by Kumail Jaffer
SHORT on numbers but high on chutzpah, the Eagles flew into Finsbury Park on Sunday aiming to wrestle themselves back into the Playoff hunt.
The Minotaurs were an interesting proposition – it was a team that the Eagles had got the better of last season, but an improving side who were playing on their own, slightly misshaped home turf.
With upcoming star Alex Trautman on the mound, it was no wonder things started so smoothly for the visitors.
The young Herts pitcher dealt four devastating innings – the perfect Fathers’ Day gift for Max, who was egging him on from 1B.
But on a small field, any semblance of contact can result in extra-base hits and, despite a great effort from Tom Hill behind the plate, an inevitable couple of runs also squeaked through from base-stealers.
Regardless, it was a solid defensive effort from the Eagles, who limited the Minotaurs to just three runs in the first three innings.
Things also looked great on the offensive end. Appearing in just his second game of the season, Eagles veteran Kumail Jaffer went 3-4 as leadoff hitter, picking up an RBI alongside Hill, the senior Trautman and captain Saira Smith.
In a particularly impressive show of spirit, the visitors battled back in the top of the 5th while 7-4 down – and were unlucky not to defend their narrow lead going into the bottom of the final inning. Minotaurs walked off with a 9-8 win.
On-loan Londoner Jack Page – who fully embraced the Eagles ‘chant’ – did his best to make sure morale stayed high going into the second game.
The team knew that going 1-1 on the road against a well-stocked outfit wouldn’t be the worst result to take home – but they needed to dig deep.
Unfortunately, the home pitcher didn’t quite have the same idea. Though he walked six batters, clutch strikeouts at crucial times limited the Eagles’ momentum early on and stranded runners on base. And in a flash, it was 8-0 to the Minotaurs going into the bottom of the third.
It was time for the Eagles’ offence to spark, and the defence to lock it down to give the batters another shot. Some clever pitching from Smith and young Prime Mencias limited the hosts to a single run in the third, meaning the Eagles needed nine to extend the game.
And to their credit, they put the Minotaurs under real pressure. After loading the bases with just one out, two disciplined walks from Mencias and Jaffer brought home a couple of easy runs before Hill drove in another.
But it just wasn’t meant to be. This one ended 9-3. The Eagles shall fly again.