15 teams from around the country came down to Grovehill Ballpark in Hertfordshire for the sixth annual Herts Futures Tournament.
Horsham started the day with wins against the London Mets, Bracknell Blazers, Northstar Polecats and then ended in a tie against national runners-up, Herts Harriers. That put them into pole position going into the final game of the day between Herts and London. Herts needed to win to have the same win-loss record as Horsham, but had to do so without conceding any runs because on the tournament’s tie-break rule the tied team with the fewest runs allowed would be the winner. If Herts managed to do this they would still end up tied with Horsham with both teams having conceded 6 runs each, therefore the winner would have to be decided by a toss of a coin in front of a record crowd.
Knowing this, Herts took an early 4-0 lead in the first inning, but it was all about whether their defence could shut down the Mets. The team from London needed a win to leapfrog Herts into second place so there was a lot on the line for them too. A lead-off hit into right field put a runner on third base at which point the public announcer confirmed that this runner represents the winning run for Horsham, who were not involved in this game but their players, coaches and fans had gathered on the hill on the third-base side of the diamond cheering on that Mets runner.
To the delight of the Horsham Hornets, the London Mets runner came in to score giving them the HFT U17 title. The Mets went on to score 4 more runs to win the game 5-4 and clinch the runner-up spot pushing Herts into third.
In the Under-14 contest the LYBL Bulldogs were still feeling the pain of losing to the Mets in that dramatic National Championship semi-final 7 days ago which the Mets won after extra innings. The Bulldogs had their revenge in the direct clash with the Mets winning 3-2. They went on to win their two other games of the day to finish the day unbeaten and win the Under-14 HFT title. London Mets finished second, London Sports third. The Herts Cardinals were fourth, but despite this they took a lot of positives out of the day including a 2-run home run by Ben Jones, the first in his career, as well as debuts for 5 new players who enjoyed their first baseball experience and are already looking forward to the 2014 season.
Despite no BBF national Under-11 competition, there were a record number of Under-11 teams entering the HFT, which is a good sign for the future of British baseball. Perhaps this is the right time for the BBF to consider adding the Under-11s to the 2014 national championships next September.
With two wins out of two games in the group-stages, Richmond and Herts won their respective pools and clashed in the Final. Richmond came out on top winning 5-0. All 5 of their runs came tanks to home runs – a 4-run home run followed by a solo inside-the-park homerun later in the game.
After the event, Herts Futures Tournament Director, Aspi Dimitrov, commented that “the club has had fantastic feedback from so many people involved in the event and we hope that it will give a boost to all youth programmes and they can use this momentum as they prepare for next season.” He added that “we must thank all the teams, players, coaches, umpires, scorers, parents, fans, the amazing retail team, event staff and everyone else involved. Without them this event would not be possible.”