Falcons fall at the last; Mets take NBL title

There had been a sprinkling of fairy dust on the Herts Falcons’ postseason run. But there wasn’t quite enough magic to overcome the London Mets in the final at Farnham Park.

This was to be a best-of-three series, with the defending champion Mets looking to lock up a repeat title.

Herts started their manager Cris Hiche on the mound on Saturday’s Game 1. He was credited with the win in both of the Falcons playoff victories the previous weekend, beating the Southampton Mustangs and the London Capitals.

This was to be a tough game right from the off. The London Mets’ bats were hot early, driving in 4 runs in the first and 6 runs in the second.

Rich Minford, the starter for London, was in dominant form and Herts just couldn’t solve him. The defending champions were able to pile on, and prevent the Falcons from scoring.

Late in the game, Cris Hiche blooded some of the young talent the club is developing. One of them, Alex Deacon, provided the defensive highlight of the day with a running catch at second base, and a sharp turn of a double play.

Herts were able to load the bases late on, with relief pitcher Aaron Witter among those getting on. Young Giuseppe Basilea hit a hard ground ball. But the Mets were equal to it, and got out of the inning.

It ended 16-1.

Wade Lynch pitches in Game 2

In Game 2 on Sunday, Herts hoped to use the Mets aggressive batting against them. Veteran Wade Lynch started on the mound, using an array of off-speed pitches.

It worked well in the early exchanges, London getting two runners on but failing to score. For Herts, Conner Brown got aboard with a single but couldn’t advance.

It was scoreless after one. The Mets weren’t held for long, though. They made good contact and found holes to score 6 in the second inning. They would keep adding throughout the ballgame.

Mets starter Michael Hoyes was able to hold the Falcons to just the one hit through three innings. But Herts were finally able to break through in the fourth.

Walter Bates led off with a single, and stole second. He was moved to third with a single by Conner Brown – who had come in to pitch in relief — and then brought home on a ground-out by Hiche. But a caught stealing and another ground-out meant the threat was blunted, and the Mets still led 10-1.

Rich Minford throws out Moise Vasquez

Again, the young talent shone. Tyler Badenhorst got the best Herts hit of the day, a booming double into left field which bounced over the fence off the warning track in the fifth.

Shortstop Carlos Casal Jr had made a smart and brilliantly executed play in the top of the fifth to save a run. Fielding a sharply hit ground ball with a runner trying to score from third, he threw home for Phil Clark to apply the tag.

But despite these highlight moments, the Falcons couldn’t put enough together to keep the game alive. A strikeout with two runners on ended the fifth, and gave the Mets an 11-1 victory by the mercy rule.

The Falcons offered their congratulations to London. Manager Cris Hiche said: “it was a tough weekend but all the credit goes to a very good Mets squad.”

He added: “They outplayed us in all aspects of the game and we didn’t come out sharp enough. This is a start of a process for the Falcons and we’ll be back stronger next year!”.

With such great  improvement through 2018, and a crop of young talent which can only get better, that certainly seems a real prospect.