Hawks start strong; struggles for Falcons, Raptors

The first BBF league action at Grovehill ballpark in 2018 saw the Herts Hawks facing the London Marauders in the AA division. The Hawks reached the playoffs last year in their first season back at that level, and have their eyes on even better this year.

It didn’t begin well, though. Starting pitcher Andrew Slater was shelled for eight runs in the top of the first inning, including a home run.

The Hawks struck back with three runs of their own and, although London were able to tack on another run, the home side completed the comeback to tie the game at 9-9 in the fourth.

The Marauders are always a solid team and this was a tight game until Hawks took a 12-11 lead into the final inning and locked down the victory. Slater was credited with the win, Louis Hare got the save.

Michael Cresswell stretches at first base

Crafty veteran Darrin Ward was on the pitching mound for Game 2 of the double-header, making his Hawks debut. The early exchanges were tight but both Ward and the Herts bats soon established dominance.

The home side led 11-3 by the bottom of the third inning, and ran out 13-3 winners. A sweep and a come-from-behind victory are both good elements to start the season.

On Grovehill’s other diamond, the Herts Falcons of the NBL were also making their first home appearance after splitting last week’s double-header in Essex.

A powerful Southampton Mustangs side had much the better of Game 1, winning 12-2. Wade Lynch pitched 5 innings for Herts and Phil Clark pitched 2, but mistakes in the field cost the Falcons dear.

Game 2 was a different prospect. Both sides hit well in the opening exchanges, and it was tied at 8-8 by the third inning.

The Falcons young star, Conner Brown — who spent part of last season playing with the Cologne Cardinals in Germany – pitched all seven innings superbly, and delivered with the bat, too.

Conner Brown consults with coach Duane Badenhorst

Southampton edged ahead, but Herts tied it again at 10-10 in the top of the fourth and, as the shadows lengthened, the game built to a climax. In the end, the Mustangs had too much and they won 12-10 to go 4-0 on the season.

The last game of the day featured Herts’ Single-A side, the Raptors. The team, with a good sprinkling of rookies, was taking on one of the strongest contenders for the post-season, the London Musketeers.

The visitors took advantage of some defensive stumbles to strike first and take the lead. The Raptors’ new centre fielder Liam Roberts got on base when Herts came up to bat, but things quickly turned sour when he suffered an injury stealing second base. He was diagnosed with a  dislocated elbow and a fracture, but is now recovering and the club wishes him a swift return to health.

After a long delay, London imposed themselves on the game with more runs. Herts loaded the bases in the bottom of the second but couldn’t capitalise and the visitors had taken a 5-1 lead.

The Raptors suffered a couple of more minor injury problems, and London hit and fielded well to put the game out of reach. There were high points for the home side – Oliver Durer made an exceptional catch deep in the outfield, and DH John Kjorstad delivered consistently with his bat.

Herts loaded the bases up again in the fifth as they tried to prevent an early end to the game on the mercy rule, but could only score one run and London won 17-5. The youngsters and rookies performed well and learned valuable lessons.

Herts fielders pay close attention to London baserunner