Herts Falcons, 9 – Brighton Jets, 8
After a run of poor performances from the Herts NBL side, things finally came together on the one-game road trip to Brighton this past Sunday. Defensively, an area where the Falcons have struggled greatly in recent weeks, the team was near flawless, with particularly strong performances from Andrew Fulford behind the dish, Jamie Warren in centerfield, and Moises Vasquez at third. The pitching staff too, looked to be revitalized in the one-game, 9 inning format.
It was a pitcher’s duel early as Tyler Badenhorst got the start for the Falcons versus Dan Whitton for the Jets. Badenhorst looked in top form, showing pinpoint accuracy with his fastball and his curveball on a string. He was lights out, working quickly and efficiently through three innings without a single runner reaching base. Whitton too, started the game promising until a rally by the bottom of the Falcons order dinged him for two in the third. A beautiful bunt by the youngster Aaron Witter (who got the start in RF) was instrumental in manufacturing the runs. The Falcons picked up another run in the fourth, to increase their lead to 3-0.
The middle of the Jets order finally got to Badenhorst in the bottom of the fourth, with the Brighton 3-hole hitter sending a shot over the short porch in right to narrow the score to 3-2. Badenhorst’s previously pinpoint command deserted him, as a few walks and a couple singles later the Jets had tacked on three more to bring it to 5-3. With two outs and the bases loaded, Manager Lee Manning called on shortstop Zack Longboy, who induced a ground-out to end the inning.
Down two runs, the Falcons did not let their energy slip, as – after Longboy and Whittton traded goose eggs in the fifth – their bats came alive in the top of the sixth. A great at-bat by John Blose (who battled the pitcher all day with deep, quality at-bats) and hard hit balls from Badenhorst, Fulford, Vasquez and Miguel Hector, dinged Whitton for a 5 spot, bringing the score to 8-5, Falcons.
The Falcons however, could not hold the lead, as two singles, a bloop to third and a misplayed bunt allowed to Jets to tie up the score at 8 apiece, in the bottom of the 6th.
Good hitting from Warren, Juon Ohno, and Vasquez continued to threaten the Jets over the final stretch, but a series of base-running errors only allowed them to capitalize on one run. This run was enough, however, as the Falcons took the lead 9-8 in the top of the eighth, and Longboy blanked the Jets the rest of the way.
Longboy, who recently returned from university in the US, was clicking on all cylinders, finding a rhythm and working quickly. He looked to be back on track after getting shelled in his first start back against the Essex Arrows. After the 3-run 6th, Longboy held the Jets to no runs over the last three innings, allowing only a single baserunner.
Throughout the day, the Falcons defense, pitching, and clutch hitting looked much improved, the only weakness being on the basepaths where a few routine errors prevented huge innings. “I was very happy with the team…” Manager Lee Manning said. “We showed great spirit coming from behind and holding on to the win in the bottom of the ninth. Great pitching and great defense.”
If the Falcons can continue to play as well as they did on Sunday, a run at the fourth playoff berth is certainly within the realm of possibility – Herts are only two games back from the fourth place London Capitals.
The Falcons will host the London Capitals at Grove Hill ballpark, for a single 9-inning game, on Sunday 18th June.
The youth contingent of the Falcons, including Badenhorst, Ohno, Warren and Witter, will be participating in the BBF Youth U-17 Championships at Farnham Park from Saturday 17th – Sunday 18th of June. The club encourages supporters of all levels of Herts Baseball to come out in force for the Harriers, who are led by Falcons catcher and U-17 manager Andrew Fulford.