A win is a win, but some wins are bigger than others. For the Herts Eagles, the victory at the Essex Redbacks on Sunday was special. It was, they said, “epic”. For this was their first win this season, which has been a tough year in which a team made up of largely rookie players battled numbers, availability, and the baseball gods.
The first game of the double-header had ended in a 5-5 tie which was, in itself, a great step forward. Joseph Coulson struck out 7 in a complete game effort, and made a highlight reel catch in foul ground. The Eagles outhit the Redbacks, too.
But even better was to come in Game 2. Jake Spicer turned in a solid pitching performance, and he was backed with an offense which struck early and often. Neil Chilton and Pavan Sunkara delivered key hits in the first inning, Sammy English ran wild on the bases in the second, and the Eagles jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
Defense, as always, was crucial too. A double play at first base, and a great catch down the left field line by Atena Barani, helped protect the lead. And when Spicer tired in the final inning, Chilton stepped in for the save. He secured the final out with a fielders’ choice at home plate, and Eagles took the game 9-6.
Manager Reece Crawley – who said he was “on cloud 9” after the win – had a long list of shout-outs to every member his squad for giving everything. “I couldn’t be prouder of the hard work and dedication of a team that never gave up”, he said.
There was credit for George Llewellyn Thomas – for keeping the spirits high when energy was low — and to coach Sydney McCall – for helping everyone stay focused, and to move when they had to and stay when they needed to!
A team wins together, and the Eagles were able to celebrate together after a well-deserved victory.
The Herts Ravens took their win streak up to 15 games in their Single-A doubleheader at Grovehill against the Herts Raptors. The Ravens are leading their division, but the post-season rules mean every game is a must-win to be sure of a place and to secure seeding.
Eddie Wang took the win in Game 1, his sixth of the year. He didn’t perhaps have his best stuff and the Raptors offered stiff resistance, working walks and mustering 6 hits – Max Kuszewski with two of them. But Wang battled out of trouble and he was helped by the crucial batting power of Ravens’ lefty slugger Zak Beller. He went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a triple, and drove in 7. It ended 19-8.
Game 2 saw ace Nic Goetz deliver the goods again, striking out 7 to take the win. But again Raptors fought hard, with Jamie Wise and Natasha Romoff among the hits. For the Ravens, Jack Page got two hits to drive the offense. Sonam Lama also racked up his sixth walk and fifth run of the day, and helped nail down the 13-6 win.
On Grovehill’s other diamond, the Herts Hawks of the Double-A league were facing the MK Bucks, who are challenging for the playoffs.
While wins eluded the Hawks in both games, there were some outstanding performances. Jack O’Brien was excellent on the mound, striking out 7 and dominating the opposition in much of the first game. Kobby Darteh drove in a pair and both he and Seth Muirden — recently promoted from the junior leagues – put in huge and successful efforts to adapt to the senior leagues.
Game 2 saw tremendous defence from Harry McMenamin and from Max Farmborough, who put in an excellent shift at shortstop, out of his usual positions. He ended one inning with an impressive double play, making the catch and gunning out an aggressive runner trying to score. Manager Ken Pike felt his team were starting to show their mettle as they tightened their defense and got the bats going – “the Hawks may be newly promoted but they are starting to show that the step up, while it’s a challenge, is setting great groundwork to re-establishing a credible Herts Hemel Hempstead double A presence.”
The Cardinals faced Bournemouth Bears at Basing Hill in Triple-A, and needed to get a result if they were to stay in the playoff hunt. The Bears took the win 7-2 in Game 1, despite a solid outing by Tyler Cote and three hits by Osvaldo Badia.
But the big win came in Game 2. Early exchanges were tight, but then the Cardinals went ahead for good. RBIs by Badia, Cote and Mike Cresswell gave the home side a 5-3 lead. They extended it in the fourth, courtesy of Naohiko Kumagai and Hiroki Fujimoto, who both enjoyed multi-hit games.
Brian Dearing took the 9-3 victory on the mound, surrendering just 3 runs in five innings of work. Stephen Wong recorded the save and the Cardinals stay in the postseason race.
The Ducks were swept by Sidewinders in their doubleheader in Double-A, while the Herts Falcons went out with a bang as they were finally eliminated from playoff contention in the NBL. They pushed the London Capitals all the way, even going to extras in Game 2. But they came away empty handed, and because rained out games against Sheffield can’t be rescheduled they are out of the race.
There was a welcome treat for Falcons fans – and British baseball fans more generally – as the games were streamed online. Viewers checked in from around the world to see the drama, and to see how well the Falcons closed their first season back in the top flight.