Herts Raptors 25-14 Bracknell Inferno, April 23rd 2017 – by Rob Jones
This victory by the Raptors, on the Opening Day of the Single-A season, was the perfect illustration of old and new working together.
One of the crucial runs to seal the deal in the bottom of the seventh inning was scored by Darren Butterworth, who had never played a league baseball game before. And he was driven in by Arnie Longboy, who’s been with the club for nigh on a decade.
Somewhere neatly between the two categories is the fact that the actual winning run was scored by Arnie’s daughter Theo, a European champion at softball with the GB team, but new to baseball.
The Raptors had started slowly in the sporadic sunshine at Grovehill, with Bracknell’s hard-throwing pitcher Bruce Webb getting the best of the early exchanges. He racked up three strikeouts and just one walk in the first inning.
But catcher Paul Auchterlounie got the first Herts hit in the second inning, and scored the first run. He ended the day 2-for-2 with a walk.
Third-baseman Tom Carson — another debutant in the Raptors lineup — closely followed him, and outfielder Joseph Osborne-Brade hit a double.
The Raptors kept their lead as the game wore on — 7-4 after three, 15-9 after five — but could never blow it open. Bracknell kept hitting against both starting pitcher Paul Barton, and reliever Longboy. And the two defenses were pretty even.
The top of the Herts order kept on walking and scoring steadily, with Matt Jackson and Rob Jones having 7 of each between them.
First baseman Giuseppe Basilea – making the step up from under-17 baseball – had perhaps the standout defensive play for Herts, in the top of the sixth. He caught a sinking line drive and immediately saw a chance to double off the Bracknell runner at second who had strayed too far.
He actually threw to third, but it didn’t matter. Because that was followed by the second-best defensive play as Ben Sinclair — yep, you guessed it, another rookie — quickly made a strong and accurate throw to second to nab the runner.
Bracknell had stayed close until the late innings, when Webb had tired and the fresh new Herts recruits came in to help stretch the lead. The Raptors scored 5 in the bottom of the sixth and needed 4 in the bottom of the seventh to secure a walk-off via the mercy rule.
Longboy Sr. duly delivered with a hit to right field, and the team celebrated. Both Bracknell and Herts had turned in strong performances to start their 2017, and are looking forward to what’s ahead.