Without two of their top starting pitchers and three middle of the order hitters, the Falcons knew it would be a battle – tooth and nail – in the two-game set against top-ranked Southampton. Sunday was a day of crafty pitching, solid defense, Griffey-like, back-to-back production from a father-son duo, and above all, resilience from a Falcons side who refused to quit.
Wade Lynch got the start for Herts in game 1, fresh off a busted nose in the Falcons’ winning effort against the Birmingham Bandits last week. The crafty veteran pitched well, allowing only 1 run over the first three frames, and showcasing a varied mix of off-speed pitches.
While Lynch continued to keep the Mustangs hitters off-balance, a series of weak contact hits put runners in scoring position, before the middle of the Southampton order drove them in. In all, the flurry of Mustang bats amounted to 5 runs in the bottom of the 4th (Despite being played at Grovehill, the game was technically a home for Southampton due to scheduling).
ABOVE: Veteran 2B Moises Vasquez watches the opposing pitcher intently. After a pinch-hit single in his only at-bat of Game 1, Vasquez was moved up to the four-hole for Game 2 where he tacked on a long double.
On the other side of the rubber, Southampton’s Chris Gregory kept the Falcon’s hot bats in check, allowing only 3 runs over 6 innings and striking out 9. After another flurry of hits by the Mustangs in the 6th, led by Giovani Escalona and Ambiorix Hurtado, the score stood at 9-3 Mustangs with 3 innings to play.
The Falcons managed to add two runs in the 7th with back-to-back singles from John and Brian Morgan, a father-son duo making their Griffey-esque, Falcons debut. RF Adrian Achitei also added two hits in the effort. However, with reliever Walter Bates on in relief of Lynch, the Mustangs tacked on 3 more in the bottom of the frame, bringing the score to 12-5 Southampton.
The score would stay this way until the top of 9th, where the Falcons, with only three outs remaining, proved that they wouldn’t go down easy. With production up and down the order, the Falcons batted through the lineup against reliever Callum Vinall, dinging him for six runs. With the chance to tie, the bases were loaded with two outs and the Falcons’ best hitter of the day, Walter Bates (3-6, 2 RBIs) was at the plate. After working the count full, Vinall executed a perfect pitch down in the zone and retired Bates, stemming the bleeding and giving the Mustangs the 12-11 win.
It was a brilliant comeback effort from the resilient Falcons, although the final out was a microcosm of the team’s struggles in Game 1. Three times, the Herts side left the bases loaded with less than two outs, not capitalizing on run-scoring situations. Despite this fact, all 11 players who came to the plate for the Falcon’s in Game 1 had a least one hit. This was one of the many positives that Manager Cris Hiche took from the game. “Game 1 was a difficult game in which we were behind the entire time,”
Hiche said. “I’m gutted we fell short after a 6-run 9th-inning rally, however, I’m very happy how the team never gave up and fought till the very end.”
Game 2, slated as a 7-inning contest, hoped to be more promising for a Falcons side with all the momentum from the recent late-inning comeback.
The Falcons bats added one run in each of the first three innings, however, left men on base each time against the young, inexperienced Mustangs pitcher.
On the other side of the ball, Zack Longboy got the start for the Falcons, blanking Southampton side over the first three innings and striking out 6 over six frames. A hard double by Vinall and a two run-shot by big first-baseman Oswaldo Rodriguez drew the score even at 3-3 after 4 innings.
Despite adding another run in 6th, on C Andy Roberts’ first home-run in a Herts uniform, the Falcons couldn’t muster any more firepower. Gary Davison had come on in relief in the fourth inning, and his mix of breaking balls kept Herts hitters flummoxed over the second half of the contest. Davison ended with 7 K’s. Meanwhile, two misplayed balls, and doubles by Davison and Alberto Rodriguez, gave the Mustangs some insurance. Final score: Southampton 7, Herts 4.
“I’m disappointed we fell short on Game 2 as [Longboy] pitched another brilliant game and kept us always in the game [sic],” Manager Hiche said. “As a team, we are hitting over .300 but somehow we couldn’t score more than 3 runs against a weak pitcher” in the first three innings. We need to do better in those circumstances if we want to win more games.”
The homestand continues for the Falcons, doubleheader versus the top tier London Mets up next on Sunday, 1 July.
Game 1: 11:30 a.m.
Game 2: 15:00 p.m.
Hertfordshire, HP2 6NH