Falcons and Raptors soar in season finale

The Herts Falcons secured their number 2 seeding in the post-season by splitting Sunday’s double-header at Grovehill against the defending National League champions, the Essex Arrows.

These were the last games of the regular season and were crucial to gain an advantage in the playoffs.

Maikel Azcuy, one of the Herts power threats (photo: Paul Holdrick)

The Falcons won Game 1 convincingly behind the pitching of Jose Sosa. The 9-2 victory was powered by home runs from Edwin Alcantara, NBL record holder Maikel Azcuy, and Sosa himself. In Game 2, starting pitcher Ian Sales limited the Arrows to just one run, but it still wasn’t enough, as Herts suffered a 1-0 loss.

But the results were enough to finish second in the NBL so the Falcons will host this weekend’s semi-final series against the Arrows, and either Southampton or Bracknell.

Manager Lee Manning is feeling confident: “We played great defence and it looks like we’re getting hot at the right time – even if the weather isn’t!”

In the Single-A division, the Herts Raptors ended their season with a thrilling 25-21 victory away to the Kent Mariners. The team took an early lead but had to come from behind to secure the win. They were trailing by 9 runs in the sixth inning, but rallied with hits from Joe Court and Yue Du.

The Raptors were still trailing by 3 runs going into the ninth inning. When the first Herts runner to reach base was caught stealing things looked ominous.

But the visitors managed to level the score, and then Manny Banson struck the tie-breaking hit to drive in shortstop Jamie Lang and starting pitcher Paul Barton.

Paul Barton had 4 hits and 3 RBIs (photo: Rob Jones)

Matt Corran , a converted cricketer who starting playing league baseball after attending the midweek training sessions at Grovehill, pitched in relief for the win. He struck out six and walked one.

The caretaker manager for the day, Barton – another rookie – was delighted by the result: “It was a great game, amazing. Matt was excellent, and everyone hit really well.”

The Raptors don’t qualify for the playoffs, but ended the season winning four of their last five games. Manager Rob Jones was proud of the progress the side had made: “It’s been a season with some really horrible moments, but everyone has pulled together and played with a great spirit and they deserve the good results.”

The Herts Hawks are also into the playoffs in Single-A, and have high hopes, but they did not have a game this week. Their action resumes in September.