HERTS Eagles pulled off a stunning comeback win in the opening game of their home double-header against division leaders and club rivals Herts Londoners.
The two sides – once compared to AC and Inter Milan due to their ground sharing arrangement – eventually split the double header in the July heatwave, with the Londoners roaring back in a dominant second tie.
In the spirit of unity, this report has been co-authored by a member of each roster.
GAME 1 by Kumail Jaffer
THE EAGLES flew back from 9-1 down to chalk up a well-earned 12-11 win at Basing Hill.
The Londoners, who have been swatting aside other Single A teams with ease, looked like giving the plucky Eagles similar treatment.
Although Jamie Lang-Richards was pitching well on the mound, the veteran batters kept finding the gaps in the field, and scored nine runs in the first two innings.
The Eagles sole reply came from Kumail Jaffer, who whacked a ground-rule double before stealing two bases to come home.
But the Eagles, still hunting a .500 record, were never going to give up.
Mo Abdule singled, classics expert and cramp-stricken Dowan Bellerose drew a walk before Peter Wilson loaded the bases.
It was down to Evan Robbins and Jaffer to bring the boys home, before Lang-Richards returned the favour to put the Eagles right back in the game.
A motivated Eagles side tightened it up, limited the Londoners to just two runs, including a powerful hit by Rob Jones. They matched it up again in the bottom of the inning, with Tom Hill and Wilson bringing home the batters.
It was down to Lang-Richards to continue his assured dealing on the mound. Two scoreless innings sandwiched a three-run effort from the Londoners to tie up the game.
But Greg Bochan was pitching with a vengeance, and picked up two quick outs – the Eagles were already suiting up for extra innings when Robins turned up at the plate.
A powerful hit out to centre-field saw a triple come through, leaving Jaffer with the responsibility of bringing home the bacon.
But controversy struck. The Londoners gave him the Barry Bonds treatment and intentionally walked the leadoff hitter.
Lang-Richards, to complete a well-rounded performance, took one strike before hammering the next pitch to centre-field for the crucial RBI single.
And as Robins crossed home plate, the Eagles celebrated. This was a top team they had not only gone toe-to-toe against, but edged out a tough win.
Was the sweep on?
GAME 2 by Rob Jones
Losing is never fun, and losing to a walkoff hit can be a gut-punch. But the Londoners were quick to strike back.
The opening exchanges of Game 2 indicated that the Londoners were perhaps going to assert their dominance. They racked up the maximum 5 runs in the first frame, with Sonam Lama and Norman Peng among those with hits.
Londoners had their enigmatic slowball ace Andrew Slater on the mound, and he sat down the Eagles in order in the bottom of the first. Then the visitors scored 5 more. So far, so tidy.
But with 2 outs in the third, and one man on from a walk, the Eagles got a sniff of an opportunity and they took it. Dowan Bellerose reached on a throwing error, and his team followed it up with 4 straight singles.
The Londoners responded, capitalising on walks issued by the Eagles tiring pitching staff. In sapping heat, Kenny Liao and Simon Langton continued their hot hitting, and the visitors took advantage of a depleted Eagles bullpen.
After 3 innings it was 14-5 but a scoreless top of the fourth again indicated that the Eagles would not roll over. A wide throw allowed their leadoff man aboard in the bottom half of the frame, and soon the bases were loaded. Another five runs came across.
The last of them was driven in by Jaffer, after substitute first baseman Rob Jones saw the ball fly from his glove as he attempted to tag the approaching batter-runner. The call was out, but then overturned to safe, so the run scored. Was there to be more controversy? Fortunately, the hot weather did not fray tempers.
It did further deplete the Eagles ranks, though, when Bellerose finally succumbed to cramp. Catching two games in such heat took its toll, and the Londoners were able to finally crack the game open and lock down the win.
A fly-out, a pop-out and then a ground-out — with the tag securely applied – ended the game. 21-10 was the score, and Slater took a complete game victory.
These games had been moved forward in the day to avoid the worst of the heat. The temperature probably still influenced play, with some unusual errors, and a see-saw scoreline. But honours ended even and both sides now move forward to their next challenges.
They meet again in August.