A vital win for the Herts Falcons on Sunday has moved them up into fifth place in the NBL standings and they have also closed the gap on the fourth-placed Sheffield Bruins. The top four teams will qualify for next month’s NBL Playoffs.
This was the second consecutive Sunday of six NBL teams playing two games each at Farnham Park in Slough. The Falcons were missing a number of players. Some were in Italy on international duty, others were on the injured list but the team was boosted by the return of Max Manoff and the signing of infielder Michael Barrett 48 hours before the games.
Their first opponents were the Essex Arrows who have been setting the pace this season and were in joint first place alongside the London Mets. This first game was always going to be a difficult one for Herts considering their depleted squad so it was not a surprise to see the Arrows win it comfortably.
The second game of the day was against the Latin Boys and this was the one which was going to have a much greater impact on the Playoff race and a defeat could have ended Herts’ postseason hopes. The pressure was on but the team got off to the best possible start.
A single by Matt Moran gave Herts the lead in the top of the first. Latin Boys’ starting pitcher Emanuel Aybar encountered difficulties and incurred three balks which brought in another three runs.
This was also a must-win game for the Latin Boys and their players felt the pressure too. Their second baseman Rokas Danielius crossed the line arguing an umpiring decision and was ejected.
Falcons’ starting pitcher, Alex Deacon, was doing well. But the Latin Boys were not out of this contest. A long double to left field by Nguyen Baez Aybar rounded off a 3-run bottom of the third inning which brought them right back in the game.
The Falcons were holding onto a very narrow 4-3 lead. They needed more runs and they produced them in the top of the fifth. A 2-run double by Will Clayton was followed by an inside the park grand slam by catcher Phil Clark. His hit went down the right field foul line which right fielder Jeurys Mambu Felipe did his best to cut off but the ball flew by him and rolled all the way to the right field wall. Inside-the-park home runs always seem to get the fans more excited than the longest of home run bombs. 8 Falcons runs were scored in that inning.
There was still some defensive work left to do. Will Clayton pitched the last four innings of the game allowing only 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 3 batters.
This win and the Sheffield Bruins losing their two games against the Mets and the Capitals means that the gap between the Falcons and the fourth-placed Bruins is down to four games with the two teams still to play two games against each other on August 6th. The Falcons hope to reduce that deficit and be within reach before then.
They will have the opportunity to do that this Sunday, 16 July, when they meet the Latin Boys again. This is their final home stand of the regular season. Tickets are currently on sale and Herts baseball fans can play their part in what would be an astonishing comeback if the Falcons qualify for the Playoffs.
It has been confirmed that Deputy Mayor Cllr. Brenda Link will be the guest of honour throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Herts Baseball Club is also working with DENS who support members of the Dacorum community who may be facing homelessness or social exclusion. A number of their members have expressed interest to come and see a baseball game and this Sunday they will be guests of the club at Grovehill Ballpark. Herts Baseball Club hope that this will be a positive experience for them as they look to rebuild their lives and reconnect with the community.
The Falcons have 6 games remaining in the NBL regular season. They must win a minimum of 3 of those games but they may need more than 3 wins depending on the outcome of other games.