Author: Daniel Levitt

Falcons resurrect playoff hopes, sweep Pirates

Abel Salas had a big day on the mound and with the bat (photo by Paul Holdrick)

The Herts Falcons continued their quest for postseason baseball on Sunday, when they took on the South London Pirates in a double header at Grovehill Ballpark.

Coming off of a well-fought split series against the Southampton Mustangs last week, the Falcons’ play matched the glorious sunshine with which the games were soaked in. Despite giving up two runs in the first inning, Abel Salas got Herts on the score sheet with a scorching line-drive solo home run in the second, his first of the season. Salas’ offensive involvement did not stop there however, as the lefty walked and stole second base in the fourth inning, only to be doubled home by Darrin Ward to put the Falcons up 3-2. 

Starting pitcher, Michael Osborn (pictured right), settled down by the fifth inning to strike out two Pirates on his way to a total of ten strikeouts for the game. The bottom of the fifth was when the sunshine really shone on the Falcons’ hitters, as they blew the game wide open with nine runs.  

The inning started with a line-drive single that hit the left-field wall by Ryan Hackel, and when Jose Sosa singled in two runs to make it 6-2, the Falcons were just hitting their stride. Salas continued his mammoth game with an RBI double to straight away centre-field, while new signing, Zac Malone, had an RBI single in his debut for the Hertfordshire club.  

Game 1 finished 12-2 and was called early due to the mercy rule. 

What had become a pitcher’s duel early on, turned into an offensive onslaught very hastily. Every batter reached on base at least once, with all but two notching themselves a hit.  

“Michael was terrific on the mound today” Falcons manager, Lee Manning, said after the game.  

“Up until the fifth inning it was a very close game and we did well to stay in it. We got some great hits and were able to blow the game open.” 

Game 2 had a slightly different feel to it than the opener, yet delivered the same result. While Game 1 was a nail-biter to the very last inning – before it was called – the second game of the day was in the clasp of the Falcons’ claws from the third inning. 

Salas, the star of game one, took his talents to the mound this time around. After giving up his only run of the afternoon in the first inning, the Mexican was dealing his best stuff the rest of the way, leading to his finest pitching performance of the season thus far and striking out ten Pirates on his way to the victory. 

Carlos Casal Jr. drove in the game winning run in the third. With runners on the corners, Casal Jr. then attempted to steal second, and as he did so, drew a wild throw from the opposing catcher that sailed into the outfield. That was enough to send first-baseman, Darrin Ward, home and put the Falcons up 3-1. 

Phil Clarke went deep for his first home run of the season (photo by Paul Holdrick)

The game was put to bed when Phil Clarke hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to left-field.  

The Falcons managed to tally twenty plus hits for the day, but what was more impressive, was the maturity they showed at the plate by only striking out three times in each game. 

Manning said after the game, “Abel pitched an amazing game today. He allowed the hitters to establish an early lead and never looked back” 

New signings Zac Malone and Ryan Hackel flourished on both sides of the plate. Malone stole three consecutive bases in his debut, while Hackel made playing shortstop look effortless, with six seamlessly faultless plays.  

Manning added, “Zac and Ryan have come in and immediately contributed on both offense and defense. The team is very happy and cannot wait to play out the rest of the season with them”. 

The Falcons now have a week off before they welcome the reigning National Champions Southern Nationals to Grovehill Ballpark, in a clash the Falcons hope to gain some revenge from their semi-final defeat to the Nationals a year ago. 

Game 1 is scheduled to start at 12.00pm BST with Game 2 following at 14.30 BST on Sunday, 22 June.

Falcons split series with Mustangs, playoffs back on track

Report by Daniel Levitt

In what has been a sullen start to the season until now, the Herts Falcons (2-6) took their sanguine spirits to the south coast on Sunday, to face the second placed Southampton Mustangs (6-2).

The Hertfordshire club has been ravaged by injuries in the first two months of the season, but provided a solid foundation for a recovery and a playoff push.    

Despite a slow start to their campaign, the Falcons’ playoff hopes were boosted leading up to the game, when the news broke that the team had signed Ryan Hackel, an American shortstop from Hamline University in Minnesota. Hackel will shore up the infield for the Falcons, while bringing a wealth of experience and baseball knowledge from across the pond. 

The hosts were heavily favoured prior to the day’s proceedings, who themselves are fighting for first place in the National Baseball League. However it was the duo of Jose Sosa and Phil Clarke (pictured right) who carried the Falcons home on this occasion, combining for four hits and six RBIs en route to an 8-4 victory. Herts scored three in the second inning and four in the fourth, enough run support to earn starting pitcher Abelardo Salas the victory. 

After a rocky start that saw Salas surrender four runs in the first, the Falcons’ ace blanked the Mustangs for the remainder of the game to earn the win, striking out seven along the way. The fantastic outing brought down his ERA to 3.77, who will now look to deflate that even further in the coming weeks. 

With Game 1 under their belts, the Falcons could not wait to get started with Game 2 and complete the sweep away from home.

Game 2 was a pitcher’s duel for the first five innings, between Gary Davison of the Mustangs and Herts’ very own Jose Sosa. Sosa, coming off his first NBL start against the Essex Arrows a fortnight ago, was every bit the magician for the first five innings, and had his team within striking distance, down 2-1 with two innings left.  

That however, was the end of a bright afternoon and the beginning of the floodgates opening, as the Mustangs scored five runs in the sixth and mitigated any chance of a sweep their counterparts had in mind. The Falcons fought valiantly as always, scoring two in the top of the seventh, but it ultimately wasn’t enough and the series ended 1-1. 

For Sosa, there were many positives to take from the game. Throwing the ball effortlessly for five innings, the Cuban struck out six and even collected a hit on offense, batting in the number three spot. 

The Falcons bring their playoff hopes back home to Hertfordshire this Sunday as they prepare to face the South London Pirates (2-6) at Grovehill Ballpark. With both teams on the cusp of the playoffs, this Sunday’s double header proves to be a must win series for both teams.  

Game 1 is due to start at 12.00pm, with Game 2 scheduled to start at 02.30pm.

Arrows win Herts-Essex derby

report by Daniel Levitt

The season of freak injuries continued for the Herts Falcons as they took on the Essex Arrows in a double header at Grovehill Ballpark on Sunday.

They went into the game with a 1-3 record and few expected their depleted squad to pose a threat, but despite this, the Falcons came within six outs of causing a major upset.

The visitors to Grovehill jumped out to a four-run lead before their hosts could even step up to the plate. They didn’t let up, scoring all of their sixteen runs by the seventh inning. Despite a valiant effort to steady the ship from long-reliever Phillip Clark, who pitched three innings and gave up three earned runs in three innings, the damage had already been done.

There were some positives to take away from game one and they came from the bat of Jose Sosa, who launched a three-run home run as part of a two-hit game. Third baseman Jamie Gregory tacked on another home run, his first of the season, on his way to hitting 2-3 for the game.

The Falcons looked to start afresh in game two, with control on the pitcher’s mound the primary focus. After giving up a total of ten base-on-balls in game one, the duo of Sosa and Gregory swapped the bat for the ball and halved the walks to five in game two.

Sosa, making his first start of the season, was the subject of some kind words from Falcons Manager, Lee Manning: “Jose was fantastic in his first start. He crushed the ball and was exactly what the team needed after the first game”.

Jose Sosa greeted at home plate after hitting one of two homeruns against Essex (photo by Richard Lee

The Falcons appeared to be on their way to a series split, leading 7-3 after five innings, however the curse struck again. Tom Armstrong collided with the outfield wall while attempting a spectacular outfield catch and, after a 45-minute delay to enable the ambulance to take him to the hospital, it was difficult for Sosa to restart his engine on the mound.

Gregory couldn’t stop the onslaught, resulting in a six-run sixth and nine-run seventh. Before they knew it, Manning’s team were looking up at an 18-7 deficit, and a seemingly impossible task to overturn. Just like that, Herts were on the wrong side of a series sweep, falling to 1-5 on the season.

Regarding the mounting injuries, Manning added, “the injuries are killing us, but the lads have played through the pain and we should have a few of the injured players back for the next game”.

Up next for the Falcons is a trip to the south coast, where they will play two games against the Southampton Mustangs, who sit atop of the NBL standings with a 5-1 record.