London Marauders 42-14 Herts Eagles, Sunday 7th July
The powerful London Marauders brought their 6-2 record to Grovehill on the hottest day of the year so far, looking to maintain their challenge for a playoff spot. The Herts Eagles stood in their way, trying to fight back towards .500 and continue their learning curve.
It’s hard to ignore the weather for this clash, as an early morning start and the punishing heat all played a part. But nobody was complaining that the British baseball season had been kissed by the sun at last.
The early exchanges were fairly even. Ben Marques continued his varied season for Herts by making his pitching debut. His two-seam fastball was effective, but finding consistency in the zone was harder.
However, Marques and his defense limited the Marauders to just three runs in the first. The Eagles’ lead-off man, catcher Hunter Devine, then got on base, promising a quick response. He was stranded at third thanks to solid work by the visitors. 3-0 after the first.
Then the Marauders broke out big-time, plating 11 runs with Adam Landau-Smithers scoring the only Herts reply. Three more runs and London were threatening to make it a massacre.
But the Eagles responded impressively in the bottom of the third inning. They rallied to score nine runs before making an out. The London pitcher Sam Melton, who had been solid and crafty up to this point, tired in the heat, giving up three walks in a row at one point.
There were two hits for the Eagles manager Duncan Hoyle, one for new recruit Rob Gibson, and a second hit of the day for Jamie Lang. The comeback was finally snuffed out when Hunter Devine was doubled off at third by an alert fielder.
Sadly for the Eagles, they were not able to build on the momentum they had created. John Peters came in as relief on the mound, and pounded the strike zone with impressively fast fastballs.
There had been just one strikeout in first three innings, but there were another six in the final four innings. DH Adrian Smithers and Tomasz Kosak were among the only players who could get a bat on the ball.
Having been hauled back into range at 17-10, the Marauders then piled on another eight runs by the bottom of the fourth, and 11 more in the fifth. Their offense was as unforgiving as the Hemel Hempstead heatwave. Rob Jones pitched a scoreless seventh for the Eagles, but it was a mere consolation prize.
London ran out 42-14 victors and are two games ahead of the Mavericks in their pool. There was no shame for the Eagles in defeat to a strong side which looks set for the playoffs.
There must be special mention for Devine, who caught the full game of some four and a half hours without passing out from the heat. Will Belbin also played the full game, securing two hits and a run, and Rob Gibson made a dramatic outfield catch — even sliding into the fence — to end an inning.
No matter the result, there are good points for the Eagles to carry with them. And the game was played in an excellent spirit, with sunshades and cold drinks very much the order of the day once it was over.