Category: Hawks

Last gasp drama brings playoff win for Hawks

The Herts Hawks built an early 5-1 lead in their playoff game at home to the Bournemouth Bears on Sunday (August 12th) – but the ultimate victory was anything but routine.

This was the Hawks’ second year in the Double-A league after storming to the Single-A title in 2016. Bournemouth were new boys to the league, and had never faced Herts.

Ward pitching, with Cresswell waiting in the wings

Darrin Ward was on the pitching mound on a cloudy and cool day at Grovehill, which was interrupted by showers. He went along steadily for five innings as the Hawks scored 5 runs to back him up.

But Bournemouth’s starter was also showing his mettle, and in the fifth the visitors battled back to get their bats going too. They pushed across some runs, and took advantage of a brief mental lapse from the Hawks to score again. It was now 5-4.

Herts responded with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth, and centre fielder Kimi Saionji led off the bottom half with a double to left field. Right fielder Hunter Devine followed him onto the bases, and then manager Michael Cresswell.

But, frustratingly, they would leave them loaded. Bournemouth induced two pop-outs and a K from the meat of the order.

And in the top of the seventh, with two outs, the Bears finally tied the game at 5-apiece.

The Hawks’ defence had been playing smartly, always retiring the lead runner, and making good throws. Greg Bochan was a rock at third, Louis Hare at short. But Herts had to score to get back on the front foot.

In the bottom of the eighth, Saionji again got it started with a single. Then Devine drove a triple deep into the right field corner to bring him home and retake the lead. He came across to score on a pass ball.

Jon Lewys tried to tack on one more, racing from second on a drive to right by Ward. But the Bears were quick enough and accurate enough and cut him down at the plate.

So Herts were defending a 7-5 lead going into the ninth. A chance to close it out. Bournemouth’s first hit boomed to the fence in left field. Another runner got on. Herts got one out.

Then things threatened to really turn sour. Bournemouth found the gaps. Herts fielders bobbled the ball. The Bears sniffed an opening and not only levelled but took the lead, 9-7. What is more, Herts catcher Bryn Coughlan hurt his knee as he scrambled to catch a foul pop-up.

There was a delay while medical help was sought, and he was helped from the field. When it was over, Herts faced the challenge of saving the game.

Greg Bochan led off with a single. Then substitute Antony Lavender – who had been called suddenly into action – made an immediate mark with a double to right field.

Kimi Saionji brought home the first of the runners, then Devine struck again.

The game was tied. Saionji was on third.

At the plate stood first baseman, Michael Cresswell, first year manager of the Hawks. He wasn’t going to pass up this moment.

Cresswell slapped a pitch down the third base line, and — leaping onto the plate to score– Saionji ended the game. It was 10-9 to the Hawks.

Kimi scores the winner

Bournemouth Bears had been superb, and battled hard. They played with a smile and a cheer and graciously checked in on the injured Herts catcher.

But the day belonged to Herts. Ward took the complete game win, Cresswell the walkoff. But the entire team had contributed.

The Hawks travel to face the East London Latin Boys next, and will take heart from being the only team to beat them in the regular season.

Father-son duets do the double for Herts

At times, it looked as if the Herts Raptors would struggle to get a team together for Sunday’s trip to the Tonbridge Bobcats, as Father’s Day stripped away a few regulars from the line-up.

In the end, the 9 players they got together played one of their best all-around games of the season to secure a win. New father and son recruits were central to it, but more of them later.

We will start at the top of the first, when rookie Harvey Blenkarne led off with a hit to centre field. He advanced around the bases to score, as did manager Matt Jackson.

James Emblow at bat

Raptors loaded the bases, but some miscommunication about an infield fly ended the threat. Tonbridge struck back with two runs of their own, but in the second innings Herts were able to cash in more of their base-runners.

Doubles from Jackson and from Rob Jones helped bring in 5 runs this time, with the Bobcats getting only 1 in reply.

Herts veteran Arnie Longboy was on the mound for this one, and worked steadily in and around the strike zone. Andrew Sharp for Tonbridge picked up more strikeouts, but Longboy and his catcher, Ken Pike, kept the Bobcats swinging, and the defense backed them up.

Edward Liu, switched to first base for this game, was a rock, while Matt Jackson made excellent plays in a rare appearance at third base.

Shortstop Rob Jones – whose career highlight is probably a sliding infield catch at Tonbridge – made a sliding infield catch which was almost a carbon copy. He was able to dash in for a dying quail which had just enough to get past the pitcher, but not enough to reach anyone else.

Raptors led 10-4 after four innings. Solid, but far from decisive in Single-A. Whereas in the past, the team has sometimes lost a bit of focus at times like these, they stepped it up this time.

That father-son duo we mentioned earlier was Brian and Josh Morgan. Brian (senior) slipped smoothly into a job at second base, and got a hit every time he came up.

Josh (the younger) took time to warm up against the pitching. But when Herts needed the production to seal the game he hit a superb double to the outfield. He capped that with a steal of home, a cloud of dust as his exclamation point.

Herts scored 11 in the top of the fifth, with James Emblow contributing a double, a single and a run. It put a mercy rule win within sight. Tonbridge got runners on, and scored 2 as they loaded the bases.

But they ran out of outs. Matt Jackson made the final play from third to cap off a 21-6 victory and move his side to 5-2 on the season.

The Herts Hawks at Grovehill

Back at Grovehill, the Herts Hawks were hosting the Norwich Iceni, last year’s unbeaten champions in Single-A. Norwich had won the first encounter between the teams in Double-A this year, a rain soaked affair which went to extra innings.

The Hawks bats helped them jump out to an early lead, and pitcher Darrin Ward held the visitors to just one hit in the first two innings. Norwich did manage to rally.

But the Hawks showed their power to surge ahead. Ward and Andy Cornish both hit doubles, while there was a triple for Gilberto Medina. 10 runs in the fourth inning put Herts in control, with a 17-4 lead.

Manager Mike Cresswell got on base every time he came up while Drew Mayhew – playing his first Herts game for two and a half years, hit a double.

The Hawks celebrated a 20-5 mercy rule win and they are now 8-2 on the year.

At this game, the father-son combo was Louis Hare, who played a great game as ever, and Geoff, one of the country’s leading umpires. It seems you can play baseball and celebrate Father’s Day at the same time.

 

Happy Hawks hang on, Falcons bounce back

The Herts Hawks travelled to the riverside venue of Richmond to take on the London Marauders in the AA-division (don’t ask why). They were looking to build on last week’s wins and cement their position as a force in the AA-division this year. 

Game 1 started out as a pitching duel and it was scoreless through three innings. London took a one-run lead in the fourth, then the Hawks struck back with hits from catcher, Bryn Coughlan, and Darrin Ward to lead 2-1.

 It stayed that way until the final inning, when shortstop Gilberto Medina hit a triple to drive in three runs. Pitcher Leigh Coke held the Marauders to just one in reply to finish off his complete game, and secure a 5-2 win.

 The second game was tight too, but more high-scoring. Ward also pitched a complete game for Herts and they won 14-13, surviving more final inning drama by stranding what would have been the tying run on second base.

Defense was key to their success, with an amazing diving catch in the outfield by Anthony Lavender, and several fine plays at shortstop by Medina.

 In the NBL, the Herts Falcons were in Birmingham to face the newcomers to the league, the Bandits. Their day was dogged by some personnel troubles, but they battled through.

Wade Lynch was hit in the face during batting practice, but had to soldier on and play. (He would later need stitches). Starting pitcher Rob Ackerman did not arrive until near game time so the Falcons started off with reliever Walter Bates on the mound.

The two teams exchanged runs in the early going, with the Bandits 4-3 up after two innings. Ackerman then came in and was able to close down the Birmingham bats.

Rob Ackerman (file photo)

Meanwhile, up and down the lineup, Herts were hitting well and they won comfortably, 18-5. Carlos Casal Jr made his 2018 debut for the team after a transfer was completed during the week. 

The second half of the double-header was a closer affair. The roster went down to 9, meaning Lynch had to stay on and Ackerman tried to squeeze some more innings out of his arm.

Manager Cris Hiche again pitched well as a reliever, and another burst of runs from the Herts bats helped the cause. It was 7-2 after three innings, but the Bandits chipped away, closing the gap to 7-6 before Herts put it to bed with 4 runs in the top of the seventh.

The Falcons secured the victory, 11-7. Alex Deacon got his first NBL hit, and Hiche was proud of how his team had battled throughout a tiring day.

In Single-A, the Herts Raptors got a walkover win against the Old Timers, who couldn’t get enough players to Grovehill for a full team. The two sides still played a game with the people they had got, and won that too — and everyone had a good time in the Hemel Hempstead sunshine!

That meant that Herts won five out of five games, the second time this year the club has secured a full sweep on a Sunday.

 

Falcons fight back, while Hawks lose their way

The Herts Falcons had suffered a frustrating day at home to the London Capitals in their National Baseball League matchup (on Sunday May 13th).

In the first half of the double-header, they fell into an early hole, and couldn’t quite fight their way out.  When they went 8-2 behind in the second game, things looked bad.

Falcons’ John Blose at bat

But they dug deep. As manager Cris Hiche put it, “the bats came alive”. NBL rookie Tom Carson was one of those making his presence felt. He came off the bench to get two hits, including a double.

Tyler Badenhorst had started sharply on the mound, but then struggled with his control and the relief corps stepped up. Aaron Witter and Walter Bates held firm, and Conner Brown contributed three innings of “phenomenal” relief pitching. The Falcons won it 14-8.

The first game had ended 7-4 to London, but that is only part of the story.

London had scored 6 in the first inning – with 2 home runs inching over the short fence in right field.  Rather than turning into a blowout, this one was tight. On the mound, Herts’ Rob Ackerman made adjustments after the early shelling, to pitch a complete game.

A tough-luck loss for Rob Ackerman

Hiche hopes his team can ride the momentum from their comeback and continue improving. They are now at .500 on the season.

Across Grovehill on the other baseball diamond, the Herts Hawks had an unusually error-strewn game against Sidewinders in the AA-league. It was a top of the table clash, and the Herts side will be disappointed with their performance.

The first exchanges were tight. But then they gave up 5 runs in the top of the second, with batters getting to veteran pitcher Darrin Ward and the defense unable to help him out.

Hawks were able to rally back to 11-6, and loaded the bases more than once. They got hits from new boy Leigh Coke and returning hero Kimiyoshi Saionji.

Unmistakeably – and irreplaceably – Kimi

But they could not keep Sidewinders in check. More mistakes allowed more runs, and in the end the visitors took it 19-11.

The Hawks manager Mike Cresswell was clearly frustrated but looked quickly towards rebounding in the coming weeks: “We bring our heads up high, and move on to the next”, he said. “And nobody can be upset when we witnessed the return of Kimi!”

The Herts Raptors had to sit out the week’s action, but still ended up with a victory. The Old Timers were hampered by injury and had to postpone their planned game in Single-A.

They felt unable to turn this week’s fixture into a double-header so the Raptors win by forfeit, and move to 2-1 on the season.

 

Break out the brooms: Herts sweep at home

Five games. Five wins. On a Bank Holiday weekend which saw the best sunshine of the year so far, the sun also shone on the three Herts adult teams.

Moise Vasquez shows the way for the Falcons

The Hawks started bright and early on a packed day at Grovehill, kicking off their double header against the Bracknell Inferno at 10am.

Darrin Ward went the distance on the pitching mound in this one. Backed by the bats of Hunter Devine and Jon Lewys, Herts jumped out to a 3-1 lead.

Anthony Lavender hit a double and hosed a runner from the outfield to help the home side to a 7-3 lead in the middle of the fourth, and Herts ran away with it from there. It ended 14-4, and another win for Ward.

The second game saw the Hawks give debuts to some new recruits. Adam Huxley, Leigh Coke and Bryn Coughlan all contributed to an even more convincing victory, 14-0. Coke pitched a one-hit shutout for the W.

The Hawks now move to 4-1 on the season and can be very happy with how things are shaping up.

Darrin Ward of the Hawks

Over on the other diamond, the Herts Falcons were hosting the new boys in the National Baseball League (NBL), the Birmingham Bandits. This was a fixture rearranged from the Opening weekend washout, and the weather couldn’t have been more different.

In the first half of the double-header, solid hitting helped the home side back up Wade Lynch. He pitched 5 strong innings with 5 strikeouts. Walter Bates went 4-for-4, while a 2-run double from Moise Vasquez was one of the highlights.

The Falcons blew Birmingham away in the bottom of the fifth to secure a mercy rule 17-7 win.

Game 2 was a tighter affair, with Birmingham fighting back after a good start from the Falcons. It was 7-5 to Herts in the middle of the sixth.

But the home side was able to finish it off, Vasquez going 3-for-4 and Dany Bueno contributing 4 RBIs. As the shadows started to lengthen, the Falcons wrapped up a 13-7 win with a catch deep in the left field corner. Aaron Witter, Charlie Mayhew and Phil Clarke combined with the pitching.

Falcons manager Cris Hiche puts some work in

In the Single-A league, the Herts Raptors were hosting the Bracknell Phoenix and going in search of their first win of the season.

A couple of strikeouts by starting pitcher Lee Manning couldn’t stop the lead off batter getting round to score. But he threw a chair to the number 6 hitter and closed the door on any more runs.

Then the Herts bats went to work. Bracknell would probably kick themselves that were unable to make some plays, but the Raptors did what they had to do and put the ball in play to make things happen.

There were hits for Giuseppe Basilea and Paul Barton, while James Emblow hit a fine double. By the time it was over, Herts had scored 12 runs to take a stranglehold on the game.

It did all settle down a bit from there. Phoenix hitters got tougher at the plate and chipped back some runs – 2 in the second, 4 in the fourth to make it 20-7.

But Herts were determined not to take their foot off the gas on this day. Manager Matt Jackson scored a run every time he came up, while the only out which Michael Johnson made was a booming fly ball caught near the fence in centre.

Giuseppe Basilea pitching (file photo)

Defensively, Herts were sound too, turning a double play to help contain Bracknell. Substitute second-baseman Arnie Longboy took a ground ball up the middle, stepped on the bag and threw on to rookie Tim Bohknecht at first base.

Giuseppe Basilea came on to pitch two excellent innings of relief. And then in the bottom of the fifth Herts needed two for a mercy rule win.

Barton scored the first of them on a groundout, leaving the bases empty. Then Longboy manufactured the winner all by himself with a walk, a steal, a steal and an overthrow.

Raptors celebrated a 24-9 win to go 1-1 on their young season and secure Matt Jackson’s first league victory as manager. Manning got the W as pitcher.

Hawks go the distance for a close finish

The Herts Hawks were faced with their longest road trip of the season, and maybe (hopefully!) their toughest weather conditions when they travelled the 120 miles to Norwich, writes Jamie Lang.

The Iceni were coming in to the matchup riding a 19 game winning streak. In 2017, Norwich had repeated the Hawks’ 2016 feat of winning the Single-A title with an undefeated season — so the first contest between these teams in Double-A was always going to be special.

11 Hawks, as well as two very dedicated fans, had made the journey, and they immediately knew they would need to adjust to the conditions when they were greeted with weather more suited to rugby than baseball.

Herts pitcher Darrin Ward (library photo)

 Soaked through and shivering before a pitch had even been thrown, the Hawks knew that it would be a challenging day, and it proved so when Norwich held them scoreless in the top of the first inning. Hawks’ star pitcher Darrin Ward was working in unfamiliar surroundings with no mound to pitch from, and it may have contributed as Norwich plated 3 runs in their half of the inning.

 The game settled down a little from there. After several players used the changing room hand dryer in an attempt to stave off frostbite, Herts got on the board in the top of the third with a double from manager Mike Cresswell.

They then went on to tie the game at 3 in the top of the fourth on an infield single from catcher, Hunter Devine. Originally called out by the infield umpire, Norwich’s first baseman sportingly admitted that his foot was off the bag when he caught the ball, and the correct call was eventually made.

 Players from both teams employed many different methods to try and keep warm and dry, and Greg Bochan’s balaclava clearly wasn’t inhibiting his vision as he made several nice plays at third base to keep the game close. The Hawks finally took their first lead of the game in the sixth inning, a 2-run double from Darrin Ward giving them a 6-5 lead in the middle of the sixth.

Norwich would again rally back though, and they were leading 8-6 after seven innings before substitute left fielder Jamie Lang tied it up with a single in the eighth.

 At this point the tension began to rise, and the inexperience of Norwich’s umpire may have started to show, with both teams feeling like they deserved more strikes than they were being given. Needing a run in the top of the ninth to extend the game, Herts struck three times to take a 2-run lead; two of the three runs scoring on a hit from shortstop Mike Cattermole.

A sense of the murky, wet conditions

The Hawks looked to close it out in the bottom of the ninth, but unfortunately it was not to be as Norwich tied the game. They had an opportunity to win it with a man on third and 2 outs, but Cattermole was involved again, catching a sharp line drive at shortstop to end the inning.

 After some debate about potentially ending the game as a tie, considering the weather and the long journey home for the Hawks, it was decided that they hadn’t come all this way for a tie, and to the 10th it would go.

With the Norwich pitcher clearly struggling with both the conditions and an injured hamstring, Herts were able to capitalise, plating 4 runs and again looking to close out the game and stop the Iceni win streak at 19. Starting pitcher Darrin Ward was still on the mound, but an inspired performance from Norwich led to a final comeback and an eventual 16-15 win on a walk-off infield single.

 A game which at times had become heated ended with both teams exchanging handshakes as soon as the winning run had scored. Both teams had given it their all, and unfortunately this time the Hawks came out on the losing end. A long journey and the cold and rain had not ended as hoped, but such is baseball, and such is life.

Norwich Iceni called it “a hell of a game”, and paid tribute to the performance of their visitors. The Hawks’ Manager Mike Cresswell offered congratulations on the win, adding:“The loss hurts but we continue. We go again and we go again winning.”

The Hawks, now with a 2-1 record, will return home to Grovehill next week for a double header against the Bracknell Inferno.

Arrows, Mets, Hawks and Musketeers win the 2018 HSL titles

 

In the NBL Division the Essex Arrows and Birmingham Bandits were the favourites going into the final weekend of the 2018 Herts Spring League (HSL). Despite losing to the Herts Falcons, the earlier win over the London Mammoths was enough for the Arrows to clinch first place.  The Birmingham Bandits had two shots at overtaking them but first the London Mammoths and then the Southampton Mustangs took the wins in closely fought games.

Their strong performance in the second week was enough for the London Mets U19 to win the HSL Triple-A title. The rain on Saturday scuppered the eagerly awaited encounter between them and the Lakenheath Regulators which was built as the title-decider in the Triple-A bracket.

In the Double-A Division the Herts Hawks’ record of three wins and no losses secured first place for them.

In the Single-A Division calculators were needed to break the tie between the London Musketeers and the London Archers. The Musketeers clinched it thanks to conceding fewer runs per inning, 0.111 compared to the Archers’ 0.556 runs per inning.

The 2018 Herts Spring League proved to be a major struggle in the face of sub-zero temperatures and snow in week one and torrential rain on the final Saturday which flooded both diamonds. These certainly were the worst weather conditions in the 11-year history of the HSL, but, despite this, 21 games were played which is 53% of the original schedule.

View HSL scoreboard

View HSL standings

We saw home runs, spectacular defence, lights-out pitching, many players who will be making their BBF league debuts in 2018 and a whole lot more over the last three weeks of the HSL.

With Spring Training completed, British baseball teams up and down the country will hope that this will be their year. The NBL teams will open the 2018 season next Sunday, 8 April, while the other three leagues start later in April. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for a comprehensive coverage of the 2018 baseball season.

Herts teams announce preliminary 2018 rosters for the HSL

The managers of the Herts teams which will be playing in the 2018 Herts Spring League over the next 3 weeks have announced their preliminary rosters. We understand that these rosters are not fixed and it is very likely that there may be movement between teams over the course of the HSL. Some players may be asked to play for more than one team as managers look to evaluate players ahead of the announcement of the 2018 Opening Day rosters.

New players are registering every week, therefore some new names may be added over the course of the HSL and into the league season.

Countdown to HSL – first chance to see the teams ahead of the 2018 British baseball season

The biggest pre-season baseball competition in Britain is back. Commencing on March 17, the Herts Spring League (HSL) will see 19 teams compete over the 3 weeks of the HSL. Organised by Herts Baseball Club, it is Britain’s very own version of MLB’s Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues currently under way in the US, and it signals that the season is just around the corner.

FORMAT

The 19 teams will be entered into four HSL tiers – NBL, Triple-A, Double-A and Single-A – based on the ranking of the teams going into the 2018 BBF League season.

The organisers considered the possibility of a tournament format, but ultimately adopted a league format in the same way as the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues in MLB. “The objective of the HSL is to enable the teams to prepare for the new season and we have noticed that teams are increasingly starting to approach the HSL in the same way as MLB teams approach the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues” said HSL Commissioner, Aspi Dimitrov. He added “we have taken this into account when formulating the schedule putting greater emphasis on the preferences and preparatory requirements of the teams over the format of the competition”.

The teams finishing at the top of their respective division will win the HSL. The “games-back” column in the standings will be critical, but undoubtedly some teams will end up with the same record and so it may go down to the number of runs conceded per game to break the tie.

THE VENUES

The action will take place at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, the home of Herts Baseball Club.

SCHEDULE

Over the three weekends 41 games are scheduled to be played on the two diamonds. The competition begins on March 17 with a clash between the Milton Keynes Bucks and the Herts Hawks in the HSL Double-A division. The HSL NBL division commences on the same day when the Southampton Mustangs face the Herts Falcons.

Click to view full 2018 HSL schedule

EXCITEMENT BUILDING UP

The Herts Spring League adds a competitive edge to Spring training. It’s the time for managers to work out their winning formula going into the BBF league season. It is an opportunity to evaluate existing and newly recruited players. Which players will earn a spot in the pitching rotation and who will be batting where in the batting order? Who will make the first team and who will have to work their way up with the minor league teams? Not forgetting, it’s a chance to size up your rivals for the year ahead. It’s the first big challenge and the first big excitement of the baseball year. Don’t miss it.

GET IN THE GAME

For more details about the event or if you are interested to give baseball a try in this competition contact Herts Baseball Club.

19 teams will signal the arrival of Spring in the 2018 HSL

Herts Baseball Club has confirmed that 19 teams have entered this year’s Herts Spring League (HSL). The teams come from all British baseball leagues including the National Baseball League (NBL), Triple-A, Double-A and Single-A Leagues. This year the lineup has an added international flavour with the entry of the Lakenheath Regulators and the ASL Eagles. The Regulators are a team made up of American varsity players based around RAF Lakenheath. The last team coming out of RAF Lakenheath to play in the HSL was the Lakenheath Diamondbacks who won the Majors division in 2012. The ASL Eagles are also an American varsity team. The make their first appearance in the HSL since 2008 when they won it.

This year’s HSL will also see the return of the Southampton Mustangs who have been a dominant force in the NBL in recent years. The London Archers are a new team which has just appeared on the British Baseball map and this will be the first chance to see them in action in a year when they hope to go far in the Little League World Series.

The HSL teams will be divided into four divisions as follows:

SCHEDULE AND FORMAT

The HSL will be played over three weeks commencing on the weekend of 17 and 18 March and ending on 31 March and 1 April. The HSL format and games schedule are expected to be announced shortly and hertsbaseball.com will bring this and all other HSL news as they happen.