For five innings, the box score was ticking over steadily as the Herts Raptors took on the Cambridge Monarchs on a gloomy but humid Coldham’s Common. The numbers show two teams who were evenly matched, writes Rob Jones.
Then, for the first time, the visiting batters put up a zero in their top half of the sixth inning. And then Cambridge come back to bite them, big time.
But let’s start at the beginning. The Raptors had struggled to piece together a team for this trip to Cambridge, with injuries, family crises and the start of the summer holidays all taking their toll. But with a little help from the Monarchs, they got the men they needed.
Shortstop Rob Jones scored the first run of the game, talking a walk, stealing a base, and advancing on a pass ball before he was driven in by first baseman John Kjorstad.
The next batch of runs, which came in the second inning, were similarly manufactured. Joseph Osborne Brade with the walk, then the wild pitch, before he was driven in by Matt Jackson. A steal and a single, then Kjorstad in turn brought him home.
So far, so good.
Ben Sinclair ended the inning by flying out to a fielder just inches from the home run fence. Perhaps Herts’ inability to get “a big hit” stopped them capitalising on their own good work at the plate.
In the field, they did good work to keep the Monarchs in check. Second baseman James Emblow made an unassisted double play in the first inning, taking a catch then swiftly stepping on his bag for another out. Left fielder Osborne-Brade cut down a runner trying to go home on a hit to the outfield in the second, with catcher Arnie Longboy standing strong to secure the out at the plate.
So the lead changed hands in the early innings, but it was always nip and tuck. A 4-3 Herts lead became a 6-5 deficit and then after five innings it was tied 8-8.
Then…. well, it’s hard to put a finger on what happened next. Paul Barton, who had pitched out of trouble thus far, perhaps lived too dangerously this time. A difficult catch went down, then one or two easier ones.
And hits just found holes. Arnie Longboy moved from behind the plate to pitch, as fine rain started to sweep across the field. He closed it down, but only after Cambridge had scored their ninth run of the inning and gone ahead 17-8.
Herts then had the opportunity to hit back. But the task had been made harder by the Monarchs flame-throwing reliever, who had racked up strikeouts once he settled in on the mound. The Raptors did make some good contact, and worked more walks. But they could score only two, leaving the Monarchs needing three runs for a mercy win.
Longboy induced a pop-up for the first out, but Herts could not hold back the river. With the infield drawn in, a single up the middle struck the winning blow. It ended 20-10 and moved the Raptors to 5-6 on the season.