Herts Raptors 8-24 Brentwood Bucks, Sunday July 6th
It was an early signal of how the Raptors’ day would go. The first batter up had struck out. In the no. 2 hole, Rob Jones worked a walk. Aggressively, he went to steal a base. Charlie Mayhew, perfectly sensibly, bunted.
But the ball popped up meekly barely a foot in the air, the catcher gladly grasped it and threw to first to retire Jones, who was already virtually at second. A promising start suddenly came to nothing. And so it would go.
All day it seemed the Raptors would hit to fielders. Joseph Osborne-Brade sweetly struck one towering drive towards the fence in deep centre, but somehow the outfielder got there and robbed him. Brentwood, however, consistently managed to “hit it where they ain’t”. Bloops over heads, ground balls through gaps, liners in outfield no man’s land. And ultimately that would secure them a win.
The Raptors had started slowly in the field, as if not yet awake on a Sunday morning. They allowed steals and missed throws and the visiting Bucks quickly put 3 runs on the board. Uncharacteristically, a fly ball was even put down in the outfield.
The home side tightened it up to end the inning, but Brentwood piled on again in the second innings and held a 9-1 lead by the end of the frame.
The game evened out then, with the Raptors chipping away at the Brentwood lead. Starting pitcher Michael Cresswell was the offensive stud for Herts, getting on base all four times he came to the plate and scoring 3 runs. He walked twice, and his hits included one majestically smacked to the outfield which finally avoided a defender. Daniel Bennett got two hits, as did catcher Ken Pike, who was making a valuable guest appearance from the Herts Hawks.
But not enough hits were bringing in runs — at one point the Raptors left the bases loaded. By the bottom of the fifth it was 13-5 to the Bucks, a lead which may sound big but which is by no means insurmountable in Single-A terms.
The Raptors defense had improved markedly as the game went on. Cresswell’s virtually undetectable pickoff move had claimed more victims, with Charlie Day and Charlie Mayhew combining well on the put-outs. Another Brentwood runner found himself stranded between third and home, and a desperate dive past Pike, and an equally desperate crawl towards the plate, were not enough to save him from being tagged out.
Brentwood finally managed to break the game open in the sixth, though. Walks and hits and perhaps a tiring Herts side contributed to an eight run inning. Mayhew moved in to shut it down as relief pitcher, but it was too late by then.
The visiting Bucks were in no mood to let up once the top of the Herts order failed to hit back. Some of the Brentwood team seemed inordinately excited to tack on a couple of runs in the seventh when they were already well ahead. But a winning instinct can be a useful tool.
Despite that, Herts did manage to push across 3 more runs in the bottom of the inning as they faced the improbable task of a comeback. The runners forced more errors — Charlie Day went steaming home on what was essentially a steal, but which would end up as a simple job because of a very high fastball.
Rookie Clive Johnson, hitting in the 9 spot, got his best contact of the day to force a good play from the Brentwood shortstop to secure the last out and the win.
The final score was 24-8. The Raptors co-manager, Rob Jones, was in charge for the week and was impressed by the stamina of the players who had to put in a full shift after a series of late withdrawals for illness and injury.
“We really hoped for better from this fixture, but we never got a break despite a lot of hard work”, he said. “We need to get the hits where it counts, and make all our simple defensive plays. This was a frustrating day.”