At times, it looked as if the Herts Raptors would struggle to get a team together for Sunday’s trip to the Tonbridge Bobcats, as Father’s Day stripped away a few regulars from the line-up.
In the end, the 9 players they got together played one of their best all-around games of the season to secure a win. New father and son recruits were central to it, but more of them later.
We will start at the top of the first, when rookie Harvey Blenkarne led off with a hit to centre field. He advanced around the bases to score, as did manager Matt Jackson.
Raptors loaded the bases, but some miscommunication about an infield fly ended the threat. Tonbridge struck back with two runs of their own, but in the second innings Herts were able to cash in more of their base-runners.
Doubles from Jackson and from Rob Jones helped bring in 5 runs this time, with the Bobcats getting only 1 in reply.
Herts veteran Arnie Longboy was on the mound for this one, and worked steadily in and around the strike zone. Andrew Sharp for Tonbridge picked up more strikeouts, but Longboy and his catcher, Ken Pike, kept the Bobcats swinging, and the defense backed them up.
Edward Liu, switched to first base for this game, was a rock, while Matt Jackson made excellent plays in a rare appearance at third base.
Shortstop Rob Jones – whose career highlight is probably a sliding infield catch at Tonbridge – made a sliding infield catch which was almost a carbon copy. He was able to dash in for a dying quail which had just enough to get past the pitcher, but not enough to reach anyone else.
Raptors led 10-4 after four innings. Solid, but far from decisive in Single-A. Whereas in the past, the team has sometimes lost a bit of focus at times like these, they stepped it up this time.
That father-son duo we mentioned earlier was Brian and Josh Morgan. Brian (senior) slipped smoothly into a job at second base, and got a hit every time he came up.
Josh (the younger) took time to warm up against the pitching. But when Herts needed the production to seal the game he hit a superb double to the outfield. He capped that with a steal of home, a cloud of dust as his exclamation point.
Herts scored 11 in the top of the fifth, with James Emblow contributing a double, a single and a run. It put a mercy rule win within sight. Tonbridge got runners on, and scored 2 as they loaded the bases.
But they ran out of outs. Matt Jackson made the final play from third to cap off a 21-6 victory and move his side to 5-2 on the season.
Back at Grovehill, the Herts Hawks were hosting the Norwich Iceni, last year’s unbeaten champions in Single-A. Norwich had won the first encounter between the teams in Double-A this year, a rain soaked affair which went to extra innings.
The Hawks bats helped them jump out to an early lead, and pitcher Darrin Ward held the visitors to just one hit in the first two innings. Norwich did manage to rally.
But the Hawks showed their power to surge ahead. Ward and Andy Cornish both hit doubles, while there was a triple for Gilberto Medina. 10 runs in the fourth inning put Herts in control, with a 17-4 lead.
Manager Mike Cresswell got on base every time he came up while Drew Mayhew – playing his first Herts game for two and a half years, hit a double.
The Hawks celebrated a 20-5 mercy rule win and they are now 8-2 on the year.
At this game, the father-son combo was Louis Hare, who played a great game as ever, and Geoff, one of the country’s leading umpires. It seems you can play baseball and celebrate Father’s Day at the same time.