In two games packed with both drama and laughs, a couple of fielders will have seen their lives flash before them.
Herts Ravens’ pitcher Andrew Slater caught a bullet from the bat of Mo Nasr more through instinct than from intent. And playing third base for the Herts Eagles, Eleni Xintaras was targeted by a missile off the bat of Sonam Lama – and wisely and superbly got a glove to it. The catch ended the inning.
These were the first Herts derbies for the Ravens this season, and they had plenty of fielding highlights. They ended with a pair of Ravens wins, 15-2 and 9-5. But the Eagles put up a strong fight, especially in Game 2.
The day started with a well-struck single for the Eagles pitcher and leadoff man, Jamie Lang-Richards. Atena Barani drove him in but the first of the day’s double plays then snuffed out the early threat. Ravens shortstop Eddie Wang took a catch and smartly doubled off the runner from first.
When the Ravens got to hit, it was Wang’s 2-RBI single which keyed a 5-run first inning. Arnie Longboy soon settled in on the mound and the home side took control. He was helped by another double play – this one a fully-fledged Major League style 6-4-3 off a ground ball – turned by Wang, Joey Li and Eric Ferng which ended the top of the third inning.
The Ravens put up another 5 runs in the third with Norman Peng and Jack Page among those getting hits to extend the lead. The Eagles had a last surge of base runners in the fifth, with Xintaras getting a hit and scoring a run. But it wasn’t enough to keep the game alive.
In Game 2, it looked as if the Ravens would impose themselves again, holding a 4-1 lead after the first. But there was no score by either side in the second. The Ravens had loaded the bases, but that hotshot catch by Xintaras ended the danger. In the third the Eagles, led by Lang-Richards and aided by some flawed fielding, pulled back two runs to make it 4-3.
The Ravens were able to get the line moving again in the bottom of the third. Matt Jackson, on loan to the Eagles and on the hill, kept pitching around the zone, striking out 2 and surrendering only 2 hits. But walks took their toll and the lead was 9-3 entering the final uncapped inning.
Hits from George Thomas, and from Jackson, helped make some drama. A close play at the plate, with Ravens’ centre fielder Joseph Field showing off his arm, went the Eagles way. They clawed back 2 runs, but it ended with a final ground-out.
These were games played in a good spirit, with friends getting the chance to face each other on opposing teams and test their mettle. Tremendous catches, and some good hitting, made for good baseball for the spectators. But it was always going to be tough for the Eagles. The two teams meet again next weekend at Basing Hill.