by Cristobal Hiche
If baseball was decided on paper, the Toronto Blue Jays should be on top of the AL East rather than in last place. Similarly, every Herts fan (and Falcons players too) could have thought the Falcons (20-4) would just get two easy wins against South London Pirates (7-17). However Falcons players knew quite well that a loss would mean losing 1st place and possibly having to play quarter-finals playoff games. This meant for those die-hard fans who went all the way to South London to watch the games, they got to see the ‘Blitzkrieg’ offensive style in the first game and a rare gem in the second game.
The first game started with some Bingo Bango, with Falcons scoring 4 runs in the top of the first inning. This was partially helped by various errors by the Pirates defence. The relentless Herts offence continued with runs scored in each inning and by the top of the 4th it was already 12-0 thanks to another great day with the bat for Ryan Bird (3-4, 4RBI), Xavi Gonzalez (2-4, 4R, 3RBI), Carlos Velazco-Carus (2-3, 2RBI) and John Blose (3-3, 1RBI). As usual, Robbie Unsell was pitching a solid game but in the bottom of the 4th he got himself in a bit of trouble and with men on 1st and 2nd, allowed a base-clearing double by Aaron Rowlands to make the score 12-2. Herts Falcons scored another run in the top of the 5th and closed the door on the Pirates’ batters to win it on the mercy-rule with the final score 13-2.
The second game started the same way with 2 runs scored by the Falcons in the top of the 1st. Now I could continue to describe about the good offensive performances of Ryan Bird (3-5, 3RBI), Xavi Gonzalez (3-5, 2RBI), Cris Hiche (2-3) Darrin Ward (2-3) or any of the other players that hit well this afternoon. However, the story of the day is the gem thrown by Ryan Bird in his 1st start of the season. Ryan Bird threw a complete, no-hitter, shutout game which is probably one of the finest performances in the recent history of the NBL. Not only that, but he did that by striking out 15 batters (71% of all the outs) and only walking two batters in the entire game. Maybe it was the very unusual all-lefty battery (Ryan pitching and Cris Hiche catching), or the Bingo Bango written in a player’s forearm, that confused and maybe intimidated the Pirates’ lineup. But I think most likely it was the great command of Ryan’s fastball and his ability to constantly and accurately hit the corners of the plate.
With these two wins Falcons stay in 1st place and are one step closer to finishing 1st in the regular season, which would be a great achievement in itself for this team. Falcons Manager, Lee Manning, summarised the day by saying: “We played two great games. It was important not to take Pirates for granted and all the players showed that. Everybody gave 100% and hit well”. He had special words for the pitchers: “Robbie pitched very well as usual but Ryan stole the spotlight by throwing an amazing no-hitter shutout. This gives us the confidence of having great depth for the finals and that Ryan can pitch at least 6-7 solid innings”. He would not comment if Ryan has won a starting spot for the playoffs, but quipped that this is bad news for all the other teams.
The die-hard Falcons fans left the ballpark happy seeing such unique performance and that their long trip was worthwhile. It’s possible that history might be re-written once again this Sunday when Falcons face Redbacks for the season finale at home. Therefore I really encourage everyone to come this Sunday to Grovehill, enjoy the sunny day, get a tan, and of course watch some exciting Bingo Bango baseball.