Herts’ two single-A teams look set for the playoffs after a huge 26-11 5th inning mercy rule win by the Raptors over pool-rivals Essex cemented a place in the playoffs for them as a Wildcard, with the Hawks likely to top their group or at worst finish as top wildcard thanks to their unbeaten season so far.
The Raptors v Essex game started as a close run affair over the first couple of innings, with both teams trading blows and errors were a plenty on both sides thanks in part to the harsh sun playing havoc with concentration. A huge swarm of bees even made an appearance briefly halting play at one stage, but by the third inning a gap started to open up that just kept expanding leaving Herts in the driving seat. When relief pitcher Simon Langton came up and closed down the Essex side, Herts were left with the task of getting 6 runs to force a Mercy rule. A couple runs plated in the normal fashion before the bases were loaded. Up stepped the mighty…home run machine…no wait…it was Mike. Mike Cresswell. Pitcher. Fast runner. Manager. Good Bloke. Many things, all positive, but not a home run hitter. Surely no walk off grand slam this time round.
The last time the Herts Raptors qualified for the postseason playoffs was in 2013 and they certainly enjoyed clinching it with a bottle of champagne.
Well, not in the traditional sense, but a might good whallop of the ball sent it clean over the infield and through the gap in the outfield (helped by the fact that their outfield was down to two people due to injuries….previously caused by Mike throwing a ball at a girl…twice.) The runners on second and third scored easily. The runner on first had a good jump….and a mis-throw from outfield meant that the ever speedy Mike Cresswell rounded third and landed home for the kind of finish that bookies would happily give you 5000-1 odds on…but as Leicester football club showed us earlier this year, the unlikeliest scenarios can come true. Mike duly walked off as winning pitcher, winning HR hitter, and man of match. And got drenched in icy water by his team mates for the effort.
For the Hawks the picture is a bit clearer. They are currently showing as a half game back in their group on wins alone, but they are unbeaten and have taken three games off their nearest rivals, the Monarchs. Monarchs have three games left to play but the Hawks have six due to a number of teams having been unable to muster a side during the season. So when the final games are played, and dependant on whether the several games that have been no-shows from the opposition are added to the tally (unless they are able to be rescheduled) then the Hawks will be hoping to comfortably top their group. Either way they are certain to at least be wildcards, so would at worst face an extra playoff game. The main question is likely to be whether the Hawks or the similarly unbeaten Tonbridge Wildcats slip up at any point which would determine top seed. If both sides finish unbeaten, then Tonbridge is currently in pole position to take the top spot having played one game less but scored 3 more runs over the course of the season.
The hope for the club will now be hoping for a good wildcard round and ties working out to that the two sides avoid each other in the semi-finals with a potentially juicy tie on Farnham Park’s main diamond on Sunday 4th September. Whatever happens now, Herts as a club can be proud of the achievements of their two single-A teams, but both the Raptors and the Hawks will surely have the ultimate prize in their sights, and who knows…perhaps they will meet at the grandest of stages in British Baseball.