On an eventually sunny Sunday in August, the Herts Hawks travelled to exotic Enfield to face the Sidewinders in the first round of this season’s AA league playoffs. Both sides were enthused with the prospect of eventually playing at the new venue of Farnham Park in the finals, and the preparation reflected the occasion. The setting was made perfect when two of the best umpires in the British Baseball League, Darrin Muller and Geoff Hare, reported for duty to officiate the game.
The Hawks were facing a tough challenge, with their ace Nick Russell (0.83 ERA ranked 2nd in the League), the middle reliever Andrew Slater, and their sluggers Andy Cornish and Tim Elkins all missing, but they all had more than able replacements. However, they were met with a hard-slugging Sidewinders side and, to top it off, with the masterful pitching of Tadaaki Sakurai, who appeared in control on the mound throughout, with able support from the Sidewinders fielders.
The Hawks took some time to start reading Sakurai’s pitches, while the Sidewinders were swinging hard for starting pitcher Greg Bochan’s stuff. Due to his high degree of accuracy, some luck (and we believe, supporting wind, close fences and a number of other intangibles), by the fifth inning the Sidewinders had piled in a number of hits, including four home runs. Two of the home runs were hit by Toshio Watanabe. During his home run trots it became obvious that he was carrying a serious knee injury and his trot was more of a hobble which took 2 minutes to complete. We understand that after that second home run the Hawks coaching staff were considering walking him intentionally in his next at bat in an effort to clog up the bases, but that tactical move came too late as the Sidewinders substituted Watanabe immediately after his second home run.
The Hawks were undaunted, and a strategic decision by co-manager Bochan put young Jose Morillo on the mound for the last two innings, and he successfully shut down the Sidewinder’s bats pitching 2 innings and allowing not hits or runs. It did prove a little bit too late, and despite a valiant effort in the seventh, Hawks went down to a 13 – 3 defeat. Click here to view box scores.
Still, this was a successful season for the Hawks, who finished the regular season with 9 wins and 7 losses, had one more year of postseason baseball, and were able to meld experience with youthful quality throughout the season. You can’t win them all, but you can very well try, and enjoy yourself in the process. That has been and remains the motto of the Hawks: “Veni, vidi, perfrui.”