report by Daniel Levitt
The season of freak injuries continued for the Herts Falcons as they took on the Essex Arrows in a double header at Grovehill Ballpark on Sunday.
They went into the game with a 1-3 record and few expected their depleted squad to pose a threat, but despite this, the Falcons came within six outs of causing a major upset.
The visitors to Grovehill jumped out to a four-run lead before their hosts could even step up to the plate. They didn’t let up, scoring all of their sixteen runs by the seventh inning. Despite a valiant effort to steady the ship from long-reliever Phillip Clark, who pitched three innings and gave up three earned runs in three innings, the damage had already been done.
There were some positives to take away from game one and they came from the bat of Jose Sosa, who launched a three-run home run as part of a two-hit game. Third baseman Jamie Gregory tacked on another home run, his first of the season, on his way to hitting 2-3 for the game.
The Falcons looked to start afresh in game two, with control on the pitcher’s mound the primary focus. After giving up a total of ten base-on-balls in game one, the duo of Sosa and Gregory swapped the bat for the ball and halved the walks to five in game two.
Sosa, making his first start of the season, was the subject of some kind words from Falcons Manager, Lee Manning: “Jose was fantastic in his first start. He crushed the ball and was exactly what the team needed after the first game”.
Jose Sosa greeted at home plate after hitting one of two homeruns against Essex (photo by Richard Lee richardleephotography.org)
The Falcons appeared to be on their way to a series split, leading 7-3 after five innings, however the curse struck again. Tom Armstrong collided with the outfield wall while attempting a spectacular outfield catch and, after a 45-minute delay to enable the ambulance to take him to the hospital, it was difficult for Sosa to restart his engine on the mound.
Gregory couldn’t stop the onslaught, resulting in a six-run sixth and nine-run seventh. Before they knew it, Manning’s team were looking up at an 18-7 deficit, and a seemingly impossible task to overturn. Just like that, Herts were on the wrong side of a series sweep, falling to 1-5 on the season.
Regarding the mounting injuries, Manning added, “the injuries are killing us, but the lads have played through the pain and we should have a few of the injured players back for the next game”.
Up next for the Falcons is a trip to the south coast, where they will play two games against the Southampton Mustangs, who sit atop of the NBL standings with a 5-1 record.