Raptors rally but fall in Brighton


Nick Shrimpton, Yue Du and Paul Barton impressed in their first away game for the Raptors

It was the ninth inning. The bases were loaded.  The tying and go-ahead runs were there, as the Raptors had rallied back beyond all expectations. Brighton’s hard-throwing starting pitcher, Will Anderson, had returned to the mound to try to save the game, but had given up hits and some wild walks….

…. but that was where it ended. Let’s go back to where it started.

It had started with that same Brighton pitcher issuing a walk to the Herts centre fielder, Mike Cresswell, returning from weeks away and recovering from a wedding party the night before. A stolen base, a groundout, and a passed ball later, he had crossed home plate to score the first run of the game. Jamie Lang then got the first of a fistful of walks and was driven in by a double from rookie Paul Barton, who made it home himself on pass balls. Herts had put up three runs for a solid start.

Herts’ rehabbing legend Aspi Dimitrov started slowly on the mound for the Raptors, also walking the leadoff, but he soon got a curveball working to keep the Brighton hitters off balance. There were a couple of early miscues in the field from second baseman Rob Jones, which could have held the Redhawks in check. But the home side were able to work their way back in and the game was tied at 4-4 after two innings.

It was still tied in the middle of the fifth, 11 runs apiece. Aspi Dimitrov was gone — surrendering to fatigue and the dodgy knee, after 5 strikeouts. In came the Herts newcomer Yue Du, a Chinese import, to make her debut on the mound. She settled in to coax ground balls from the Brighton batters, but they were able to add four runs and take a clear lead for the first time in the game.

In the field, Nick Shrimpton was the stud for Herts. Despite being new to baseball this season, he snared two laser-shot line drives at shortstop, fielded several grounders, and ranged far back into the outfield to take a high pop up in the seventh inning. He also chipped in with a couple of runs, but Paul Barton was the Raptors’ best performer with the bat, adding two further singles to his first-inning double. 

Coming in as the second reliever, Barton pitched confidently and fielded his position superbly. And he helped the Raptors keep the Redhawks in touching distance and keep the game alive. After seven innings — when baseball games can be ended on the mercy rule — Brighton were 19-12 ahead. But rather than allow themselves to be finished off, the Raptors clung on.

Co-manager Kal Dimitrov had got on base consistently throughout the game and he again helped push the team forward with another walk in the ninth. His partner at the helm, Rob Jones, finally managed to bring his bat alive, fighting a fastball over the heads of the infield to drive in two more runs. In the end five runs scored.  Outfielder Joe Cort represented the crucial tying run at second base, as Clive Johnson battled hard at the plate. He fought off and fouled off a sequence of pitches. Finally Anderson was able to hurl a final fastball through the zone and secure Brighton’s victory.

On the way to Brighton Herts Raptors had to negotiate past thousands of MINIs racing as part of the London-to-Brighton MINI event.

At 20-18 it was the closest game the Raptors have had this season. An impressively big squad had made the long trip to Brighton and they turned in a fine team performance. The next in a long series of road games is this coming Sunday at Guildford, as they go in search of their first win.