(photo by Paul Holdrick)
After the official photocall, there wasn’t much time for teams to settle gently into the opening games of the Hunlock Series as the first thing they had to do was deal with some very awkward “ninth inning” game situations. This year the league stage of the competition has adopted the “ninth inning” format where each game lasts one inning only, which means that every game recreates the drama of the ninth inning.
Abel Salas and Lee Manning celebrate on a good day for the Black Widows (photo by Paul Holdrick)
The Black Widows and Red Roosters adapted to the format quickest as they quickly put wins on the scoreboard against White Lightning and Blue Dogs, respectively. White Lightning managed to recover and by the end of the day’s action they were sitting comfortably in second place after taking 3 wins out of their 4 games against the Red Roosters pushing them into third place.
The Black Widows had only the third best offence but their runs always seemed to come at the right time. Walk off hits by Jimmy McCormick and manager Colin Whitton, were just two of the timely hits by the team in black. They had the best defence in this first round of games allowing only 5 runs in their 12 games. White Lightning had the best offence scoring 27 runs.
Gilberto Molina wins the battle with Joseph Osborne-Brade on this occasion (photo by Paul Holdrick)
The Blue Dogs find themselves in last place 8 games back on the leaders. Their first round draft pick, Conner Brown, was on the DL so this must have had an effect, but one way or the other they would need to consider ways of tightening up their defence and pitching if they are going to climb up the standings. They conceded 27 runs in 12 innings.
After the first few games the teams were becoming more acclimatised to the “Ninth Inning” format and we saw defensive alignments adjust to different situations, with corners guarding lines and outfielders playing deep to stop lead-off doubles, infields playing in to stop the winning run scoring from third, sacrifice bunts to put runners into scoring positions, pinch runners, pinch hitters, delayed steals with runners on first and third to bring the runner from third base home, squeeze plays, outfields playing in to guard against runners scoring on a sacrifice fly. We even had an extreme shift attempted by the Blue Dogs. With the winning run on third base, third baseman Vincent O’Brien suggested bringing right fielder, Felix Maldonado, to stand behind the catcher to backup any passed balls or wild pitches. The umpiring crew disallowed this defensive shift as all players, with the exception of the catcher, must be in fair territory when the pitch is delivered. The only strategy which we didn’t see today was the intentional walk. It can be a very effective move in an effort to avoid facing a difficult batter or to put runners on base to create force-out situations and/or help induce double plays.
Plays of the Day
• Shortstop Ryan Hackel 360 degree spin and throw to get the runner at first base after a ball hit hard to his left.
• Jamie Gregory homerun off pitcher Ryan Hackel
• Colin Whitton walk off hit
• Ilya Dimitrov diving catch to rob Rob Jones of a double
Hunlock Series links
The Hunlock Series takes a two-week break as Herts will be represented in all three divisions (Under-17, Under-14 and Under-12) of the National Youth Baseball Championships to be played at Farnham Park this weekend, 13-14 September. The next Hunlock Series games are on Sunday, 21 September. Players can still sign up to play in the Series by contacting the club. They will be drafted into the teams at the next Free Agents Draft scheduled for Friday, 19 September.