Report by Daniel Levitt
In what has been a sullen start to the season until now, the Herts Falcons (2-6) took their sanguine spirits to the south coast on Sunday, to face the second placed Southampton Mustangs (6-2).
The Hertfordshire club has been ravaged by injuries in the first two months of the season, but provided a solid foundation for a recovery and a playoff push.
Despite a slow start to their campaign, the Falcons’ playoff hopes were boosted leading up to the game, when the news broke that the team had signed Ryan Hackel, an American shortstop from Hamline University in Minnesota. Hackel will shore up the infield for the Falcons, while bringing a wealth of experience and baseball knowledge from across the pond.
The hosts were heavily favoured prior to the day’s proceedings, who themselves are fighting for first place in the National Baseball League. However it was the duo of Jose Sosa and Phil Clarke (pictured right) who carried the Falcons home on this occasion, combining for four hits and six RBIs en route to an 8-4 victory. Herts scored three in the second inning and four in the fourth, enough run support to earn starting pitcher Abelardo Salas the victory.
After a rocky start that saw Salas surrender four runs in the first, the Falcons’ ace blanked the Mustangs for the remainder of the game to earn the win, striking out seven along the way. The fantastic outing brought down his ERA to 3.77, who will now look to deflate that even further in the coming weeks.
With Game 1 under their belts, the Falcons could not wait to get started with Game 2 and complete the sweep away from home.
Game 2 was a pitcher’s duel for the first five innings, between Gary Davison of the Mustangs and Herts’ very own Jose Sosa. Sosa, coming off his first NBL start against the Essex Arrows a fortnight ago, was every bit the magician for the first five innings, and had his team within striking distance, down 2-1 with two innings left.
That however, was the end of a bright afternoon and the beginning of the floodgates opening, as the Mustangs scored five runs in the sixth and mitigated any chance of a sweep their counterparts had in mind. The Falcons fought valiantly as always, scoring two in the top of the seventh, but it ultimately wasn’t enough and the series ended 1-1.
For Sosa, there were many positives to take from the game. Throwing the ball effortlessly for five innings, the Cuban struck out six and even collected a hit on offense, batting in the number three spot.
The Falcons bring their playoff hopes back home to Hertfordshire this Sunday as they prepare to face the South London Pirates (2-6) at Grovehill Ballpark. With both teams on the cusp of the playoffs, this Sunday’s double header proves to be a must win series for both teams.
Game 1 is due to start at 12.00pm, with Game 2 scheduled to start at 02.30pm.