Herts runner is about to hop over a ground ball as he heads to third in game one versus the Redbacks (photo by Vicky Sinclair)
Mike Wakelam reporting from Forest Glade Field
Saturday saw the Herts U12 squad head to Essex for a double header against the Redbacks for the first time this season. As this was the last game day before a holiday break, the Herts team was itching to go out on a high.
In the first game, they came out swinging, with 5 runs in each of the first and second innings, from a infield hits and aggressive base running. Aaron Witter took the mound for Herts and shut down the Redbacks in the first inning, before a walk came round to score in the second. A second runner trying to steal third was thrown out by Lucas Lebrato, with Oliver Durer applying the tag. Essex tightened things up and allowed fewer base runners for the remainder of the game, but aggressive Herts base-running ended in 16 runs through five. Essex threatened in the fourth with bases loaded and no outs. A fly ball to shallow right was caught by James Dullea, but with runners leaving early, he fired to second for the second out and over to third to complete a triple play – the whole team erupted with excitement.
Aaron Witter didn’t allow a hit through 4 innings, striking out many with heat, but issuing a few walks saw his pitch count climb and so Josh Jones came in to close it out. Essex scored a few runs in the inning before Josh settled down and got the final out to seal the 16-7 victory for Herts. In all, it was a thrilling game and having the pass ball and stealing rule in effect, combined with a close backstop, saw some thrilling plays, including close plays at the plate.
The second game was a much tighter affair, with Essex taking a 3-1 lead in the first, then Herts coming back with 3 in the second. Essex tied it up in the bottom of the inning with one run, but James Dullea’s composure saw him shut down their offence for the rest of the game. James was pounding the strike zone, and the defence was backing him up. Infielders were catching pop-ups, outfielders firing balls back into the cut-offs to limit damage and Christian Lynch was hustling after balls to keep runners at third. Herts scored 2 runs in each of the final 2 innings to take an 8-4 lead, but with James Dullea’s pitch count getting up, the team decided to bring back Josh Jones for the final inning. As he was warming up, Essex advised that he’d throw one too many pitches in the previous game to be used in this game, so James came back on with 10 pitches remaining to try to close it out. He got the first out on the second pitch with a popup to Nicholas Durer at second. After the next batter reached base, James continued to throw strikes, getting a ground ball to third which Oliver Durer got over to first in time for the second out. Having reached his pitch count, Lucas Lebrato came in to close it out. With bases loaded and the tying run at the plate, Lucas struck out the final batter to end the game and complete a double victory in our first trip to Essex this season.
Pitching and Defence wins games. What stood out in my memory after getting home on Saturday, is that I don’t think there was one errant throw or play in the field all day by our under 12s. There were a couple of throws that didn’t make it in time, but no one threw the ball unnecessarily, and no one missed a ball that they could reach. The pitching from everyone was outstanding and everyone was swinging the bats. Two well earned victories to head to the break with. Well done.