Herts had tied the score in the final inning of Game 2. They had put the winning run at third base. A spare runner was at first base as insurance, and there was only one man out.
The Eagles were poised for a glory moment.
After working the count, the hitter lined it up the middle. Off the bat, it looked promising. But then it flew straight into the shortstop’s glove. And he promptly doubled off the runner on third, who was inescapably hung up.
Inning over. Chance missed. Game still tied.
It perhaps summed up a day when the Herts Eagles simply couldn’t get enough good hits into gaps to ever gain any momentum.
Let’s skip back to the start.
The Eagles were hosting the Redbacks at Basing Hill ballpark. The Essex team won both games when these teams met at Forest Glade a month ago. But since then the Eagles had shown consistent improvement and had finally won their first game.
Simon Langton got the start on the mound for Herts and worked around one walk for a scoreless opening inning. He struck out five over the first three frames, limiting the Redbacks to 5 runs.
But the Eagles bats were struggling even more. In those same three innings, they had mustered just one hit and scored no runs.
Redbacks’ pitcher Dennis Rodebush – who had bamboozled the Eagles when they first met – now did the same again. His final line was very different to Langton’s – only one strikeout compared with 8, but – crucially – no runs.
Somehow he induced a consistent series of squibs, dribblers, and pop-ups. Only Kumail Jaffer managed a solid hit, driving a double to centre.
Rodebush helped his own cause, golfing a home run to lead off the fifth inning as the Redbacks finally managed to break open what had remained a tight game despite everything. They brought home 5 runs in that inning, 4 more in the next, chasing Langton.
Rob Gibson stepped in as relief pitcher, striking out 3 in two innings of work. But he could not close down the Redbacks offense. The game went a full seven innings, but ended with the first shutout the Eagles had suffered all year. 19-0 the final score.
In Game 2, Herts turned to their winner from last week Yasu Ichige as starting pitcher. This was to be a very different type of game. Instead of a cagey affair which turns into a blowout, this was back and forth with good hitting on both sides.
Essex scored 3 in the first, but Herts matched them immediately. Essex hit another homer to give them a 4-3 lead in the second.
For Herts, Gibson – who had hit the ball a long way in Game 1, but always a long way into the air – now got his eye in and drove balls to the outfield. Ichige got vital hits, as did first baseman Max Trautman.
Essex led 10-8 going into the final inning, with no run limit. But they were held to just one, so Herts needed four to walk it off and win.
With three runs in, Kumail Jaffer at third and Adam Collins at first, things looked good. Then that liner off the end of the bat from catcher Rob Jones, and swift work from the Essex shortstop, took it to extras.
This time, the Redbacks were able to pile on some runs, and Herts could not get them back. It ended 16-11 to Essex.
Frustrations came in different forms for the other Herts teams, because of the weather.
The Hawks were able to get under way at Grovehill against Richmond, with manager Michael Cresswell back in place after a trip to Bulgaria playing with the Herts Falcons. As an added bonus, Louis Hare hit a homer in the first.
But a downpour caused a delay then a cancellation. It was the same story for the Herts Raptors, who hope to reschedule quickly against the Essex Archers.
In Triple-A, the Londoners were due to be miles away in Oxford. But the rain wiped them out too.
Next week, the Falcons, Londoners, Hawks — and possibly now the Raptors – are back in action. Then British baseball takes a break from playing to watch the historic first MLB game in London.