The Falcons and the Latin Boys produced two dramatic games winning one game each to keep both teams in the National Baseball League Playoff race but the Sheffield Bruins may be the happiest after the weekend’s action without swinging a bat.
The Latin Boys took an early 2-0 lead but Herts fought back to make the score 5-2 with back-to-back home runs by Alex Deacon and Phil Clark, his fourth of the season.
This was Deacon’s best outing of the season on the mound. He struck out 7 batters over 6 innings and allowed only 4 hits and 2 runs of which only 1 was earned.
The team added 2 more runs in the fifth inning and Tomohiro Tamura pitched the last inning to seal a 7-3 win for Herts.
There was no time for celebration. They were about to face starting pitcher Jorge Gonzalez who pitched a complete game shutout the last time they faced him. The Falcons took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a solo home run by third baseman Jack Warrington.
The Latin Boys hit back in the third inning with 2 runs to take the lead despite Michael Barrett, Dylan Lawler and Fraser Duggan turning a well-executed double play.
The visitors extended their lead to 5-1 in the fifth inning after a triple by Viktoras Ratkevicius. It could have been more if it wasn’t for a spectacular diving catch by Ben Sporleder at the wall.
It looked like the game was starting to run away from Herts but they rallied with 2 outs in the bottom of that inning. Jack Warrington hit his second home run of the game driving in Ben Sporleder who hit a single before him.
The Latin Boys squeezed another run in the top of the sixth inning to silence the home fans but that was only temporary as a 2-run double by catcher Alex Paterson brought Falcons to within a run going into the final inning.
After a rain delay, in the seventh and final inning the visitors added one more run on a sacrifice fly by Ratkevicius which meant that Herts were down 5-7. Despite Michael Barrett and Jack Warrington reaching base, starting pitcher Jorge Gonzalez shut the door striking out two batters to secure the win for the Latin Boys.
Earlier in the day Sheffield Bruins’ home game versus the London Capitals was cancelled due to a waterlogged field so the gap in the NBL standings between them and the Herts Falcons remains at 4 games. The Falcons have a two-week rest. Their hope is that the Sheffield Bruins will stumble in their remaining 10 games of the season. If that happens, Herts Falcons can still qualify for the Playoffs if they can win their next two games which are away in Sheffield on 6 August and they may also need to win one or possibly both of their games away at the London Capitals on the final day of the season depending on the outcome of other games.
The decision of the British Baseball Federation on how and when to fit Sheffield’s 4 rained out games between now and 13 August will be critical in deciding who will finish in the top four places of the NBL.
Fans on Sunday saw Herts Falcons’ final home game of the regular season which was part of the club’s NBL Pilot project which aims to grow the fan base and the number of spectators by providing a more immersive game day experience. Dacorum Deputy Mayor Cllr. Brenda Link was the guest of honour throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
After the game Herts co-General Manager, Aspi Dimitrov, said that “although this long-term project is in its early stages, attendance levels have been encouraging despite the team’s difficult start of the season. We reached a new audience who watched a baseball game for the first time in their lives at Grovehill Ballpark this year. On Sunday many of the fans stayed through the rain right to the end of the second game to support the team which is an indication that the club has managed to establish an emotional connection with fans. The players and the club are grateful for their support this season and let’s see if the Falcons can reward them by qualifying for the Playoffs, against all odds.”