photo by Richard Lee
For fans of the Herts Falcons baseball team the remaining 8 games of the National Baseball League season will be spent biting nails, sitting on edge of seats and carrying smartphones to keep track of scores coming in from other ballparks around the country.
The Falcons (5-11) are currently in sixth place and on Sunday they have the opportunity to make up ground on their playoff rivals as they face fifth-placed Bracknell Blazers (6-8). If they win both games of this doubleheader they could move into fifth place and close the gap on the Southern Nationals who occupy fourth place which represents the last available ticket to the NBL playoffs. This would set up a titanic clash seven days later as the team from Hertfordshire travels to Farnham Park to face the Nationals, where two wins could move them into fourth place.
But before even thinking about the game on 3 August, all the focus is on their immediate opponents, the Blazers. When the two teams met earlier in the year the Blazers swept them 6-7 and 4-14. The Falcons lost Cris Hiche in the second game after that nasty injury which resulted in a fractured wrist and finger for the Chilean slugger. The Blazers have been sitting out the last few weeks due to the BBF rule which states that a game can be rescheduled if a team is missing three or more players due to international call-ups.
We understand that their ace pitcher Jordan Edmonds is likely to be back from his spell playing in the USA. If so, Herts will need to plan how exactly to approach him knowing that he will not allow many runs. Who should they put on the mound in that game? If Abel Salas is back he would be the obvious choice with an ERA of 2.85. Over his last four starts he has recorded an ever increasing number of strikeouts – 6 against the Mets, 7 at the Mustangs, 10 against the Pirates and a season-high 14 versus the Nationals. On other hand Jose Sosa has been a revelation. If Mike Osborn manages to recover from his arm injury, he can be just as effective. Then there is shortstop Ryan Hackel who was asked to pitch 5 innings against Southampton on Sunday and he shut them down. His ERA currently stands at 1.40. So it looks like there is a lot for manager Lee Manning to think about ahead of, and during, the game .
This is the last home game of the regular season for the Falcons – last opportunity for Herts fans to come out in force and support the team before they go on a 6-game road trip to complete the regular season. The game starts at 12pm at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead.