs for Herts were Lee Manning (1-for-2, two RBIs), Michael Osborn (2-for-3, three RBIs) and Ryan Bird (1-for-3, two RBIs).

Game Two might not have provided much positive feedback for Blazers Head Coach Colin Whitton, but he did mention that there were things to build on from Game One.

“We played some great ball in Game One,” said Whitton. ”Jordan Edmonds had great control on the mound. Unfortunately, silly errors at key points gave Herts the opportunity to put runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth.”

On the other side of the diamond, Herts Manager Lee Manning was quick to give praise to the opposition. “Bracknell played well and the scores don’t reflect the games played,” he said. “Again, our pitching was amazing and timely hitting in Game One gave us the win. Every Falcon has improved as the season has gone along and they’ve all contributed to the bingo-bango style that we play.”

The next action for the league-leading Herts Falcons (18-4) will be Sunday 21 July when they welcome the visiting Lakenheath Diamondbacks (9-11) to Grovehill Ballpark. Meanwhile, the Bracknell Blazers (11-11) will go from the frying pan into the fire. Their next action will be Sunday 4 August when they visit the third place Southampton Mustangs (17-5) at Mustangs Field.