The Herts Falcons lost both games of their home series against the Sheffield Bruins which could prove to be critical at the end of the season.
Before the games, the Falcons were in fifth place, one game ahead of the Bruins who were sixth in the National Baseball League (NBL) standings. They had identified this series as key not only to pull away from the Bruins but to leapfrog the fourth-placed London Latin Boys and go into the playoff zone.
Game One was tied at 1-1 after three innings but Herts had a repeat of the previous week where a couple of bad innings allowed the opponent to run away with the game. Player manager, Cris Hiche hit a solo home run late in the game but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback and the game ended with a final score of 2-12. The winning pitcher for Sheffield was Elbis Avila who pitched a complete game allowing only four hits.
While game one proved to be one-sided, the second game of the doubleheader provided intense late inning drama. The ballpark saw the highest attendance of the season so far, and those who stayed to the end were kept on the edge of their seats.
The Falcons took an early 1-0 lead and seemed to be in control but a crushing grand slam home run by Andrei Apostoaei put the Falcons on the back foot again. They tied the game with three runs in the bottom of the third but the Bruins responded immediately with another four runs in the fourth.
Patient at bats combined with hits by Cris Hiche, Fraser Duggan and Tetsuro Shinkawa brought the Falcons right back in the game. They loaded the bases with two outs in the final inning and the score 9-10 but Sheffield managed to get the final out and sweep the series.
The game saw a large number of kids and families in attendance who were seeing a baseball game in person for the first time. The children played catch with their parents and many showed interest in coming to try baseball with the Herts youth teams. Growing the fan base and the Herts youth baseball programme was one of the aims of the club’s NBL Pilot Project. Will one of these boys and girls go on to play for the Herts Falcons in the NBL in a few years?
The team’s next game is on Sunday, 21 May, away at the Essex Arrows who are currently occupy second place in the NBL table. This is followed by the Falcons’ next home game on Sunday, 28 May, when the Arrows will come to Grovehill Ballpark. Tickets for the game are on sale here.
Herts Falcons manager Cris Hiche will have the task of lifting the players after this setback. Qualification for the postseason Playoffs is still in their own hands, but they need to start picking up wins, especially in the key matchups against direct opponents in the Playoff race.