Author: ChrisJones

The Only Way is Essex

When Herts under-11s played the Essex Redbacks in Richmond a few weeks ago, the two teams contested a pair of closely-fought games. Essex coach Jamie Cairns suggested that we schedule a couple more meetings between the two neighbouring counties. And so, the travelling Herts All-Stars found themselves in Billericay on a glorious, baking-hot Saturday.

I don’t know much about Essex, so I turned to my trusty web browser for some deep background. As a result, I can reveal the following:

  1. Essex boasts the sunniest place in the UK. (This comes as no surprise as I inspected my pink legs on Sunday morning.)
  2. Essex has the largest population of adders in the UK
  3. Stansted Airport in 1983 was the site of the only known theft of Space Shuttle equipment
  4. People in Essex are 38% more likely than anywhere else in Britain to be hit by falling aeroplane parts
  5. The 1974 Paper Lace hit “Billy, Don’t be a Hero” was written in pub near Brentwood, and if you’re over 45 you’ll be humming it for the next three days
  6. Although it might have been more useful to know this before our trip, Essex also has more speed cameras per mile than anywhere else in the world
  7. Essex is the home of the oldest door in England, the longest pier in the world, the driest place in Britain, the world’s first public broadcast, the oldest wooden church in the world, and the longest coastline, the smallest town, the largest village and the oldest town in the UK

So it seems that Essex has plenty to offer, if you’re not Chris Huhne, nervous of snakes or running a space programme.

Game One was scheduled for four innings with Herts as the visiting team. Singles by Lewis Auchterlounie and Lucas Lebrato, and a Nicholas Durer hit-by-pitch loaded the bases. Lewis scored on a fielders’ choice with error, and Lucas scored when Josh Jones was also HBP. That was it for Herts, who then took the field with Alex Trautman on the mound. Two quick Ks, but then Essex loaded the bases with a single and a couple of HBPs, before Alex got the third strike-out of the inning. 2-0 Herts.

The second inning was scoreless on both sides, despite singles from Christian Lynch and Lewis. In the third, Alex Trautman and Josh Jones hit singles, both converted into two-base hits with good base running and a fielding error. Joe Gipple hit a line drive single to bring Josh home, and a combination of a single from Alex Jones and a ground rule double from Lewis Auchterlounie brought the third run as Herts took a 5-0 lead. Some good control from Alex Trautman again shut out the Redbacks.

Into the fourth. Nicholas Durer was again hit by a pitch, and some good batting by Alex Trautman, Josh Jones, Joe Gipple and Jonathan Wakelam brought four more runs. Josh Jones then took over as pitcher, and disposed of Essex with a strikeout, a 1-3 groundout and a flyball caught by Lucas Lebrato.

After a break for lunch and plenty of water, it was time for game two. This was a three-inning contest, with Herts now the home team. Josh Jones continued with pitching duties. Essex scored their first run of the day through some good hitting and a couple of fielding errors, and were 1-0 up in the middle of the first. Herts again dominated with the bat, with singles from Joe Gipple and Christian Lynch and doubles from Lucas Lebrato, and Josh Jones.

Christian Lynch now came on to pitch, giving up three hits and three runs as Essex found some form with the bat. In reply, another double from Lewis Auchterlounie started the ball rolling for Herts, followed up with hits for Alex Trautman, Joe Gipple, Jonathan Wakelam, Alex Jones and Nicholas Durer (finally connecting with his bat rather than his chest). Lucas Lebrato fired a big ground rule double to score the maximum fifth run and leave Herts 10-3 ahead.

There it remained as Christian picked up three strike-outs to close out the game.

These were two fairly comprehensive wins for Herts; the difference between the two teams was probably the speed and accuracy of Herts’ pitchers. We are fortunate to have a number of good pitchers on the Herts roster, whose skills have been sharpened over the season in the regular tussles between the Dodgers and the Giants. There were some good performances at the plate, too, particularly from Lewis Auchterlounie, 4-4 in the day (and climbing up the batting averages as a result), Josh Jones (3-3 and 4 RBIs), Joe Gipple (4-5) and Lucas Lebrato who hit two doubles and claimed two RBIs.

Another Dodgers/Giants battle takes place this coming Saturday. This will be followed the following week by a return fixture when the Essex Redbacks come to Hertfordshire. We can’t offer snakes, tumbling aeronautical components or even much in the way of a coastline, but we do provide a warm welcome, quality doughnuts and a stiff northerly wind.

Game Statistics

Season Statistics



Black & Blue

If you went to see ten major league baseball games, you could expect to see about seven batters hit by a pitch.

Or you could mosey on down to Grovehill Ballpark, grab a doughnut from the concession stand, set up your collapsible armchair, and watch Herts under-11 baseball. On Saturday we hit seven batters in four innings.

Joint leaders in the “hit by pitch” league table are Lewis Auchterlounie and Jonathan Wakelam, with four each. Nicholas Durer has three, all picked up on Saturday. Even Noah Lynch has been clouted twice, and Lord knows, he’s not a big target.

Now, our league is not well known for its tactical use of the inside pitch. Brushbacks are generally not in our armoury; nor do you see much chin music in a Dodgers v Giants clash.

It’s true that in Major League Baseball, batters face pitches thrown maybe an mph or two faster than our U11 pitchers can yet manage. It’s true also that the adult baseball is essentially a smooth rock, while we favour a softer, more squidgy projectile.

However, your typical MLB batter steps up to the plate sporting an elbow pad and a shin guard, and for all I know, a variety of other guards too. Meanwhile our brave batters face down the pitching wearing just their Herts uniforms and a helmet. Do they flinch?  OK, do they flinch much? No, they don’t!

So Herts Baseball Club would like to apologise to any U11 parents or guardians whose charges returned home on Saturday afternoon covered in bruises. Be assured, it’s for the good of baseball.

On with the game. If you’ve been keeping up with our rambling reports, you’ll know that the Giants held a two-game lead after the first game in the 8th June double-header. The Dodgers then won two on the bounce to level things up, 3½ – 3½.

As the visitors today, the Dodgers opened up the batting, Josh Jones on the mound. William Morillo picked up a single, and Nicholas Durer was hit by his first pitch of the day. These two were left on base, though, as Josh struck out Alex Trautman for the third out. The Giants weren’t able to take advantage, as Dodgers pitcher Alex Trautman recorded three quick outs to close the first inning.

Top of 2, and Jonathan Wakelam was next to be clunked with the ball, and moved into scoring position when Rory Vangundy singled. Wakelam then scored on an error. Two more HBPs later, Rory Vangundy also made it home after a fielding mix-up. 2-0 Dodgers.

It looked as if the Giants would be able to respond in kind as Josh Jones hit a double to lead off their 2nd inning, and Alex Jones singled, moving Josh onto third and reaching second on the throw. With Lewis Auchterlounie thwacked on the chest, the bases were loaded with two outs, but Alex Trautman got the crucial strikeout to get the Dodgers out of jail.

In the third, the Dodgers sparkled with the bat – James Dullea, Rory Vangundy, William Morillo and Lucas Lebrato made successive base hits, with two runs scored. Josh Jones was tiring as pitcher and Ben Jupp took over. Nicholas Durer reached on a fielder’s choice as Lucas was tagged out. A single for Alex Trautman, another clout on the leg for Jonathan Wakelam, and an RBI ground-out for James Dullea, and that was four for the inning, and a 6-0 lead.

Ben Jupp then led off the bottom of the third for the Giants, and hit a hard drive towards second baseman Rory Vangundy. Rory snagged the ball, set himself and fired a throw to Nicholas Durer at first for a terrific 4-3 play. The Giants then recorded a couple of base hits in, but things weren’t going their way as the inning ended scoreless.

In the fourth, Lucas Lebrato, who leads the season’s batting averages, hit his second double of the game. Nicholas Durer recorded his third “hit by pitch”, although by now we suspected he was just throwing himself at the ball. But two quick strikeouts, and that was it for the Dodgers – the Giants would have to score six to keep the game alive. Despite three singles, they could only manage one run, Oliver Durer with the RBI, and the Dodgers recorded a 6-1 win to take a one-game lead in the series.

This game was perhaps closer than it looked; the Dodgers scored eight hits to the Giants’ seven, and the Giants had seven batters left on base. Had the Giants been able to make something out of the two-out, bases loaded position in the second, the game might have taken a different course. All to play for as the season progresses.

On Saturday 6th July, the under-11 all-stars travel to Essex to meet the Redbacks. Essex batters are advised to pad up.






Season Averages


Dodgers Tie the Series at Glorious Grovehill

by Herts Baseball correspondent Paul Auchterlounie

Rain. Wind. Grovehill Ballpark. The first Saturday of summer.

A typical British baseball day seemingly offered little hope for the U11 Giants and Dodgers this last Saturday 22nd June, and the situation got worse as news came that the U14 Cardinals were short of players for a double header in the league. The result? Mini Baseball!!

A 6 vs 5 game – with coaches fielding in the outfield – started with the Giants batting and Nicholas Durer struck out. Lewis Auchterlounie up next, hitting a pop up down the first base line that was caught by James Dullea. 2 up, 2 down. Batting 3rd was Josh Jones who reached base with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Alex Jones moved Josh to 3rd base but Noah Lynch striking out ended the inning with the scoreboard untroubled.

Bottom of the 1st and Dodgers batting. Jonathan Wakelam reached first as Josh Jones fielded the slow dribbler from behind the plate and uncharacteristically threw wide of 1st base. The overthrow allowed Jonathan to advance to 2nd and he was brought home by an RBI single from Rory Vangundy. It was looking ominous for the Giants, 1 run down, 0 outs. Lucas Lebrato then reached with a single. This was followed by 2 quick strikeouts for James Dullea and Thomas Garton before a hit from Noah Haines resulted in a not often seen out as Lucas Lebrato overtook Rory on the base paths, thereby getting himself out. 1-0 Dodgers at the end of 1.

Giants’ coaches were encouraging their players to take advantage of the batting opportunities with the reduced numbers and they did just that in the 2nd inning as the maximum 5 runs crossed the plate, a highlight being Lewis Auchterlounie stroking a stand up line drive double to the outfield fence. All batters except for Noah Lynch reached base putting the ball in play.

However the lead was not to last as the Dodgers did exactly the same as the Giants had just done, crossing the plate 5 times and only 1 out being recorded as James Dullea struck out and Lucas Lebrato showing power with an RBI double. 6-5 after 2.

Into the 3rd and Giants led off with Alex Jones reaching on an error. Noah Lynch struck out again unfortunately, then three straight hits for Nicholas, Lewis and Josh resulted in 2 runs scoring. A 3rd run was scored as Alex Jones reached again on a fielders choice, the Dodgers choosing to get the runner out between 2nd and 3rd base. A similar play followed as Noah Lynch put the ball in play and some over enthusiastic base running from Alex Jones allowed the Dodgers to tag him as he tried to make it all the way to 3rd.

Bottom of the 3rd and again the Dodgers scored the maximum 5 runs this time without conceding an out as a combination of errors and fielders choice plays were followed by 3 straight hits for Lucas Lebrato, Thomas Garton and Noah Haines. 3 innings completed, 11-8 Dodgers.

Into the 4th and, due to the rather ominous looking clouds overhead, final inning. No run limit this time, could the Giants mount another come from behind win? James Dullea had now switched sides due to a poorly Nicholas Durer having to leave the game and was immediately called into action as the leadoff hitter. He stroked a ground rule double to the outfield fence and came home on another double from the bat of Josh Jones. With Lewis having stuck out in between there were still the chances to make the Dodgers at least bat again. However 2 strike outs for Alex Jones and Noah Lynch left Josh stranded at 2nd base and the game was over, 11-9 Dodgers.

Both sides took advantage of the shortage of fielders to register multi hit games, highlights being Josh Jones’ 5 for 5 and 5 RBI’s for the Giants, and Lucas Lebrato hitting 4 for 4 with 2 RBI’s for the Dodgers.

This result evened the series at 3 ½ – 3 ½.

Hopefully better weather, and more of the players being able to attend, will make for continuing excitement in the games and the series.


Photo: Svein Håvard Djupvik

Herts U11s: The Late, Late Breaking News

“Hey, Jones. D wants to see you in his office. Now.”

Jones sighed deeply. This didn’t sound like good news. He trudged across the hallway, and knocked twice on the door. “Yeah,” barked the voice from within.

“You wanted to see me, Chief.” Jones glanced around the familiar room. Piles of newspapers covered the floor, some stacked higher than the filing cabinets that lined the wall. The window shades were drawn; the only light came from the green lamp on the huge mahogany desk. Behind it sat the editor himself: a lean man of vaguely eastern European appearance, hunched over a Remington typewriter. Behind his left ear was a chewed-up pencil.

“Jones – where’s your copy? Late again, huh? What’s the excuse this time – the dog ate it?” The editor stared across the desk. “Well, Boss, I… it’s just that… well, sorry Boss,” stammered Jones.

“Look – this isn’t some two-bit local rag. This is the leading baseball website in the greater Hemel Hempstead area, ya hear me ? We have literally tens of readers from around the world relying on us to bring them breaking stories of under-11 games, and it’s down to you to write them. Now, get outta here and start writing. I want reports on the Richmond trip, and the last two Grovehill gamedays on my desk first thing tomorrow morning. Or you’re fired. Ya want me to call Trautman?”

The Richmond Trip

On Saturday 25th May, a combined Herts under-11 side took on the Essex Redbacks U11 team in a double-header at Richmond. The games were held as part of Richmond Baseball Club’s 20th anniversary celebrations,and involved teams from Herts, London Mets, LYBL and Leicester Blue Sox. The club had set up five diamonds at its field in Ham, and laid on a pork roast too. But far from being lambs to the slaughter, the Herts team brought home the bacon, with a tie in game 1 and a win in game 2.

Despite traffic problems on the M25, we had a good showing of Herts regulars by the first pitch at 10am. In a break with our normal practice, it was agreed that runners could steal bases on wild pitches or passed balls, which would prove a new challenge for our players.

Game 1 started off quietly. Herts were first up, but three quick strike-outs later, we were on the field. Taking the mound, Christian Lynch confidently struck out the Essex side allowing only one run. Herts were again scoreless in the second; in reply, despite two early strikeouts, Essex took full advantage of passed balls to advance around the bases and score three runs. Herts heads drooped a little with the score 4-0 to Essex after two.

In the third, a trio of Zneimers plus Alex Trautman all got on base with a combination of singles and fielding errors, before a Lewis Auchterlounie double and a Noah Haines single brought Herts the maximum five runs for the inning. Christian kept things tight, conceding just one run after combining twice with Joe Gipple to make ground-outs at first. The ballgame was tied 5-5. And there it stayed, after a scoreless fourth inning pitched on the Herts side by Ozan Martin. Joe Gipple was again solid at first base.

At this stage, the Herts U14s were starting on the far diamond, but were a little short-staffed. Christian Lynch, Alex Trautman and Ozan Martin moved across to face the imposing Essex U14 team, while Herts recruited a couple of floating players, Alex Sollecito and Stephen Aboucher. Herts’ starting pitcher for Game 2 was Josh Jones. Some strong Essex hitting saw Herts conceding three runs in the first, replying with one run thanks to a Joe Gipple single.

Josh hit his pitching stride in the second inning, with two strike-outs and a pop fly well taken by catcher Alex Sollecito. Herts picked up another run in the second on fielding errors, keeping the score close at 3-2 to Essex. The Redbacks piled on the runs in the third, with some confident hitting before Josh despatched three Essex batters in ten pitches.

7-2 down, Herts fought their way back into the game, batting through the order to record a five-run maximum, including singles from Joe Gipple, Alex Jones, Josh Jones and Stephen Aboucher.

Stephen took over pitching duties and duly struck out one batter and partnered with Josh Jones, now at first base, for a couple of 1-3 groundouts. More solid Herts batting brought two more runs at the bottom of the 4th, with singles from Noah Haines, Alex Jones and our two guest players. Essex were unable to score in the top of the 5th, and that was the ballgame, with Herts winning 9-7.

The day’s work done, your correspondent headed over to watch the under-14 game, about which an excellent (and timely) write-up was filed by Jennie Lynch.

Gameday: 1st June 2013

After an extended training session, the Dodgers and Giants met for game 4 in the series. The Giants went into the game with a 2-1 lead, although with both Durer brothers and Ben Jupp missing this week, were somewhat under-strength. But we were delighted to welcome Caitlin Rainford and James Dullea to the Giants line-up.

Josh Jones pitched again for the Giants, following a successful outing in Richmond. The Dodgers worked a run thanks to singles from Thomas Garton, before Josh caught a flyball and struck out the next batter to end the inning. With Alex Trautman pitching for the Dodgers, the Giants also earned one run, as Josh hit an RBI single to bring home Christian Lynch.

The second inning continued in a similar vein. The Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs, but Joe Gipple could only drive the ball to Josh on the mound, who threw to Christian Lynch for a regulation tag on Leo Zneimer at home plate. The Giants then took a 2-1 lead at the bottom of the 2nd, as Lily Zneimer rounded third and reached home on a fumble by the catcher.

The Giants now secured three quick outs in the third, but were two down themselves when Josh Jones came to the plate. He clubbed a majestic solo home run clear over the right field fence, the second home run in this series.

The Dodgers were now 3-1 down after three innings, and Christian Lynch now took over pitching. However, the Giants failed to press home their advantage, and a few fielding errors later, the Dodgers had closed the gap, as both Leo Zneimer and Noah Haines reached home plate. Pitching for the Dodgers, Ozan Martin was clinical, taking just eleven pitches to account for three Giants batters.

Neither team could find a run in the fifth and last inning, so the game was called a tie. This was as close as we get in U11 to a classic pitchers’ duel: 11 hits, and a 3-3 scoreline.

Gameday: 8th June 2013

This was the first double-header of the year between the Dodgers and Giants. The Giants went into the day leading 2½ to 1½.

It was a cold, early Saturday morning, and we were missing a few regulars, so we started with coaches pitching and Ben Jones making a guest appearance as catcher.

The first inning was scoreless on both sides. A somewhat messy second inning from the Dodgers’ fielders saw the Giants score twice, before Lucas Lebrato closed things out, tagging Sebastian Bohn at third base. The Dodgers chalked up a run after singles from Joe Gipple and Alex Trautman. Alex nearly made it two, but was tagged at home. 2-1 Giants after two innings.

The Giants left two on base in the top of the third, but couldn’t score. The Dodgers, though, moved nearly all their batters around the bases, including singles from Alex Trautman, Jonathan Wakelam and Thomas Garton, before Lucas Lebrato stepped up to pound the ball to the fence. Lucas gets credit for an inside-the-park home run and three RBIs, although only two were needed to reach the five-run maximum. 6-2 to the Dodgers.

But the Giants have shown this season that they don’t know when they’re beaten. In the next inning, they hit ten singles, went more than twice through the batting order and scored 12 runs to leave the Dodgers reeling.  Shell-shocked, the Dodgers crumbled in the bottom of the final inning, adding no runs to limp away with a 14-6 loss and conceding a two-run deficit in the series.

After a short lunch break, we played the second game. After one inning, the Giants had a one-run lead; the Dodgers levelled at the top of the second as Lucas Lebrato singled, then took advantage of a fielding error at short stop to run home.

It looked bleak for the Dodgers, when the Giants piled on the runs at the bottom of the second. Singles from Sebastian Bohn (2), Ben Jupp, James Dullea, Christian Lynch and Alex Jones brought the maximum five runs and left the Giants 6-1 up.

But the Dodgers were up to the challenge. Singles from Joe Gipple and Lucas Lebrato, and a double from Josh Jones generated five runs to level the score.

Back came the Giants in the bottom of the third, to add another four, as most of the lineup contributed a base hit. The Giants were back in front, with a 10-6 lead.

The Dodgers weren’t finished this time, though. Lucas Lebrato continued his sparkling form with the bat, with a 2-RBI triple, and Joe Gipple doubled, amidst a string of singles which produced seven runs and gave the Dodgers a 13-10 lead. Could the Giants produce one more turn-around in this up-and-down game ?

Not this time. With two men on base, a ground-out from Alex Trautman at 2B to Josh Jones at 1B closed it out, and brought the Giants back to a one game deficit. The series stands 3½ to 2½.

It remains a puzzle why we saw so few runs the previous week and so many this week. Perhaps our batting improved dramatically in the space of a few days. Or maybe it’s that our U11 pitchers are more fearsome than our Head Coach. Only time will tell.


Giants Take a 2-1 Lead in U11s

You can learn a lot of surprising things from following @hertsbaseball on twitter or HertsBaseballClub on facebook.

Sure, you get the latest results from the Herts baseball community, including the Eagles’ recent 31-30 triumph over the Raptors. (As our friends at Southampton Mustangs commented, when did Herts switch to playing American football?)

But you also pick up snippets of news from the baseball world outside the HP postcode area. Such as the story that Prince Harry hit a ball out of the park when visiting a team in New York. Or the revelation that David Cameron has been mugging up on baseball books to prepare for his latest meeting with President Obama. Clearly, we need to sign Harry up for the Raptors, and I’m sure Coach Mike can find a role for the PM as assistant U11 coach.

While those negotiations are ongoing, our existing coaching staff continues its work in developing this promising group of Under-11s. And so to the third game in the Giants v Dodgers series, on 18th May. The series was tied 1-1, after the Giants recorded a 7-6 win the previous week.

This time the Giants were the visitors and first up. On the mound: Alex Trautman. Nicholas Durer got the scoring underway with a triple, bringing Christian Lynch home for an RBI. Three strike-outs later, the Dodgers had a chance to reply, as Lewis Auchterlounie made his pitching debut for the Giants. After Alex Trautman reached on error, Lucas Lebrato hit a line drive to the fence and got right round the bases before the Giants were able to get the ball back to the catcher. 2-1 Dodgers.

Top of the second – Lewis Auchterlounie drove in a double, and Alex Jones hit a single to move Lewis to third. Alex turned to run for second, but was tagged out, although this allowed Lewis to reach home base for the Giants’ second run. After detailed post-game consultations regarding rule 10.04, the scorers, perhaps harshly, declined to grant Alex the RBI in this case.

Christian Lynch pitched the second inning for the Giants. A strikeout and two professional-looking groundouts between third baseman Josh Jones and first baseman Nicholas Durer kept the Dodgers scoreless. 2-2.

Back to the top of the order for the Giants. Nicholas Durer hit another double, and made it to home base on error after a single from Ben Jupp. For the Dodgers, Alex Trautman, Lucas Lebrato, Joe Gipple, Noah Haines and Rory Vangundy all hit singles, resulting in three runs to bring the score to 5-3 Dodgers.

In the fourth, both teams had runners in scoring position but couldn’t add to their totals.

In the fifth and final inning, the Giants hit their stride. With Lucas Lebrato now pitching, Josh Jones singled, and Ben Jupp hit a ground rule double. These two made it home on the next play after a couple of errors in the field, to tie the score. At this point, Lucas had struck out two Giants batters, and the Giants had two runners in scoring position. The match hung in the balance. Then Alex Jones singled for an RBI and the Giants had a one-run lead.

Maybe it was the tension, or maybe a little tiredness was creeping in. But the Dodgers seemed to be losing their edge in the field; a string of errors allowed the Giants to score two more, and load the bases once again. Josh Jones then drove in a two-RBI single, and suddenly the Giants were up 10-5.

This proved too much for the Dodgers, who were scoreless in the final inning under pressure from some accurate pitching from Josh Jones.

The Giants and Dodgers now combine forces to represent Herts in under-11 games at an event in Richmond on Saturday 25th May. Results for those games, together with other important breaking news stories, will be available on your social network of choice.

Season Statistics

A Game of 90 Minutes

It was the latest match-up in this old, celebrated fixture. These two teams, local rivals, fought for glory. It was top-of-the-table against bottom-of-the-table. Neutrals sided with the plucky underdogs – could they defy the odds?  It was an hour and a half of intense action, back and forth, no quarter given. But, in the last seconds of the game, the favourites were beaten, by a margin of one.

Yes, the FA Cup Final was a cracking game. But earlier, 15 miles away from Wembley, Grovehill Ballpark witnessed the Giants taking on the Dodgers once again.

We kicked off with practice, focusing on hitting and pitching, together with some infield drills. A smaller group of potential pitchers developed their accuracy on the mound. This year’s effort to entrust pitching duties to the players rather than the coaches seems to be the right call.

The under-14s and under-17s had practice sessions, so we had the use of the new diamond, with the fence pegged out barely beyond the adults’ infield. Aspi manned the public address system, and called out the lineups for us. A huddle comprising the cream of the Herts coaching staff stood watching from the pavilion, joined today by Sam Dempster, Head Coach of the Great Britain national squad. Lesser teams might have been daunted by the pressure. But not our under-11s.

The Dodgers were the visitors today, and first up at bat. Ben Jupp was on the mound. William Morillo got the ball rolling with a single, and before long the Dodgers had two runs on the board after a few fielding errors. Lucas Lebrato hit a line drive for a double to bring home Noah Haines for the third run. But with two runners in scoring position the Giants were able to get the third out to keep the score at 3-0.

In reply, with Lucas Lebrato pitching, the Giants picked up their first run when Ben Jupp singled to bring home Christian Lynch. Lewis Auchterlounie repeated the trick, and Noah Lynch hit another single to load the bases with no outs. The Dodgers were relieved to strike out the next three batters, and the score was 3-2 to the Dodgers at the bottom of the first.

The second inning was scoreless for both teams. Jupp pitched a no-hit second inning for the Giants – two strike-outs and a 4-3 groundout. In similar form, Lebrato allowed only one single in disposing of the Giants.

For the third inning, Christian Lynch took over the pitching role for the Giants. Noah Haines reached first on an error, and Lucas Lebrato continued his good form with the bat, with another double, although he was forced out after he and Noah both tried to occupy third base at the same time. Jonathan Wakelam was the victim of a 1-3 groundout, although Noah Haines made it home on the throw. The Dodgers were retired with a 4-2 lead, though, as Alex Troutman struck out looking, leaving runners on first and third.

The Giants quickly loaded the bases, with a couple of errors and a single from Alex Jones. Christian Lynch then hit a two-RBI single, and Nicholas Durer hit a line drive single to bring Alex Jones home. Ben Jupp then fired a ball to the fence for a double and two further runs. That was the maximum five runs for the inning, and 7-4 to the Giants after three.

Nicholas Durer now came in as pitcher. Joe Gipple and Lucas Lebrato both secured RBIs with singles, to bring the score to 7-6. With two outs, and runners on first and second, Lenny Flavin came to the plate, and hit a fly ball up to Oliver Durer at third base. Oliver dropped it, but kept his head, grabbed the ball from the dirt, and tagged Lucas out at third. And that was the ballgame.

Practice over for the under-17s and under-14s, we had been joined by a trio of older brothers. Callum Vangundy cheered on Rory as he batted. Jose Morillo shouted encouragement at William, and Ben Jones offered ‘advice’ to his little brother Alex. Watching the five to ten year-olds giving it their all, Sam Dempster seemed impressed. As he commented, “everyone starts here”.

Game Summary

Season Statistics:


Giants and Dodgers Back to Business

Honestly, you’d think I’d have learned by now.

After, what, three seasons of taking my sons to Hemel Hempstead to play baseball, I should be used to the unusual climatic conditions to be found at Grovehill Ballpark.

But on Saturday I stepped outside my front door in North London, sniffed the warm spring air, glanced at the boys in their Herts T-shirts and we drove north. We pulled up at the ballpark, under menacing dark clouds, in temperatures fully fifteen degrees lower than when we left. All around me were better-prepared families with puffa jackets, skiing gloves and thermos flasks.

Aspi gathered us together for the Opening Ceremony, sound system at the ready. In truth, Aspi serves as Herts Baseball President solely so that he can play at being DJ to large crowds. Move over Fatboy Slim… Aspi’s in the house.

The massed ranks of the newly-renamed Herts Harriers, Herts Cardinals, and the two Herts U11 teams assembled on the first base line. With them stood the visiting London Mets U17 team, exchanging puzzled looks. On the horizon, it looked grim. Those dark clouds drew nearer.

The National Anthem was played. Caps were doffed; Americans amongst us placed hand on heart and sang lustily, while the Brits kept quiet and looked vaguely uneasy.  It always seems incongruous to hear “God Save the Queen”, rather than “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  Yet, given the approaching precipitation, a better choice might have been “Hail to the Chief”.

After taking refuge in the changing rooms, we headed off to play the U11 season opener. The under-14s had a practice session, so we had the unusual privilege of playing on the old diamond.

The transfer market has been active during the off season. The Giants traded Alex Trautman in exchange for Nicholas Durer, while Noah Haines also made the switch to the Dodgers. Both teams have benefited from a number of draft picks. For the Giants, we welcome Sebastian Bohn, Lenny Flavin, and the Zneimer trio of Lily, Lexi and Leo. The Dodgers are also proud to announce their new signings – Chloe and Callie Amsterdam, Amber Chisholm and Joe Gipple.

The game was a rain-shortened four inning affair. This season we will have players pitching; after four balls a coach will pitch until the batter is out or gets on base.

With the Dodgers as the home team, Ozan Martin opened the pitching with an impressive display of control, striking out the first three Giants batters.

Christian Lynch pitched first for the Giants, and drew Alex Trautman into flying out to Oliver Durer at shortstop, before William Morillo fell to a 4-3 ground-out, and Jonathan Wakelam struck out swinging.  So 0-0 after the first.

After another two strikeouts, the Giants got bat on ball in the second inning; Nicholas Durer and Lexi Zneimer hit singles, leaving Nicholas on third, but alas Lily Zneimer hit a flyball to Ozan as pitcher to end the inning.

Joshua Jones now took over pitching duties for the Giants. With Ozan Martin and Thomas Garton on base, Noah Haines doubled on a wild throw to bring home Ozan for the RBI. Chloe Amsterdam then stepped up to hit a line drive double for a second run, and her sister Callie singled for another RBI, making it 3-0 to the Dodgers after two.

Alex Trautman now pitched for the Dodgers. With one out, Noah Lynch, Leo Zneimer and Lenny Flavin each hit singles to load the bases. Lewis Auchterlounie drove home one run although Leo was forced out at third. The Giants were denied a second run as Lenny Flavin was tagged out at third base.

With Ben Jupp now on the mound, the Dodgers batters hit their groove, with singles from Joe Gipple, Alex Trautman, Jonathan Wakelam, Ozan Martin, Thomas Garton, Rory Vangundy and Noah Haines. Five runs were scored, which automatically brought the inning to an end.  The scoreboard showed 8-1 to the Dodgers after three, and the Giants had a lot of ground to make up.

New signing Lucas Lebrato pitched the last for the Dodgers, an inning characterized by some strong hitting from Ben Jupp and Joshua Jones. But Lebrato managed to find the strike zone with some good accurate pitching, and finally struck out Nicholas Durer to end the inning as the rain returned. With the score at 8-2, that was the ballgame – no need for the Dodgers to bat again.

All the pitchers on display showed great promise – there will clearly be stiff competition for the coveted All-Starts starting pitcher slot.

Players, coaches and supporters alike deserved three cheers and a warming cup of cocoa (available at a very reasonable price on the concession stand). They call baseball players the “Boys [and girls] of Summer” for a reason – it’s a tough game to play in the cold. We should reassure new players and their families that the sun sometimes shines at Grovehill. But whatever Tomasz Schafernaker may say, always throw a coat in the back of the car.



The Power of Positive Thinking

For at least 5,000 years, people have run, jumped, swam, kicked things, hit each other and thrown a variety of round, oval or pointy objects, all in the name of sport.

At first these games were individual affairs: one Greek against another, lobbing a stone plate into the distance. But at some point we started organising ourselves into teams. Later, perhaps, teams would appoint a captain, someone to lead, motivate or just shout at the other players. Finally, team managers were introduced, to pick the team, plan the strategy and take the blame.

One of the key jobs for any team manager is the team talk. When the half-time whistle blows, and the football players trudge off, three-nil down after some inept defending, the manager will carefully deploy a range of techniques to turn things around. Arsene Wenger may offer a logical analysis of pass completion percentages; while Sir Alex Ferguson prefers the hairdryer and a well-aimed football boot to the kidneys.

In baseball, the manager has more opportunities to butt in with helpful advice: in the dugout, between innings, or during a flamboyant visit to the mound. And in last Saturday’s season finale between the Giants and the Dodgers, Coach Mike Wakelam found the perfect time and the perfect words to make the difference.

Over on the posh diamonds, the U14s and U17s were in playoff action. But here, the drama was somehow more personal. The Giants trailed by three games to one in the series. We would play a 4-inning game, then a 5-inning game. If the Giants could win these two games to draw level, there would be a one-inning decider for the championship title.

Both teams fielded familiar line-ups, with a couple of additions. A new arrival for the Dodgers: Niklas Makwana, a cricketer with a fearsome throwing arm, looking to apply his batting and fielding skills to this, the junior game. Noah Haines came in for the Giants: he also looked pretty handy during pre-game practice.

Game 1 started in a cagey fashion, scoreless after one inning despite Noah Haines hitting a confident double. In the second, Niklas also doubled for the Dodgers, advancing to third on an error in the same play and scoring during the next at-bat. Ozan Martin also scored thanks to a Tom Garton double. But the Giants hit straight back, with a string of singles and two runs. The Giants’ inning was ended with an individual double play, as Tom Garton caught a fly ball from Noah Haines at third base before tagging out Noah Lynch. The scores were tied 2-2. In the third, no Dodgers batters achieved a hit. For the Dodgers, Ben Jupp got on base and scored when Oliver Durer hit a double. Three to two for the Giants. The Dodgers couldn’t find a run at the top of the last, and so Game 1 ended with a narrow win for the Giants.

The Dodgers now held a slim one-game lead over the Giants. Could the Giants level the series ?

The Giants were now the visiting team and first to bat. Alex Trautman singled, then Ben Jupp hit a double to deep right field. Noah Haines hit a single to bring home both Trautman and Jupp, and Haines then scored, as did Lewis Auchterlounie, with RBIs for Oliver Durer and Alex Jones. Four runs to the Giants, which looked more impressive when they picked up three quick outs to close out the Dodgers.

The Giants’ strong batting form continued in the second inning. Alex Trautman bunted cheekily for a single, Christian Lynch got on base, and then Ben Jupp stepped up again to blast a two-RBI triple. Singles from Haines, Oliver Durer, Jones and Trautman brought two more runs, and the Giants suddenly found themselves 8-0 ahead.

Things were looking bleak for the Dodgers, and the mood didn’t improve as they went scoreless again at the bottom of the second. At least they pegged back the Giants in the third, which included a double play as newcomer Noah Haines failed to tag up on a fly ball caught by pitcher Nicholas Durer. At bat, the Dodgers finally got onto the scoreboard, with a ground rule double from Ozan Martin and a line drive from Jonathan Wakelam for a two-RBI single. 8-2 to the Giants after three innings.

Despite achieving three quick outs at the top of the fourth, gloom was spreading in the ranks of the Dodgers. It was hot, players were tired, and they saw the coveted title slipping away from them. Coach Mike gathered his players. “Don’t worry about the score”, he told them “Let’s relax, swing the bat and have fun out there.”

Fired up, the Dodgers looked a changed team. Niklas Makwana hit a single, then managed to sprint home all the way from first base while the Dodgers fielded an outfield line drive from William Morillo. Two more singles loaded the bases, and Ozan Martin stepped up to hit a 2-RBI double straight past second base. Rory Vangundy finished up the inning by hitting a single to bring home Garton and Martin. Five runs to the Dodgers, and now it was 8-7.

Rattled, the Giants hit back. The first seven batters reached first base, and three runs were scored before Oliver Durer was forced out at home plate to close the inning. The Dodgers needed four to tie, five to win. Coach Mike took his team into a huddle. “You hit five runs in the last inning – just go out there and do it again.” A group shout of “Dodgers” filled the Grovehill ballpark.

After five at-bats, they had scored one run but were two down. Ozan Martin then hit a single and Nicholas Durer ran in. Now Jonathan Wakelam hit a huge line drive to the right field fence, allowing Thomas Garton to score and putting Ozan on third. Rory Vangundy came to the plate and followed suit for another RBI. Scores were tied. Up stepped Niklas. He needed only one pitch to drive the ball past Christian Lynch at second base; Jonathan Wakelam sprinted in from third, crossed home plate and the Dodgers erupted.

To mark the end of this Dodgers vs Giants series, there was a short presentation. Coach Paul and Coach Mike awarded medals to the outstanding players of today’s games: Oliver Durer for the Giants, and Niklas Makwana for the Dodgers. Both coaches thanked players and parents for their commitment over the course of a rain-shortened season, and commented on the enormous progress made by all the players in all areas of the game. It only remained to spray the Perrier and present the handsome crystal trophy to the winning Dodgers team, who will keep it until this classic series resumes in the spring.

Game 1

Game 2

Season Batting Averages

Dodgers forge ahead in U11 series

written by correspondent, Chris Jones

Growing up on Merseyside I had only the vaguest idea about baseball. It was one of those sports that took place in other countries, like camel-wrestling or wife-carrying races.

I first saw the game when working in Japan. We would take our seats in the stands at the Tokyo Dome to watch the Yomiuri Giants take on the Yakult Swallows (really), and we would drink Asahi, cheer on the players and bang plastic sticks together at appropriate intervals.

Twenty years later I find myself with two half-American sons. Most Saturdays we come to the ballpark, and I watch, score and act as assistant coach. I know the game a little better now, but retain a somewhat sketchy grasp of the rules. Luckily at under-11 level, the intricacies of the dropped third-strike or the infield fly are not central to our games.

Of course, I’ve had to adopt a major-league team. My elder son favours the Mariners, while I cheer on the Boston Red Sox, for no better reason than that they share an owner with Liverpool Football Club. My morning ritual at the office includes dropping in at to check the overnight scores; as it happens the Sox are on the road in Seattle as I write. Sometimes the overnight game has been a high-scoring affair, 15-4 or 13-12 after extra innings. Other times, the pitchers have prevailed: 1-0 or 2-1.

But in the Herts Dodgers matchups against the Herts Giants, we leave those pitching duels to the professionals; we believe our crowds turn up to see a festival of hitting. And so it was on Saturday at Grovehill.

The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead into this game, and the Giants were looking to restore parity after narrowly losing to their rivals last week. After some training, including a competitive game of ‘hit the lawn chair from twenty yards’, it was time to play.

The Dodgers fielded essentially the same team as last week, while the Giants rang the changes: the Lynches and Trautmans were unavailable for selection, but back in came Lewis Auchterlounie and Rory Vangundy. The Giants also welcomed Ben Jackson-Preece to the lineup. Both teams also acquired a temporary player from the U14s; Bai Frisby for the Giants and Blake Edwards for the Dodgers.

Unlike the tense encounter of a week ago, this game was one-sided. The Giants were scoreless in the first, while the Dodgers replied with the maximum five runs with no outs. In the second, the Giants picked up a run, but were undone after some good infield play at third base disposed of base runners in two successive plays.

At the bottom of the second, the Giants made two outs, but then allowed a further five runs to end up 10-1 down after two.

The bleak situation brightened up for the Giants in the third: it was their turn to score five runs. But anything the Giants could do, the Dodgers could do just as well, as they batted around and scored another five to take the game to 15-6 after three innings.

In the fourth, the Giants could do nothing to respond to the Dodgers’ clinical fielding, as Oliver struck out and Rory and Alex both grounded out at first. The Dodgers added a run to leave the Giants with the daunting task of hitting ten runs to make the Dodgers bat again. Despite good hits from Bai Frisby and Cameron Manning, this was too big a margin, and the Giants succumbed 16-9.

The coaches feel we are continuing to see signs of improvement in all areas of play. Plenty of batters in this game hit the fences: Cameron, Rory, Bai, Nicholas, Katie, Ozan and Blake. There were a number of neat plays in the infield. And perhaps most importantly, when coach Mike asked if his Dodgers players had enjoyed the game, there was a unanimous shout of ‘yeah!’. You can’t ask for much more.

Picture credit: Aidan C. Siegel

Dodgers edge Giants in U11 Thriller

written by correspondent, Chris Jones

Saturday’s skies were clear across Southern England from Penzance to the Wash. Three days on from the summer solstice, the air was hot, heavy, humid. A dog lay on the pavement, motionless but for a pant of the tongue and a flick of the ear. Dragonflies hovered over the river, their faint buzzing the only sound to be heard. In the distance a flag drooped, still, like the pendulum of a long-stopped grandfather clock. The sun was merciless, the black streets baked like the hot charcoal of a barbecue.  Young children took refuge in cool, blue, rippling paddling pools, old women closed their shutters and waited for the cool of evening.

Meanwhile, Grovehill enjoyed its unique microclimate, thick black clouds moving across the sky in a cold force 8 wind with occasional rainfall. Our two teams, the Herts Dodgers and the Herts Giants eyed each other up cautiously. One-one in the series so far. Who would feel the pressure, who would crack, who would emerge with the vital win ?

Team changes. For the Dodgers, no Rory Vangundy, while the Giants were missing Joshua Jones and Lewis Auchterlounie. The Dodgers lent Cameron Manning to the Giants for the day, and for no obvious reason Alex Jones and Jamie Clark swapped sides.

The Dodgers batted first. A ground-out to first, then three singles, a strike-out, and three more singles (RBIs to William Morillo and Katie Everex-Armstrong) before a force-out ends the inning.

Now the Giants. Single! Single! Single! Single! Single! Single! A ground-out and another single, and it’s the maximum five runs for the Giants: a 5-2 lead.

The second innings showed both teams at their defensive best – no runs for either side. Particular kudos to Ozan Martin with a sharp catch at short stop, and Jonathan Wakelam for tagging out Cameron Manning at second.

The Dodgers were now three down at the top of the third. Another string of singles brought three runs home to tie the scores at five apiece. Rose Burgess-Van Dort and Alex Jones had base hits; then Christian Lynch reached first safely, only to see Alex forced out at second. An identical play with the next batter and the Giants were two down. Rose came home for the run but Noah Lynch struck out to close the inning. 6-5 Giants.

The Dodgers squeezed just one run from the fourth inning to level the scores, but we sensed now that the Giants had the measure of this game. They scored two more, the inning ended by a Cameron Manning fly-out to Ozan at short stop. 8-6 Giants.

But the Dodgers weren’t finished yet. Singles from Garton, Durer, Wakelam, Clark, Morillo. Then up steps Ozan Martin… bang!  Line drive to the left field fence for a single. Katie moves him to second, now here’s Thomas Garton… bang!  Another line drive to the left field fence. Four runs for the inning, and the tables are turned. 10-8 Dodgers.

Could the Giants respond in the last inning of the game ?  Not if pitcher Nicholas Durer and first baseman Thomas Garton had anything to do with it. Katie picked up a run, but a trio of 1-3 ground-outs were enough to close the inning and seal the win. 10-9 to the Dodgers to take a 2-1 series lead.

Shivering they may have been, but the spectators knew they’d seen a game today, one they would talk about long after they drove away, back into the heat of Southern England.

Click here for the scorecast, and choose Replay in the top right corner to follow the game.