Falcons back in NBL playoff race after walk-off win

Falcons back in NBL playoff race after walk-off win

There was late inning drama at Grovehill Ballpark once again. This time the Herts Falcons came out on top after a rejuvenated performance against the Essex Arrows who are one of the leading teams this season winning 8 out of their first 10 games and who feature a number of players with experience in MLB minor league teams.

(photo by Will Baxter)

Alex Deacon was the starting pitcher for the Falcons in the first game of this doubleheader. He allowed only 6 hits in his 6 innings of work, striking out 6. On another day, this may have been enough but, at this hitter-friendly ballpark, 4 out of those 6 hits were home runs. Still, the Falcons maintained their composure and gradually worked their way back into the game.  Phil Clark responded with a solo home run of his own to pull one back.  Two more runs came in after a hit from Dan Moran and a wild pitch which made the score 4-3 to the visitors going into the sixth inning. But it wasn’t enough as the Arrows took the game beyond the Falcons with a final score of 9-4.

Game One Box Scores

Going into the second game, there was a real concern for Herts fans that, if they lose the second game, the Falcons may drift too far behind the teams chasing a place in the National Baseball League (NBL) postseason playoffs.

For a team featuring so many young players, it was expected that heads would drop but, last week and this week, the team’s confidence and performance levels have risen noticeably and the players have demonstrated an ability to focus on the task at hand and not be affected by the difficult start of the season.

Cole Nakazawa (left) went 4-for-4 and Ben Morris (right) 2-for-4 on a good day for Herts bats (photo by Will Baxter)

They took an early 2-0 lead on hits from Cole Nakazawa, Ben Morris, Cris Hiche and Phil Clark. 3 runs for Essex put the home team on the back foot again but they retook the lead with 2 runs of their own in the fourth inning.  Back came the Arrows late in the game to take a 5-4 lead going into the final inning. For the fans who stayed to the end, it felt like it would be another gut-wrenching loss as the Falcons were about to bat with 3 outs remaining.

Back-to-back doubles by Tasuku Ishihara and Cole Nakazawa tied the game. Players and fans in the ballpark were on their feet. A Ben Morris single put the winning run on third base.  Arrows’ manager, Eduardo Rodrigues, made the strategic decision to walk Mike Cresswell intentionally and load the bases. It looked like that decision may pay off as their relief pitcher Galvez Rodriguez struck out Phil Clark for the second out. All the pressure fell on Herts third baseman, Jack Warrington, and he delivered the walk-off hit which sparked wild celebrations as the Falcons bench cleared and started chasing him around the field.

The losing streak is over. The release for the players, coaching staff and fans was palpable with so much pressure on the team to win this game.

Game Two Box Scores

(photo by Will Baxter)

Starting pitcher, Will Clayton, had his best game of the season so far allowing only 5 hits and 2 earned runs in his 5.1 innings of work. The win was awarded to Daniel Moran who did not falter in the final 1.2 innings.

The Falcons are still 3 games back on the fourth-placed Sheffield Bruins but have closed the gap on the third-placed London Capitals who were swept in their two-game series against the Mets.  This win for the Falcons against one of the top NBL teams was not factored in anyone’s calculations and is a major boost for them going into the business end of the season.

Between the two games Herts fans took part in The Race involving kids and adults competing against each other for a prize. 3 foul balls were caught during the game earning those fans a hot dog each (photo by Will Baxter)

A large number of fans came out to support the Falcons, including club legends, Geoff Hare and former manager, Stuart Boast, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The next eight games for the Falcons are on the road and we expect a good number of Herts baseball fans to go and support the team at these away games starting with the trip to the league leading London Mets on 10 June at Finsbury Park.  First pitch is at 2pm. The next chance to see the Falcons at home is on 16 July when they welcome the London Latin Boys.