The Hawks post-season run came to an end in a roller-coaster semi-final game in which two fierce rallies were not quite enough to secure victory.
The game was a mirror of the previous weekend’s battle against the Herts Londoners, with the Hawks on the ropes early and then pulling it out of the bag. But the Formosa Islanders were ultimately able to hang on and progress to the Farnham Park final.
Herts travelled to neutral ground in Bristol for this contest, and had seen Bracknell Inferno win a close first semi-final against the local Bats team.
Giuseppe Basilea got the start on the mound for Herts — who were the home side — but had a rough time. Three walks and a couple of hits allowed the Islanders to score the maximum 5 runs. Add a fielding error to the mix and the day looked difficult.
But the Hawks got one back in the bottom half of the frame, with Jack O’Brien doubling and scoring on a wild pitch. And Basilea settled down to keep the second inning scoreless.
Formosa Islanders tacked on a couple more in the top of the third, but then the Hawks were able to stage the first of their big comebacks to cut the lead to 7-6. A series of walks and wild pitches served up by the pitcher Sam Lin allowed 5 runs, with Harry McMenamin and Danny Preston among those reaching home.
Basilea got two more outs but then the game got away again, with the Islanders able to restore their lead. Manager Ken Pike came in as relief pitcher and the next couple of innings were much more nip and tuck.
Pike struck out 3, and limited the Islanders to 2 earned runs. But going into the bottom of the seventh and final inning Formosa had a 14-6 lead and seemed in a commanding position.
Herts were not surrendering, though. Substitute Dale Hardwick started it off with a walk, and was driven in by McMenamin. Wild pitches again damaged the Islanders’ cause, and helped Herts as they clawed back runs and forced a call to the bullpen for Harry Yang.
Cameron Schultz brought in Jack O’Brien, before Todd Neville really amped up the drama with an inside-the-park home run. That made it 14-11 with just one out and the extraordinary seemed possible.
There was to be no walk-off celebration this time, though. The homer was the only hit Yang gave up, and he coaxed a fly-out from Charlie O’Brien to secure the win.
The Formosa Islanders are in their first year in the BBF league, and started their schedule 1-6. But they grew throughout the season and will now play for the Single-A title.
The Herts Hawks had been drawn up as a team to compete for silverware and they delivered on that in spades. Their powerful bats and array of consistent pitchers took them to a 20-5 record, and a quarter-final win over the Londoners.
Manager Ken Pike was gutted by the defeat, but lavished praise on his “amazing” team. “What a year, and what a progression from last year”, he said – adding that as manager he had been “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
The Hawks players will next join the rest of Herts in taking part in the club’s Hunlock Series in October.