Herts Baseball Club passed another milestone on Sunday, May 19th, and did it with a bit of style and drama.
The Herts Londoners, in their inaugural season in Triple-A, played their first game at their new home in north-west London – and came away with a walkoff win against the defending champions.
The Londoners were at home against the Richmond Knights at Basing Hill Ballpark, close to Brent Cross, which was opened this year as Herts expanded to cope with demand. Until now – while final preparations were made – the team has been playing its home fixtures at Grovehill.
Now they were really coming home.
Herts was delighted to welcome local councillor, Anne Clarke, to perform the ceremonial honours and throw out the first pitch. She had a chance to warm up and get some tips from our expert coaches – and admitted she had been practising!
“This is a really positive project”, she said. “It’s great to see the park being used regularly, and to have a sports team make it their home.”
After the teams were introduced, and the national anthem was played, Councillor Clarke — watched by her family as well as a number of spectators – threw a strike to Herts catcher, Andrew Roberts.
So how was the experience of pitching? “It was a lot of fun!”, she said with surprise. “The response from people in the park has been really good, and they have enjoyed stopping by to watch the game”.
Herts baseball club hopes to develop the site in the future, adding a pitching mound and backstop. The club has already signed up a record number of players this season, and it’s expected that the arrival of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in London this summer will see a fresh surge of interest in the sport.
And so, to the games….
Londoners’ manager Wade Lynch was starting pitcher for Game 1, and despite solid work from him, Richmond came out swinging and built an early lead. It was 6-0 in the middle of the 3rd.
Dany Bueno put Herts right back in contention with a 2-run home run in the bottom of the frame. It was one of his 2 hits in the game, and he drove in three. The contest became tight again.
But Richmond blew it open with 10 runs in the sixth, and secured the victory 16-3. Londoners had only 10 on their roster for the day so they could perhaps be forgiven for thinking a long day was ahead.
But redemption was to come …..
There was no score in the early exchanges in Game 2. Chris Gregory was now pitching for Herts, and the Londoners gave him a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third. He drove in one himself, to follow hits from Bueno and Hector Miguel.
The Knights came right back, surging ahead 7-3. But on a day of historic beginnings, Londoners were not going to end up on the wrong end of this result. In the bottom of the seventh, Kimiyoshi Saionji drove in Gregory to tie the game at 7 apiece. Into extra innings it went.
Richmond couldn’t score in the top of the eighth. When Herts’ Dany Bueno came up to bat with one out, he was intentionally walked – he had added a second home run in Game 2, and driven in 2 runs. The Knights were taking no chances.
Instead they opted to face Darren Priest, who had entered the game off the sub’s bench. He normally plies his baseball trade for the Herts Eagles in Single-A, but had stepped up to help the club.
“It’s all a bit of a blur now, but I’m pretty sure the count was 1-1”, he recalls. “The pitcher winds up… the tension is crippling. The ball comes in and I take a swing…CRACK!”
A hard ground ball was driven past the feet of the shortstop, and Priest was heading for second, Bueno off and running to third. Richmond saw the danger of the winning run and threw to third. But the ball hit Bueno and went out of play and he advanced to home. Game over. 8-7.
The Londoners’ victory – their first at Basing Hill – continues their excellent start to their season. It was also part of an exceptional weekend for Herts.
In the National Baseball League, the Falcons leapfrogged the Essex Arrows by sweeping their double-header at Townmead. Manager Cris Hiche credited a great all-round performance by the pitching staff and the defence for securing 8-4 and 9-5 wins.
The Herts Hawks won 2 games – bouncing back from the previous week’s defeat – while the Herts Raptors claimed their first victory of the season in Single-A thanks to a stellar pitching performance from young Nico Durer. He struck out 9 London Mustangs batters – including the first three he faced!