LYBL continue to be the dominant force in British youth baseball as they finished in first place in all four age divisions of the BBF Youth National Baseball Championships. However, Herts Baseball Club is closing the gap.
The Herts Falcons faced LYBL in the U19 national final. There were exceptionally talented players on both rosters with experience playing in the National Baseball League and for the Great Britain U15 and U18 National Teams. Those who were at the game saw very high level of baseball and a number of GB coaching staff were there too to assess British players.
Ten of the U19 players were members of the Herts Falcons NBL team this season – seven of them were on the Falcons U19 roster and three were with LYBL U19 as this was the youth baseball programme which they came through. Unfortunately for Herts, Ben Sporleder, wasn’t able to recover from an injury in time for this game and Tasuku Ishihara also wasn’t available to play. This opened an opportunity for U19 players from the other Herts adult league teams to shine in this final. All seven Herts adult league teams were represented on the Herts Falcons U19 roster.
Dan Moran was the starting pitcher in the first game of this best-of-3 series and he had an excellent outing. The game went right down to the wire with LYBL U19 leading 4-3 going into the final inning, but they managed to drive in 4 more runs to win the game.
Game Two became a must-win for the Falcons U19 and they had the best possible start taking a 2 -0 lead with starting pitcher Erik Gustafson keeping LYBL batters off balance and getting outs. They had the opportunity to extend their lead when they loaded the bases with no one out in the later innings but LYBL U19 stayed calm under pressure to get out of that situation without allowing any runs to score. That was a missed opportunity and the momentum of the game changed. LYBL took the lead and didn’t look back as they won Game Two 9-3 winning the series and lifting the U19 national championship trophy. GB U18 National Team manager, Erick Henson, chose Kaden Horwood as the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the series.
The Herts U16 team also faced LYBL in the semi-final and their task was just as difficult. J.J. Sanders kept the Falcons U16 in the game with a commanding performance on the mound but LYBL found a way through the Herts defence to take a 4-1 lead. They managed to extend that lead to 10-1 after J.J. Sanders reached his regulation pitch count limit which is in force in youth baseball.
In the U16 Bronze Medal game the Falcons U16 came up against the Essex Redbacks U16s who took a 6-3 lead. Herts players needed to find a way back into the game and they produced a late comeback to win 11-7 and take the U16 bronze medal.
The luck of the draw also paired Herts with the favourites LYBL in the U13 division. Chi Hong Wong and Hans Hartman combined on the mound for the Falcons. They and the defence behind them had to battle against a very competent opponent. Similar to the U16 semi-final, Herts kept pace in the first half of the game but LYBL took the game beyond them eventually. Final score 12-3.
London Mets were the opponents in the Bronze medal game and they won it 7-3.
The Falcons U11 team secured the second Bronze medal for Herts Baseball Club. They came up against a strong Mets U11 team in the semi-final but bounced back in the Bronze medal game with a win against Essex Redbacks U11.
There were over 200 players and many more fans at Farnham Park for the 2023 National Youth Baseball Championships and they may not have realised that among them was an MLB All Star. Chase Utley (pictured above on the bench) is a World Series winner with the Philadelphia Phillies but on Saturday he was quietly following the next generation of British Baseball players as an ambassador for MLB in Europe. Will one of them go on to play in MLB in the future? We look forward to following the progress of these talented young players in the coming years.
There is one more event for boys and girls aged between 6 and 15 this Saturday in the Annual Herts Futures Tournament. New players can still register to play in the tournament. Contact Herts Baseball Club for more details.