The Herts youth teams returned from the 2014 National Baseball Championships with two bronze medals on what was a fantastic occasion, as is always the case every September.
UNDER-17 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Herts Harriers went into the Semi-Final as the second seed out of the four teams which had reached this stage. They took the silver medal in 2013 and they were hoping to go one better, but ahead of these games they received two massive setbacks. Catcher Conner Brown suffered a hand-fracture in a non-baseball accident and at the same time the team had to say farewell to one of its key players, pitcher Tom Armstrong who has now moved to the USA.
Their semi-final opponent was the London Mets who went with their ace pitcher, the amazing Laura Hirai, fresh from an outstanding tour of the USA with the GB Under-17 National Team. With LYBL the potential opponent in the final for the winner, Herts decided to save ace pitcher, Zack Longboy, in the hope of reaching the final – a risky strategy but one which was necessary if the team was to stand a chance of succeeding in the final.
As expected, Mets pitcher, Laura Hirai, was very effective shutting out the Harriers in the first 4 innings. Herts’ starting pitcher Carlos Casal Jr. was doing well as the team kept in touch with the Mets trailing just 2-0 after 4 innings. But then disaster struck in the fifth inning. 11 London runs came home to score and there was no coming back from this as the Mets went on to win 13-1.
The Bronze Medal game between Herts Harriers and London Sports was declared an automatic win for Herts as the Little League rules in place this year placed pitching restrictions and the earlier Wild Card playoff and Semi-Final games left London Sports without any players eligible to pitch on Sunday under the rules.
The Herts U17 players and coaches will feel disappointed that they couldn’t fulfil their ambition of winning the U17 National Championship for the first time in Herts baseball history as they knew they had a team which could compete. They certainly gave everything on the day which is all that can be asked of the players in these big games. Most of these Herts players have played their last season in the under-17 league but, one thing is certain, they will be making headlines as they move into the big leagues in the coming years.
The LYBL Bulldogs beat the London Mets 9-4 in the Final.
UNDER-14 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
(photo by John Jansson)
Semi-Final: Herts Cardinals 1 London Mets 24 (click to view box scores)
As the Wild Card Winner, the Herts Cardinals faced the top seed, London Mets, in the U14 Semi-Final. It was always going to be a difficult task for the Cardinals to upset the odds against a team which beat all of their UK opponents and went through to the Little League European Qualifiers in Poland just two months ago. The Mets won convincingly with a score of 24-1.
(photo by John Jansson)
Bronze Medal Game: Herts Cardinals 6 London Sports 2 (click to view box scores)
In the Bronze Medal game Herts Cardinals came up against London Sports, a team which is always difficult to beat. The Cardinals needed all of their players to produce a top performance and they did.
Starting pitcher Mikey Sylvester took control from the first pitch. He went on to pitch a complete game one-hitter. 18 of the 21 outs came by way of a strikeout and he walked only 1 batter over the course of the game. Stats like these are incredible especially given the calibre of the opposition. The two runs scored by London Sports were unearned coming in after two overthrows in a dropped-third strike situation.
The London Sports pitching staff also produced excellent numbers. They struck out 13 batters and allowed only 6 hits and 3 walks.
With such efficient pitching the Herts Cardianls needed something special. Clutch hits from Shane Richards (2-4, HR, 2B, 3RBI, 2R), Mikey Sylvester (2-3, 2B(2), 2RBI, 2R), Ben Hitch (1-4, R), Adam Jansson (1-3, RBI) drove a total of 6 runs one of which was Thomas Garton who managed to get himself on base twice. Shane Richards’ 2-run home run was his third of the postseason.
It was very fitting that Mikey Sylvester managed to close the game with 3 strikeouts. The final out came on his final pitch of the pitch-count limit regulations.
The London Mets are the U14 National Champions after a 7-4 win over the LYBL Bulldogs.
UNDER-12 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
This was the first appearance in the National Championship Semi-Final for the Herts U12 team. They came up against the favourites LYBL Bulldogs and had the best possible start taking a lead which they held on to for the first 3 innings. With the score at 5-4 the Bulldogs had a big inning to take a 9-4 lead. Spirited comeback by Herts saw them reduce the deficit to 9-7. They may have been able to regain the lead but in two consecutive innings left the bases loaded. The Bulldogs went on to win it 13-7 to reach the U12 Final which they won 7-3 against the London Mets.
In the Bronze medal game Herts U12 lost 13-3 against London Sports.
Despite losing both of their games, the Herts U12 team should be very proud of how well they performed against the toughest teams in the country. The team has grown together over the last two years made up of players who have had little or no experience prior to joining Herts so it is exciting to see the U12 coaching staff develop these players to this very high standard.
HERTS FUTURES TOURNAMENT
The National Baseball Championships are now in the history books, but the youth teams from around the country have one more big tournament before baseball takes its winter break. The Herts Futures Tournament is expecting a record number of teams this Saturday 20 September at Grovehill Ballpark in Herts. The HFT games schedule will be published over the next 48 hours.