by Andy Cornish,
reporting from Grovehill Ballpark in Hertfordshire
Herts Hawks continued their hot return in the second tier of British baseball with another double victory against last year’s Double-A champions on Sunday, which saw some scorching temperatures and sticky incidents. Herts went into the game knowing that two of their big hitters were out of action, their bullpen was depleted and the British weather was going to hold no prisoners.
Game 1: Hawks 10 Daws Hill Spitfires 5
Andrew Slater got off the blocks slightly shakily, allowing two runs in the first inning after striking out the first batter, before settling down to his usual command and accuracy that has helped him to gain respect across the league. A typical Slater inning was seen in the fourth inning, when he threw 5 pitches, 4 strikes, to record 3 quick outs. Both Slater and the fielders welcomed the respite from the increasing temperatures. After 6 innings the Hawks were up 10-2, which also included some quality at bats, personified by a Hunter Devine triple which came after a 9 pitch at bat. The heat was starting to get to the players, with Gilberto twice slowing down going into second base from hits, once getting tagged out. In the top of the 7th, the Hawks allowed three runs, after the Spitfires found the gaps. With 2 down, a Daws Hill runner tried to steal third, Gilberto managed to grab the high throw from Cornish and make a tag, but the ball was knocked out by the sliding runner. The runner then decided to break for home, Medina grabbed the ball, that was by his feet, and made a tag, which the umpire didn’t see as the player retreated and was called safe. The next pitch, the batter hit deep and high into the outfield, which was tracked down by the reliable glove of Sony Lama, for the final out.
The end of the game allowed players to get some much needed shade, as the temperatures, much like the Herts average age, increased into the mid-30s. Matt Jackson was called up from the Herts Raptors due to the depleted Hawks numbers on Father’s Day, but he truly held his own.
Game 2: Hawks 11 Daws Hill Spitfires 9
The second game was even more heated, with the temperature baking and tempers flaring. With the Hawks leading 4-2 in the 3rd inning, there was a tense moment after what seemed like an innocuous play at first. The Herts batter, Ernest Ayala Jr, managed to reach base after a throw to first base took the first baseman off the bag and Ayala went by him before he could apply the tag. Ayala Jr made a turn into fair territory under the impression that the throw went astray all the way to the fence. He quickly realized that the ball was in the first baseman’s glove and and he had to slide back feet-first into first base to avoid being tagged out. The first baseman didn’t seem to realize that he had an opportunity to tag the runner out so he wasn’t sure why he was sliding into first base and incorrectly concluded that Ayala Jr’s slide was an act of aggression. This caused a heated confrontation involving a large number of players from both sides. Thankfully, cool heads prevailed after a 15-minute delay. Games between these two teams are always played with the utmost mutual respect and this was the case again on Sunday, apart from this one heated moment, which we should probably attribute to the incredibly hot weather rather than any ill feeling. With the scores fluctuating throughout the game, Ernie Ayala was able to hold onto the game for a complete game win against some good pitching and solid hitting.
Hawks are now 9-2 this season, 1 game back on the East London Latin Boys with Sidewinders and Marauders following close behind. Next game for Hawks is away doubleheader at Marauders on 2 July, to be played at Enfield, not Finsbury Park
Thanks should go again to the umpires, making another fantastic contribution to the game, with great, timely calls, diffusing situations, in gruelling conditions.