Author: Adrian Smithers

Blackjacks outscore Fruit salads to take the win

British Single-A League
Herts Raptors 20 Haverhill Blackjacks 30
Adrian Smithers reporting from Haverhill

It was a very hot day in Haverhill last Sunday. Which incidentally, for anybody whom geographical awareness is not their strongest point, is in Suffolk! It’s most definitely NOT in Cambridgeshire as some believed.

It was under this inferno of an early June sun that the Raptors trotted out upon the “diamond” to play the Blackjacks for the second time in a fortnight. Raptors were hoping to exact a modicum of revenge for the previous defeat at Grovehill. A game that had seen them coming within 2 outs of securing their very first win of the season. However it was not to be on this day, as it hadn’t previously.

Raptors batted around in the 1st inning putting four runs on the board. The Blackjacks replied in the bottom of the inning with two. The 2nd inning saw the Herts team bat around again adding another four runs. Raptors starting pitcher Charlie Mayhew then retired Haverhill in order. Giving Raptors an 8-2 lead. It was the Raptors turn to put up a blank in the third as the Blackjacks batters made adjustments, on their second time through the order, scoring six runs to tie the game at 8-8 after three innings.

Raptors responded aggressively, after their first two outs in the 4th inning, batting around once more and plating six runs in the process to retake the lead 14-6. However, the bottom of the inning was truly disasterous for the Raptors and despite Cresswell relieving C.Mayhew with one out and runners on 2nd & 3rd, the Haverhill team exploded for THIRTEEN runs from five hits, four walks, passed balls and other numerous and costly errors.

The inning included an inside the “park” home run by Blackjacks slugger Becking. Who having gone deep in the teams previous encounter, failed to clear the 1,545 ft outfield fence and had to do it the hard way with the Herts outfielders mere specks against the distant horizon.

With the score now 21-14 to Haverhill, the hard throwing but wild Fuentes took over pitching duties for the Blackjacks enabling the Raptors to score six runs on a single hit, seven walks and a glut of wild pitches to pull the score back to within a run. They then held the home team to a single run inthe bottom of the fifth to trail 22-20.

Raptors failed to add to their score in the sixth, whilst the Blackjacks added a further seven unearned runs as the Raptors focus and ability to make the basic plays seemed to melt away like a chewy sweet left out in the sweltering afternoon sunshine. The Herts team fared no better in the 7th as they were sat down in order. Haverhill then added the single run they required, to bring the mercy rule into play, without an out being recorded. With the game over and the platitudes completed, half the Raptors team headed for home, the other half for the nearest pub. A happier time was had in the Rose & Crown as lost liquids were replenished.

Raptors manager Geoffrey Thomas said: “Once again we’ve scored a lot of runs but we’ve made too many mistakes and given up too many runs. There’s wins in this team, we just need to cut down on the errors.”

Raptors are back at Grovehill on Sunday 15th June to face visitors Tonbridge.

Raptors early efforts foiled by Musketeers

British Single-A League
London Musketeers 25 Herts Raptors 13
Adrian Smithers reporting form Grovehill Ballpark

Baseball relies upon its history and traditions more so than many other sports that are played nowadays. Personally I have relied upon the technologies allowed to me, as invaluable assets, whilst compiling my reports so far this season. Gamechanger and other apps being a huge aid to the memory, when concentration at the time is focused purely upon the game and its current situation. This week I don’t have that. So in the interest of accuracy, no stats will be quoted.

The Raptors started the game playing error free baseball and accordingly found themselves with a 6-0 lead after the first three innings. Raptors starting pitcher Michael Cresswell (pictured above) holding the Musketeers to a single hit whilst walking two batters. The London team put their first run on the board in the fourth, with Raptors replying in kind to keep their lead at six runs.

The Musketeer bats finally found their rhythm in the fifth inning scoring five runs without reply to pull the game back to within a run at 7-6. They scored five more in the sixth inning as Witter took over the pitching duties from Cresswell, with men already on base. Raptors could only add one run to their score in the bottom of the inning and found themselves behind for the first time in the game with the score now 11-8 to London.

The momentum was now firmly with the Musketeers. Despite Raptors manager Jones’s roboration between innings, Musketeers scored a further four runs, in the seventh, as mistakes and frustrations appeared to creep into the Raptors game. Musketeers repeated this feat adding a further four runs in the eighth inning. Needing to score twice in order to prolong the game into the ninth, Raptors scored 3 runs without an out before a pick off play to first base saw Kosak called out, to the astonishment of the Raptors dugout, on a tag that was applied to his leg that seemed clearly to already be back on the bag. The resulting protest and comment made after a warning for equipment abuse led to his ejection by the umpire.

The Musketeers scored a further six runs in the top of the ninth widening the void to 25-12. Raptors failed to score in the bottom of the inning. So with the aid of a ghost run – that doesn’t appear on the j.peg of a scorecard that I’ve been working from – the final score was 25-13!*

Raptors manager Rob Jones said, “This game was much closer than the score line suggests. Michael Cresswell pitched a gem for us and it was frustrating to let the game get away from us at the end. But London came back very strong. We have to work hard on keeping our bats going and close games out for the win.”

Raptors travel to Haverhill Blackjacks on Sunday 8th June.

*As submitted by London Musketeers.


A Bridge Too Far – Raptors fall in the ninth. Blackjacks Becking hits for the cycle.

British Single-A League
Haverhill Blackjacks 27 Herts Raptors 20
Adrian Smithers reporting form Grovehill Ballpark

The Raptors arrived at Grovehill knowing that they had a tough game ahead, against the visiting Blackjacks, as they sought their first win.

The game got underway and the Blackjacks soon had their first run on the board. Trailing by three, Raptors responded patiently and plated six runners on 1 hit, 6 walks and a HBP. Haverhill replied with six runs in the second, including a triple by Becking. Smithers led off the bottom of the inning for Herts, jumping on a first pitch slider which he hit for an opposite field triple. He was still standing rooted on third gasping for oxygen, much to the hilarity of both dugouts, when a passed ball gave him the chance to advance home two pitches later. Luckily he was able to spare his embarrassment, advancing on another passed ball two batters later for Raptors only run in the second.

The Blackjacks further extended their lead in the third inning on a two run homer from their slugger in the three spot, Daniel Becking. Despite this, Herts pitcher Charlie Mayhew settled down and got out of the inning with no further damage. The bottom of the third saw Raptors pull a run back, scored by Wittter who had been walked and then stolen second (AGAIN!) before advancing home on a passed ball to Phillips.

With the score 11-8, Herts starting pitcher Mayhew recorded two outs before reaching his pitch limit. He was relieved by Andrew Slater who got the third out of the fourth inning. Herts then added three runs in the bottom of the inning to compliment the first goose egg on the scorecard. The game was tied at 11-11.

The Blackjacks scored twice in the fifth. Raptors responded, plating three runs to at last regain the lead. This included Slater advancing all the way home from first on a passed ball to Mayhew, after pitcher Phillips hurled the ball back towards the mound in a fit of pique after failing to tag an evasively sliding Smithers at the plate.

The Blackjacks tied it up again in the sixth scoring one before relief pitcher Fuentes sent the top of the Raptors line up back to the dugout in order.

The two teams then traded blows over the next two innings and the Raptors found themselves in the top of the ninth with a one run lead (20-19) and the chance to seal their first win of the season. It was not to be and with two outs and the score tied, a tiring Slater was savaged mercilessly for a further seven runs, not all earned. The Raptors seemed to sag visibly and the bottom half of the inning was almost a formality as the Blackjacks left the diamond celebrating a hard fought 27-20 victory.

Raptors manager Geoff Thomas said, “It was a tough loss today, we played outstanding against a very good team but a couple of big innings cost us and we couldn’t quite pull it back. A lot of positives to take into next week though.”

Player of the day has to go to Haverhill’s Daniel Becking who hit for the cycle with stats of,
5-6, 6R, 4RBI, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 2BB, 3SB.

There is no joy in Mudville…

Drew Mayhew’s hit was one of just a few on a tough day for the Raptors’ offence

British Single-A League
Kent Mariners 16 Herts Raptors 3
Adrian Smithers reporting form Grovehill Ballpark

The Kent Mariners held the previously hot Raptor bats to just two hits during a six inning (time restricted) game, inflicting a third straight loss upon the Herts ‘A’ team in their long awaited home opener.

The game, originally scheduled for a 3pm start, was delayed by almost two hours as the AAA doubleheader between Herts Eagles & Hove Tuesday overran. By the time they had finished and vacated the old diamond it was almost 5pm. The Raptors squad had, for the last four hours, either been sitting around in the hot sunshine watching the AAA game or taking part in fielding practice or pitching try outs to keep themselves entertained.

With the sun now high in the late afternoon sky and directly behind home plate, making any flyball to the outfield hard to see for both teams, the game finally started with Kent scoring three runs in the top of the 1st inning. Raptors pulled one back in the bottom of the inning, as lead off bat and starting pitcher Michael Cresswell was hit by a pitch before stealing 2nd and 3rd. Raptors shortstop Daniel Bennett then grounded into a 6-3 play scoring Cresswell and collecting the only Herts RBI of the day. Kent plated six runs in the top of the second due in part to some uncharacteristic mistakes by the Raptors infield and outfield. The Herts team replying with a single run scored by catcher (and walking rulebook) Tomasz Kosak. Neither side scored in the third inning despite Raptors first hit of the game from Bennett and due in part also to an excellent catch on the mound by Cresswell, gloving a ball that had been lasered straight back at him.

Charlie Mayhew took over the pitching duties from Cresswell in the fourth inning with the score 9-2. Kent added four more runs in another error strewn inning by the Raptors until they got out of it on an unassisted double play by shortstop Bennett, catching a driven ball before tagging out the runner. Who having gone on contact – with only one out – was trying in vain to regain second base. Drew Mayhew then got Herts second hit of the game putting himself in position to come around the bags to score Raptors third run making the score 13-3 after four innings.

Kent extended their lead by 3 more runs in the fifth and sixth. With the score 16-3, and needing 13 runs to tie the game, the weary Raptors faded away with only Drew Mayhew reaching base on an error. It had been an exceptionally long day and it showed.

Raptors manager Geoff Thomas said; “Unfortunately we didn’t do ourselves justice today and were soundly beaten by a better team. I’m looking forward to us bouncing back next game and showing everyone what we can do.”

It will be a tough game for the Raptors who face visitors Haverhill Blackjacks on Sunday 25th May at Grovehill Ballpark. First pitch is at 1pm.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

BBF Single-A League
Herts Raptors 24 Brentwood Bucks 25
Adrian Smithers, reporting from Clements Park, Brentwood

The Raptors arrived in Brentwood determined to get their first win of the season. The sun was shining brightly and it was a great day for baseball.

With the Raptors ready to go, the start time came and passed, with both teams awaiting the arrival of the match umpire. However the game still did not start until after both teams had lined up to be introduced to the mayor of Brentwood. With the ceremony finally concluded the game began.

Lead off batter Mike Cresswell stepped to the plate and took strike one above shoulder height and the tone for the day had been set.

In a hard fought game the Bucks leapt out to a 12-1 lead after two innings with Herts starting pitcher Jamie Lang tiring after throwing 87 pitches in search of an elusive and ever changing K-zone. Raptors scored 3 in the top of the third before Cresswell came in to relieve Lang for the bottom of the third. He slowed the Bucks charge holding them to 1 run in the bottom of the inning to make the score 13-4. Raptors then showed their teeth in the top of the fourth scoring seven runs without an out before Bucks pitcher Cook retired the next three in a row including striking out Raptors first baseman Will Belbin (who had originally got the inning going with a single) swinging at a high pitch that today he could not afford to take. Brentwood then added 4 more in the bottom of the inning to make the score 17-11 before lefty Cresswell’s superb pick off to 1st caught Bucks’ Davenport off of 1st and with no option but to head for second and into a run down situation that the Herts infield gladly took.

With the run rate slowing and the score 19-15, Jeff Witter came in to pitch the 6th inning for Herts, relieving Cresswell. Rob Jones also came into the game at shortstop with Raptors manager Geoff Thomas shuffling round his infield. Witter held the Bucks to one run in the sixth and with Herts failing to score in the 7th, everybody stretched as the slow moving game had already been going for four hours.

Bucks tacked on two more in the bottom of the seventh after a contentious call at home plate saw Bucks run threat Harris sliding into the tag applied by Herts catcher Smithers before being called safe, much to the incredulity of the whole Herts infield who were already trotting off the diamond. Manager Thomas came out to dispute the decision and intervene before his catcher, who had finally had enough and was voicing his opinion of the umpires decision, was tossed from the game. Despite his protestations and the clear evidence in the sand of a slide that had not reached the plate, the call stood.

Raptors were incensed and Thomas coralled his team between innings and implored them to go out & score the runs needed to win this game. Despite scoring four runs in the 8th aided by a pinch hitting Thomas’s double (in his first at bat of the season) the Raptors didn’t help their own cause with Smithers caught daydreaming off the bag at second for the second out of the eighth. Brentwood added 3 more in the bottom of the 8th inning to extend their lead to 25-19. Despite Herts best efforts, including Thomas hustling to second on a ball four wild pitch, they were only able to add another five runs. Finally losing 25-24, with Lang taking the loss, they had fought determinedly. Co-manager Rob Jones offered an extremely diplomatic view upon the game. “Brentwood is always a tough place to go and play. There were times today when we felt things weren’t going our way, a few calls went against us but players showed great spirit to keep rallying back.”

Notable Raptors batting stats for the day were….

Lang 5-7, 2B, 3R, 3RBI, SB. Belbin 3-5, BB, 4R, 4SB. Landau-Smithers 2-3, 3BB, 3R, RBI, 5SB. Jones 2-3, 2B, 2R, RBI. Smithers 3-4, 2BB, HBP, 4R, RBI, 3SB, CS. and Thomas 1-1, BB, 2B, 2R, RBI, 3SB.

Now 0-2, Raptors will look to regroup and look longingly ahead to their first game of the season at Grovehill Ballpark on Sunday, May 18.

Marauders strike faster than RMT to hand opening game loss to Raptors

BBF Single-A League,
Herts Raptors 9 London Marauders 20,
Adrian Smithers, reporting from Finsbury Park

There’s always a special feeling on the day of the first baseball game of the season. This was noticeable amongst the Raptors who arrived at 8am, on a dreary grey Sunday morning in Finsbury park, only to find not a Marauder in sight. This despite furious communication upon social media the previous evening, about whether the game would take place, resulted in the Raptors being informed of an 8am inspection. Little did they know that what this actually involved was opposing manager Ryan Turtill peering out of his window to see what the weather was doing before strolling down Seven sisters road to meet and greet them.

As the home team finally arrived, the light drizzle over the park faded away to become just an overcast sky. The game was on!

The score was close for the first two innings with the Marauders leading 6-5 at the end of two. However after failing to score in the top half of the third, the Raptors conceded 10 runs in the bottom half of the inning as the Marauders plate discipline payed off. As a tiring Ralph Bartholemew (112 pitches through 3 innings) was on the end of a lot of full counts and a few ball four calls that could have been called strikes on another day by another umpire had they been umpiring from behind the plate. This inning was the main difference between the two teams and pushed the London team to an 11 run lead that the Raptors were never able to close. The Raptors added a run in the top of the fourth before Jeff Witter took over the pitching duties in relief through innings 4, 5 and 6, limiting the Marauders to four more runs, two of which were unearned. The Raptors remained scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings before a rally in the top of the seventh, trying to prolong the game ahead of the dreaded mercy rule, scored three more runs but fell short as the final out of the inning and the game was made with the bases loaded and the game extending run stranded on second base. So with a final score of 20-9 to the Marauders and the sun finally blazing in the north London sky, the Raptors were left to reflect upon an opening game loss.

It was noticeable that this was a team that had vastly improved its fielding and were now making the routine outs that had so often eluded them as the Eagles in previous seasons. Prompting Raptors co-manager, Rob Jones, to pragmatically reflect upon the day with the words, “I was really impressed with how the guys performed against a tough team. There are a lot of positives to build on.”

The Raptors highlight of the day was the sight of long term injury Joel Osborne-Brade (pictured) lining his first competitive bat in nearly two years straight back up the middle for a single. Along with four catches playing CF. Two of which, were BBF ‘A’ baseball to have a web gems feature, would have surely been contenders. He went on to produce batting stats for the day that read 1-2, 2R, 2BB, 2SB. Other notable stats were Michael Cresswell 2-2, RBI, R, 3BB, 3SB. Jeff Witter 1-2, RBI, 3BB. Jamie Lang 1-5, 2RBI & Rob Jones 2-5, RBI, 3R, 3SB. Although other Raptors reached base on errors, walks and a HBP, these five supplied the only hits on the day.

Raptors will be hoping to cut out the big inning next week as they look to build upon a solid, albeit losing, performance at Brentwood on Sunday.