The Herts Falcons put down a marker for the postseason when the National League-leading London Mets came to Grovehill for a double-header on Sunday, 16th August. The Falcons are jostling for position in the playoff race and they were able to take both games from the visitors.
The first game was tight, with the early exchanges leaving the two sides tied at 5-5 after three innings. The Falcons were then able to stretch out their lead and despite a rally by London in the final inning, it ended 10-9 to the Herts side. Jose Sosa took the win, Ian Sales the save, while home runs from Maikel Azcuy, Edwin Alcantara and Robert Almanzar drove the offense.
Sales was the man to start the second half of the menu, and he pitched a complete game with 6 strikeouts to secure an 8-0 shutout victory. Alcantara was again the main force on offense, with 4 RBIs, and new South African outfielder Darren Meintjes chipped in with a home run.
The defending NBL champion Essex Arrows take on the Falcons this weekend in a crucial match-up. Both sides have .500 records, so this will determine who is the runner-up to the Mets in the league, and therefore who gets to host the three-team semi-final the following week.
The big downside for the Herts side was a nasty injury to Robbie Almanzar, who broke his leg in two places and dislocated an ankle sliding in to second base. The incident caused a long delay in the game, and is bad news for him and the team. It’s hoped he will make a full recovery. Cris Hiche also sprained an ankle sliding and faces a race to be fit for the playoffs.
In Single-A, the Herts Raptors won their final regular season fixture. They were taking on the Brentwood Bucks on the Old Diamond at Grovehill, and both teams were keen to secure victory after tough seasons.
Early exchanges were tight, and it was 4-1 to Herts after two innings. Charlie Mayhew was making a strong start for the Raptors on the mound and he would go on to pitch a complete game with 9 strikeouts.
The Herts bats broke out for 8 runs in the third inning, as they first chased the Brentwood starter Glen Robertson then kept up the pressure on reliever Tom Keegan. Catcher Joe Court hit an RBI double, while Will Marshall and Manny Banson also drove in runs.
This big inning made the difference as the pattern of the game then settled back into one of even exchanges and good defense. Third baseman Matthew Jackson — who had four hits on the day — combined with first baseman Michael Cresswell on one highlight reel play to nab a runner on a ball hit deep to the hot corner.
Going in to the seventh inning, Herts led 17-6 and the Bucks needed two runs to keep the game alive. As it turned out, Mayhew was still dealing and he threw up a zero to put an emphatic end to the game.
Cresswell was manager on the day, with Rob Jones taking a share of the umpiring duties, and he hailed it as a great game: “Full credit to all who played”, he said.
The other Herts Single-A side, the Hawks, suffered a second consecutive defeat after a season which had been unbeaten. They already have their place booked in the playoffs after winning their pool.
But one of their potential playoff rivals, Bracknell Inferno, will be pleased to have claimed a 17-16 win in their game at Westmoreland Park. The Hawks co-manager Andrew Slater said errors had helped undo his team, but hopes remain high of the team’s playoff prospects.