(photos by Darren Priest)
Adam Collins reporting from Westmorland Park, Bracknell
The third weekend of Herts Eagles’ inaugural season saw them travel to Bracknell Inferno in search of their first league wins. The task ahead was clearly in the minds of the players and, despite late additions to the DL, the Eagles continued to show growth as a newly-formed team in the face of strong pitching and batting from Bracknell.
Game 1 saw a determined start to what would be a great day for Eagles lead off man Trevor Clissold, showing great patience against tough pitching to work a full count and draw a walk. Clissold, making the most of base-running opportunities; aiming to steal second during the second at bat; the gun down throw came and missed the target resulting in a fantastic run to home, bringing in an opening Eagles run. Unfortunately for the Eagles the pitching only improved, striking out the next two and forcing a 6-3 groundout to end the inning.
The Eagles defence came out into the bottom of the first with debut appearances from Francois Earp (CF) and young Alex Trautman pitching. Trautman, in his first senior appearance on the mound, displayed excellent control going toe-to-toe with a much older, and more experienced, batting line-up limiting Bracknell to two runs in the first.
Unfortunately, it was not to be the Eagles’ game. Consistently strong batting and pitching from Bracknell secured the Game 1 win despite strong defensive efforts and a base hit and stolen base from Clissold being driven home by Aspi Dimitrov in the top of the third . Bracknell Inferno 17- Herts Eagles 2 .
Game 2 saw Eagles come out with more of the same effort and a number of players take to the mound for the first time. Aspi Dimitrov led the way as the opener, followed by Andy Stratford, Max Trautman and Kumail Jaffer all stepping up to the mound.
The defensive effort was strong with excellent plays from new players throughout the game. Francois Earp (CF) displayed excellent range chasing down fly balls and Kumail Jaffer (3B) showing cat-like reflexes and a cannon arm picking off potential base hits. Excellent base running from Clissold and Earp allowed the Eagles to take advantage of Bracknell errors to bring home two runs.
Unfortunately, Bracknell brought more of their depth and experience with yet more strong pitching and a flow of at bats that couldn’t be stemmed by Eagles fielding efforts. Bracknell Inferno 12 – Herts Eagles 2.
Overall, it was a tough away day for Herts Eagles. However, there is a clear sense of development amongst the team. This is the first time playing baseball for many of the Eagles, and each week fielding plays are becoming more routine, more contact is being made at the plate, and the team is growing in confidence with each rep. An 0-6 start may be a tough pill to swallow, but the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays did the same before taking the Wild Card slot from the Red Sox – watch this space.