Falcons resurrect playoff hopes, sweep Pirates

Abel Salas had a big day on the mound and with the bat (photo by Paul Holdrick)

The Herts Falcons continued their quest for postseason baseball on Sunday, when they took on the South London Pirates in a double header at Grovehill Ballpark.

Coming off of a well-fought split series against the Southampton Mustangs last week, the Falcons’ play matched the glorious sunshine with which the games were soaked in. Despite giving up two runs in the first inning, Abel Salas got Herts on the score sheet with a scorching line-drive solo home run in the second, his first of the season. Salas’ offensive involvement did not stop there however, as the lefty walked and stole second base in the fourth inning, only to be doubled home by Darrin Ward to put the Falcons up 3-2. 

Starting pitcher, Michael Osborn (pictured right), settled down by the fifth inning to strike out two Pirates on his way to a total of ten strikeouts for the game. The bottom of the fifth was when the sunshine really shone on the Falcons’ hitters, as they blew the game wide open with nine runs.  

The inning started with a line-drive single that hit the left-field wall by Ryan Hackel, and when Jose Sosa singled in two runs to make it 6-2, the Falcons were just hitting their stride. Salas continued his mammoth game with an RBI double to straight away centre-field, while new signing, Zac Malone, had an RBI single in his debut for the Hertfordshire club.  

Game 1 finished 12-2 and was called early due to the mercy rule. 

What had become a pitcher’s duel early on, turned into an offensive onslaught very hastily. Every batter reached on base at least once, with all but two notching themselves a hit.  

“Michael was terrific on the mound today” Falcons manager, Lee Manning, said after the game.  

“Up until the fifth inning it was a very close game and we did well to stay in it. We got some great hits and were able to blow the game open.” 

Game 2 had a slightly different feel to it than the opener, yet delivered the same result. While Game 1 was a nail-biter to the very last inning – before it was called – the second game of the day was in the clasp of the Falcons’ claws from the third inning. 

Salas, the star of game one, took his talents to the mound this time around. After giving up his only run of the afternoon in the first inning, the Mexican was dealing his best stuff the rest of the way, leading to his finest pitching performance of the season thus far and striking out ten Pirates on his way to the victory. 

Carlos Casal Jr. drove in the game winning run in the third. With runners on the corners, Casal Jr. then attempted to steal second, and as he did so, drew a wild throw from the opposing catcher that sailed into the outfield. That was enough to send first-baseman, Darrin Ward, home and put the Falcons up 3-1. 

Phil Clarke went deep for his first home run of the season (photo by Paul Holdrick)

The game was put to bed when Phil Clarke hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to left-field.  

The Falcons managed to tally twenty plus hits for the day, but what was more impressive, was the maturity they showed at the plate by only striking out three times in each game. 

Manning said after the game, “Abel pitched an amazing game today. He allowed the hitters to establish an early lead and never looked back” 

New signings Zac Malone and Ryan Hackel flourished on both sides of the plate. Malone stole three consecutive bases in his debut, while Hackel made playing shortstop look effortless, with six seamlessly faultless plays.  

Manning added, “Zac and Ryan have come in and immediately contributed on both offense and defense. The team is very happy and cannot wait to play out the rest of the season with them”. 

The Falcons now have a week off before they welcome the reigning National Champions Southern Nationals to Grovehill Ballpark, in a clash the Falcons hope to gain some revenge from their semi-final defeat to the Nationals a year ago. 

Game 1 is scheduled to start at 12.00pm BST with Game 2 following at 14.30 BST on Sunday, 22 June.