Herts Hawks kept their winning streak going with a win against the London Marauders on Sunday and it is fair to say that this was their toughest test so far this season in the Double-A League.
Herts Hawks co-managers Andrew Slater and Greg Bochan were both away and they asked Andy Cornish to step into the manager’s role. Cornish is very familiar with being the manager of the Hawks having co-managed the team alongside Greg Bochan three years ago so there was no change of management style for the team.
The game saw the official league debut of father and son, Ernie and EJ Ayala, both of whom are major additions to the team this year. In the absence of starting pitchers Bochan and Slater, Ernie Ayala was given the responsibility of starting on the mound.
When you have not tasted defeat for 19 months there is a risk of becoming complacent, but the Hawks didn’t have time for much complacency as the Marauders struck in the top of the first inning to take a 3-0 lead. All winter the Hawks have been looking forward to the greater challenge of playing in the higher league, so in a strange way this early blow didn’t faze them and instead whet their appetite. Ernie Ayala took control from the mound and over the next four innings did not allow any London runs.
After being shut down in the bottom of the first, the Herts offense scored runs in each of the next six innings. Michael Cresswell and Gilberto Medina had another good day at the plate. Herts took the lead in the third inning and extended it in the sixth, but the Marauders stayed in touch. In the fourth inning the visitors brought in pitcher Billy Atkinson-Warne, a familiar face for Hawks fans having faced him in the epic 5-4 win in the Single-A League National Semi-Final last September when he was a member of the London Musketeers. Atkinson-Warne proved to be just as effective as he was last year so it was something of a surprise that he didn’t start the game, especially given the fact that prior to this game he had not allowed any runs or hits so far this season. He also had a great day at the plate batting 3-for-3 with two doubles and 3 RBI which gives him a season batting average of 1.000 and season slugging average of 2.000.
After six innings of outstanding work, Ernie Ayala’s job was done. For the final 3 innings Louis Hare stepped onto the mound with a task of keeping the lead. The Marauders certainly didn’t give up and stayed in the game right to the end thanks to some fine defensive plays including a Play of the Year nomination from Chris Gregory after a diving catch in left field. Hawks fans would probably say that the spectacular leaping catch by Dan Bartram or game-ending sliding catch by Ilya Dimitrov on opening day against the Daws Hill Spitfires were better, but it has to be said that there was much less margin for error in Chris Gregory’s head-first diving play.
Louis Hare shut the door on the Marauders in the final inning fittingly ending the game with a reflex catch on a line drive back to the mound and a final score of 14-9.
— Herts Hawks (@HertsHawks) April 30, 2017
This was the visitors’ first loss of the season, but they shouldn’t be too worried as on Sunday’s display they will certainly be involved in the playoff race.
Next for the Hawks is an away game at the Guildford Mavericks this Sunday, 7 May. The game starts at 2pm. Can they keep their winning streak going and stay in touch with the East London Latin Boys who are also unbeaten and half a game ahead of the Hawks.