Walk-off woe for Raptors

Any game against the Old Timers is guaranteed to include drama, but the Herts Raptors did not much enjoy the ending of Sunday’s encounter in Enfield. The home side had led from the start, but the visitors drew level in the ninth, only to see the Old Timers walk off with a win.

Lefty Michael Cresswell was the starting pitcher for Herts, and he spent much of the first inning coming to terms with the vertiginously high mound, and the notably low strike zone. It allowed the Old Timers to score four runs and quickly surge ahead of the 2 which Herts had put up in their half of the frame.

Michelle Johnson in action. Her fielding helped keep Herts in the game

It was a similar picture in the second and the doughty veterans had stretched their lead to 12-7 by the top of the sixth.

Herts never really did anything wrong in the field. But they never quite clicked either. There were a couple of close plays which — on a good day — would go your way, but didn’t on Sunday.

The bats made regular contact, with Darren Priest and Paul Barton collecting multiple hits. But on many of those occasions the contact wasn’t clean, and it became a routine out. Also, there were uncharacteristic errors by Raptors on the base-paths, which took the wind out of rallies.

Cresswell got better every inning. He picked up a couple of strikeouts and fielded sharply. But he was tiring so Barton took over pitching duties.

In this stretch of the game, both sides were putting up zeroes. Raptors’ left fielder Michelle Johnson — who has links to the club back to youth days, but is only now playing for a team — was the outfield star, taking a series of vital catches.

But with time now starting to run out, Herts did what they had to do and rallied.  Third baseman Jim Arnott had smashed two balls deep into foul territory during the game. Now he got one just right, for a monster triple which brought in crucial runs.

And so the Raptors went into the top of the ninth three runs behind, 14-11 the score.

Michael Cresswell scored. Matt Jackson scored. Paul Barton worked his way to third base. With two out, Rob Jones stepped in. He took a strike, then a ball, then rapped a single through the left side to bring home Barton and tie up the game.

But after stealing second comfortably, Jones became the latest and last Raptor of the day to suffer a misadventure on the base paths. As he took an extra step towards third, the left-handed relief pitcher spun and threw perfectly for the second baseman to apply the tag.

Old Timers had the top of their order come up to hunt for the one run they needed in the bottom of the ninth. Raptors couldn’t keep him off the bases, and with the infield drawn right in the home side were able to drive one through and end the game.

Herts Raptors are now 5-3 on the season, with their rubber matches against London and Essex coming up in the next fortnight.