Category: Ravens

2023 Season Review

2023 Season Review

The following article was featured in Herts Baseball Club’s 2023 Annual Report distributed to club members ahead of its annual general meeting held on 26 November 2023.


It has been another record year for our club growing by 16% and we now have 248 adult and youth members. This has enabled us to have one or more teams at each of the four adult league tiers and in all four youth league age divisions. Substantial investment has gone into upgrading both ballparks and facilities and we are in a strong position to go further in the coming years after adding new revenue streams which increase our healthy cash reserves. MLB and other strategic partners have recognised us as an organisation they can work with and we hosted two MLB events – one in Hemel Hempstead and one in London. There are exciting opportunities on the horizon.

This would not be possible without the hard work, care and dedication of board and non-board staff, and the wider membership. We have been receiving very positive feedback from club members, parents and fans and I would like to join them in thanking you, the members, for your incredible contribution.

Adult Baseball

In 2022 we saw the unusual scenario of having one team in the Triple-A League and our other four teams all in Single-A. This year, the number of teams increased from five to seven and the allocation of teams was more balanced – one team in the NBL, one in Triple-A, two in Double-A and three in Single-A. From previous years we know that moving up the leagues is not an easy step to take. It became even more difficult when, after submitting the league entries in January, the Hawks lost five or six players from their strong 2022 roster and a similar number of new experienced players who were expected to strengthen the Ducks, withdrew their club registration shortly after registering due to change of circumstances. That had a significant effect on the competitiveness of those two teams in Double-A.

photo by Henry Bell

Despite this being an expansion season, the Cardinals, Raptors and Ravens achieved a considerable improvement with a combined record of 42 wins and 30 losses (.583) compared to 29 wins and 49 losses (.372) in 2022.

photo by Tony Small

Cardinals and Ravens qualified for the Triple-A and Single-A postseason, respectively, reaching the semi-final stage which is an outstanding feat.

Falcons and the NBL Pilot Project

After a one year absence, the Herts Falcons were back in Britain’s top league. In addition to the return of a number of former Falcons players, we saw a large number of talented young players with international experience with the various Great Britain national teams.

There were games when the team showed that they can compete against the best NBL teams, but at the end we have to give credit to our opponents and accept that the Falcons did not do enough to stay in the playoff race.

But there is no doubt about the enormous potential of this group of young players not only to close the gap on the leading NBL teams but to overtake them in the coming years.

There was a recognition of this when Falcons third baseman, Jack Warrington, was selected as the only British player among the top 90 young European prospects to take part in the MLB Development Tournament during the MLB London Series in front of the MLB scouts.

The return of the Falcons to the NBL was in conjunction with the club’s Pilot Project which had the aim to increase the number of fans and provide a more immersive game day experience.

Despite operating on a limited budget, we sold a total of 284 tickets for the four NBL home games. The total included a number of complimentary tickets given to local primary schools and an organisation which supports people in Dacorum facing homelessness or social exclusion.

The department made a small profit. It would have been interesting to see what the results would have been if the team’s win-loss percentage was higher and had avoided some of the blow-out losses.

The project achieved most of the goals which were set, including:

  • Falcons’ return to the NBL
  • Grow the club’s fan base
  • Increase attendances at home NBL games
  • Increase publicity and media coverage
  • Raise the club’s profile
  • Inspire more children and adults to play baseball and join Herts

Youth Baseball

The Herts youth baseball programme grew again this year setting another record high.

photo by Richard Williams

The club was represented in all four age brackets of the national youth baseball championships picking up a silver at U19 level and two bronze medals for the U16s and U11s.

There is still a gap between our youth teams and the leading youth programme, but that gap is getting smaller every year.

photo by Marcus Grant

The coaching staff deserve a lot of praise for raising the standard further and providing more playing opportunities, some of which were added extras on top of the membership packages.

Coach Lee Manning once again ran the midweek youth baseball sessions in Hemel Hempstead and coach Stephen Wong added ten summer holiday sessions and four April half-term sessions. The Basing Hill branch also added twelve midweek evening sessions to the calendar.

U13 players also had the opportunity to work with coach Monte Brooks from The Master’s University, California who have seen a number of their players play in MLB.

Like any organisation, there will be hurdles that we need to overcome. This year, a large number of U11 players in Hemel Hempstead made the transition to U13 leaving a lower number of players in that U11 group. That made it difficult for U11 coaches to run regular season games. Although the size of our programme is at a record high, we are still slightly short of the level needed to run local league play in every age group on our own. Disproportionate fluctuations in numbers from one year to the next can leave one or more age groups vulnerable so we need to keep pushing for growth to reach the scale which will ensure stable regular season game schedule.

This year it was very satisfying to see the work of the youth baseball staff in the previous three years show results with many Herts youth players starting their transition to adult league baseball with the Hawks and in the Hunlock Series.

photo by Richard Williams

I must give a special mention to the parents. They see that the club is looking to build something special and provide children with lifelong memories and they have become very involved supporting all aspects on and off the field, from coaching and umpiring to concessions and field maintenance.

Financials

The club continues to be in a healthy financial position.  We were able to avoid any major increases in membership fees this year. However, we are operating in difficult economic conditions with high inflation.  We need to do our best to keep baseball affordable while continuing our prudent management of the club’s finances. There will be some cost pressures which we will not be able to avoid and club members also will have to adapt to the new membership fee structure which the BBF is about to announce for 2024.

Ballparks

In 2022 the club was awarded £2,851 match-funding from the BSUK Facilities Fund to be invested in improvements at Grovehill Ballpark with a total cost of £5,851.  The first stage of the work involving the installation of mound clay blocks for both pitching mounds at Grovehill was completed in 2022.  The main part of the project involved verti-draining, overseeding, top dressing and other procedures to improve the playing surface on both diamonds. It was scheduled for Spring 2023. 

Our contractors struggled to time the project due to heavy flooding in the Spring followed by a very dry spell which made the ground too hard for the spikes to penetrate the soil. As a result, it was implemented in September 2023 and grooves of newly grown grass could be seen during the Hunlock Series games in October (see photo above). 

We had wonderful support from Dacorum Borough Council who assigned two additional rooms to us.

They also re-painted all our rooms and installed new female and male toilets and washing facilities.

The club also acquired a new paint-based line-marking machine for Grovehill.

We completed the second phase of the Basing Hill Ballpark project with the installation of the infield perimeter fence.

photo by Rob Jones

Thanks to the Brent Cross Town Community Fund £2,632 award we were able to fund the purchase of a baseball pitching machine for Basing Hill which means that now both ballparks have one.

It is important that we increase awareness about ballpark and facilities operational and maintenance procedures and train the designated team supervisors so that we can ensure that our ballparks are kept at the highest standard year after year.

Media and IT

Our media operations continue to be among the best in British baseball, with the club and its members featured by various media organisations and publications.

The number of followers of our various media channels continues to grow at a good rate.

We saw an increase in quality and volume of video content on our YouTube channel which members and other followers enjoyed this year.

As always, our IT Director, Greg Bochan, was hard at work keeping the club’s IT infrastructure running, integrating all of its separate components to work smoothly with each other and enabling us to do things which would be impossible without this technology.

Events

photo by Rob Jones

Our club’s reputation for having some of the best ballparks in the UK and being able to host high profile events is paying off as we had the honour of hosting two MLB events around the MLB London Series. The first was the MLBPAA Youth Clinic featuring World Series winners, David Eckstein and Jake Arrieta, running a clinic with 60 kids from British baseball clubs around the UK.

The second was the MLB First Pitch event at Grovehill for around 200 pupils from local primary schools.

There was no Herts Futures Tournament in 2020 and 2021 but it is starting to regain momentum with the number of teams increasing from eight in 2022 to twelve this year.

The season would not be complete without the Hunlock Series. It also gave us an opportunity for all our adult teams to remember club member Dan Gipple who passed away this year.

British Baseball

Momentum is continuing to gather for baseball in the UK. The Great Britain National Team overcame the odds at the World Baseball Classic and secured a place in the next edition in 2026 without having to go through the qualifying stage.  

British coach Liam Carroll was appointed as the manager of the Boston Red Sox’s Single-A affiliate.

The MLB London Series was back. In 2024 we will welcome the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.

2024

I expect to have a number of personal commitments coming up as we go into 2024. Although I will still be able to perform office-based roles such as Treasurer and Secretary, this will affect my ability to cover some of my other roles such as events and facilities manager.  I am also mindful of the fact that I have been a board member of the club since 2004 and it may be appropriate for club members and the board to have the opportunity, periodically, to consider whether they wish to appoint different persons in the roles which I am covering at present. The last time I stepped down from my roles was in 2015 and perhaps now is a good time to do that again.

If no candidates are appointed at the upcoming AGM and if the board decides not to co-opt others to these roles, I would be very happy to be co-opted again to roles which I am able to perform in 2024, if the board decides that this is in the club’s best interest. Whatever the decision of club members and the board, I will of course be very keen to ensure the best possible transition and hand-over of roles which are assigned to others in 2024.

We have grown from having one adult team with 19 members playing on one diamond in 2004 to an organisation with around 250 adult and youth players today and three diamonds – two in Hemel Hempstead and one in NW London.

These are exciting times for our club and its members and there is enormous potential and opportunities to continue growing and developing the club as we strive to get to the next level. 

Aspi Dimitrov

President

2023 MVP vote results are in

2023 MVP vote results are in

The Most Valuable Players (MVP) of the seven Herts adult league teams have been announced.  The players of each team voted to determine their team’s MVP so the results reflect who the players consider to have been the most influential members this year.

Herts Falcons (NBL)

The 2023 Herts Falcons MVP is player-manager, Cris Hiche. With a batting average of .397, slugging average of .638 and 3 home runs, Hiche was a consistent contributor to the team’s offence. Defensively, he produced a series of web gems including a Play of the Year candidate in the game away at the Capitals which was streamed live (see video above).

(photo by Tony Small)

Herts Cardinals (Triple-A)

For a second consecutive year, the Herts Cardinals chose Tyler Cote as the team’s Most Valuable Player. He was the team’s “go-to” pitcher including in the Playoff Semi-Final. He had the team’s best ERA (.366) and led the pitching staff in strikeouts (36) and wins (3) tied with three other pitchers. Offensively, he led in RBIs (21), stolen bases (18) and had the third best batting average (.400).

photo by Will Baxter

Herts Hawks (Double-A)

Harry McMenamin is the Herts Hawks MVP. This was his third season playing in the BBF senior leagues and he has been voted as the Hawks MVP in each of these three seasons.  His batting average was .552, slugging average was .845 which is almost identical to his numbers last year, despite the fact that his team is playing in a higher league tier this season. His contribution was in all aspects of the game, as a pitcher, with the glove in the infield and with his speed, stealing 27 bases.

photo by Rob Jones

Herts Ducks (Double-A)

The Herts Ducks MVP is Taysir Barakat. His teammates recognised his contribution on and off the field in a diffiuclt first season for the Ducks in the Double-A League when the team needed a lot of lifting. He had a batting average of .349, led in stolen bases (14) and his team relied on his pitching with the most innnings pitched (24).

photo by Tony Small

Herts Ravens (Single-A)

Zak Beller won the MVP vote among the Herts Ravens. He was a key player in a very successful season for the team going all the way to the Playoff semi-final. He led the team in home runs (4) and RBIs (40), was third in batting average (.686) and stolen bases (38). We should mention that pitcher and infielder Nic Goetz was a close second in the MVP vote. He had another exceptional season with an ERA of 2.45, 8 wins , no losses and 61 strikeouts. He also led the team with a .778 batting average.

Herts Raptors (Single-A)

Among the seven Herts senior league teams, the Herts Raptors recorded the biggest improvement in their winning average from .038 in 2022 to .348 this season. The players determined that pitcher Lee Dunn played a vital part in this and voted him as the Raptors 2023 MVP. He had the best ERA and the lowest opponent batting average. He also led the team with 3 home runs. This is only his first season with the club so we look forard to seeing what 2024 will bring for him and the Raptors.

Herts Eagles (Single-A)

The Herts Eagles MVP is George Llewelyn Thomas. He may not have been at the top of the offensive and defensive categories, but the fact that his teammates voted for him speaks volumes about the role he played in the team, bringing everyone together and leading by example. The team made enormous progress over the course of the season and they are already preparing for 2024.

Apart from being 2023 Ravens MVP, Zak Beller also won the Play of the Year with his 3 home runs in a game. Close behind him in the vote were Lee Dunn for his 2-home-run-game and Ben Sporleder for his fearless catch in centerfield smashing into the outfield wall.

There was a tie in the Nob-Out Award category between Tyler Cote and Lewis Auchterlounie for the most spectacular mishap of the season. Tyler Cote caused a delay in the start of the game away at Bristol when he lost his wedding rind requiring an urgent search party where both the home and away players had to comb the field on their knees. The ring was found successfully.

Lewis Auchterlounie shares the Nob-Out Award with Tyler Cote. He was one of the fans who came down to watch the Herts Falcons NBL game and decided to enter the 200m fan race during the 5th inning stretch. The prize for the winner was a hot dog so there was a lot on the line. One furlong into the race Lewis went down after pulling a hamstring.

With 2023 award-winners confirmed, attention is turning to preparations for the 2024 season. What will the new year bring? How many Herts teams will we see and which leagues will they play in? Which players will be challenging to move up the leagues and will a Herts team bring a national championship trophy home?

Hunlock Series starts this Sunday. League and playoff games will adopt the 9th Inning game format.

Hunlock Series starts this Sunday. League and playoff games will adopt the 9th Inning game format.

The game schedule for the 2023 Hunlock Series has been published and it has been confirmed that the “9th Inning” game format is in force which means that all games will be decided over a single inning only. This format was first adopted in the 2017 Hunlock Series. It recreates the tension and drama of the ninth inning.

The Green Cheese Cutters open the competition with a 4-game series against the Black Barracudas at 09:40am at Basing Hill Ballpark, followed by four more of these 4-game series with the day ending at around 5:30pm.

Opening Ceremony

There will be an opening ceremony at 12:30pm for the annual group photo of all the teams. This event will also see a ceremony to officially mark the opening of Basing Hill Ballpark after the completion of Phase 2 in June. Five local Councillors will throw out the ceremonial first pitch as the guests of honour.

Tournament rules

The following regulations will apply to the “9th Inning” format.

• The batting order of each team remains unchanged for the duration of the day unless a substitution is made.

• A substituted player cannot re-enter the same game, however that player can re-enter a subsequent game.

• The batter who was next to bat upon completion of the previous game will be the first batter in the next game with the rest of the batting lineup coming up to bat in order.

What is also noticeable from the schedule is that the home team alternates over the course of the 4-game series which implies that the fielding team in the bottom of the inning will remain in the field in the top of the inning of the subsequent game. This scheduling approach was adopted in previous years and it sped-up the games enormously as that halved the number of times teams go in and out of the field. There even was no need for warm-up pitches as the pitchers were ready. The downside is that a pitcher will need to stay on the mound for 6 outs without a break as opposed to the usual 3 outs, which could mean twice as many pitches thrown in an inning. This is where the defence can really help pitchers, by minimising errors and not adding to the pitcher’s pitch count.

League and Playoff Format

The first two weeks of the Series will see a league format where each team will play a total of 16 games, 4 games against each of their opponents.

The postseason playoff will be played on 15 October. Those games will also adopt the one-inning game format. See playoff tournament tree above.

Other rules

The other rules which differ from what teams are used to in the BBF leagues are:

• Pitching Restrictions. A player can appear as a pitcher in one, two or more games per day, but no player shall accumulate more than 3 innings (9 outs) as a pitcher over the course of the day. It is the responsibility of the opposing team to inform the umpire when a pitcher reaches the limit. Managers must inform opponents of the number of innings pitched by each of their pitchers during the day prior to the start of each game.

• No Mercy Rule will be in force.

• If the game is tied after completion of the final inning, each team is awarded half a win and half a loss in the standings.

The 2023 Hunlock Series Draft took place on Friday night.  See more details here.

If you have not signed up to play in the Hunlock Series, it is not too late. Contact Herts Baseball Club for details on how to sign up.

Bennett, Badenhorst, Dearing, Cresswell and Shinkawa are the first round picks.

Bennett, Badenhorst, Dearing, Cresswell and Shinkawa are the first round picks.

The 2023 Hunlock Series Draft was completed on Friday night. The managers of the teams had a plethora of talent to choose from with 82 players drafted over 17 rounds.

THE FIRST ROUND PICKS

It was no surprise that four of the five first round picks were pitchers.

On a toss of a coin, the Yellow Wizards had the first pick. Manager, Osvaldo Badia, selected Sean Bennett (pictured above) – a member of the Triple-A League Semi-Finalist, Herts Cardinals.

The Black Barracudas chose pitcher and infielder Josh Badenhorst with their first pick. He has been wearing the MK Bucks jersey this season and has previously played for the various Herts youth teams.

The Big Red Machine had the next pick. They selected Herts Cardinals player-manager Brian Dearing whose primary positions are starting pitcher and shortstop.

The defending Hunlock Series champions, Blue Buzzards, were next and they picked Herts Falcons first baseman and outfielder, Mike Cresswell.

Finally, Green Cheese Cutters manager, Callum Ferrier, selected Testuro Shinkawa with his first pick.

FREE AGENTS AND TRADES

The full team rosters determined at last night’s draft are shown here.

New players are sill regisering and they will be added to the teams as free agents.

New players aged 14 or above, regardless of whether they are members of Herts or another club or completely new to baseball, can be added to the teams at any point. To be added to the teams or for more details contact Herts Baseball Club.

OPENING DAY

The Series commence on Sunday, 1 October. The first games start at 09:40am at Basing Hill Ballpark in north west London. Admission is free. For complete Series schedule click here.

Hunlock Series managers announced. The Live Draft is on Friday night.

Hunlock Series managers announced. The Live Draft is on Friday night.

We are counting down to the 2023 Hunlock Series Live Draft which will take place this Friday, 22 September at 8:00pm.

For those who are new to the Hunlock Series, in the days leading up to the Draft, the 100+ Herts players (aged 14 and over) and newly registered players mark their availability for the three weeks of the Hunlock Series. The team managers then take turns picking players one by one over the twenty or so rounds of the Draft. It will be interesting to see which players will be picked in the first round and who will be the very first pick.  In previous years, that honour has gone primarily to Conner Brown.

Players and fans can follow the Draft picks here as they happen. Participants will also be able to interact and chat about the Draft in WhatsApp groups as the managers make their picks.

The team managers

Five teams go into this year’s competition. The managerial appointments have just been announced.

  • Black Barracudas – Duane Badenhorst
  • Blue Buzzards – Danny Preston
  • Green Cheese Cutters – Callum Ferrier
  • Big Red Machine – Nick Sanders
  • Yellow Wizards – Osvaldo Badia

Danny Preston led the Blue Buzzards to the Hunlock Series championship last year and he is back to defend the title this year.

Fans will see some new faces in the Hunlock Series this year who have joined the club in the last few weeks, so there will be an element of surprise in Friday’s Draft. Some of them may be new to Herts fans but they are not new to the game. The Hunlock Series could give us a glimpse at some of the new players who will be wearing the Herts uniform in 2024.

Historically the Herts adult league team managers have used the Hunlock Series games to evaluate current and new players in preparation for the new season, to populate their rosters and positions and to decide which leagues the Herts teams should go into in 2024.

How to regsiter

All Hunlock Series players will be drafted into teams. To be eligible for the Draft players will need to update their availability for all the Hunlock Series dates in the online Clubhouse by 7pm on Friday, 22 September. If you miss the deadline or the first one or two weeks of games, don’t worry. New players will still be eligible to play but will have to be assigned to teams as free agents after the Draft.

If you already have a Clubhouse account you can update availability by logging on with your existing username and password. Click here to go to the Clubhouse.

If you do not have a Clubhouse account but wish to play in the Hunlock Series, please register here and select “Play Hunlock Series” in the membership category list. After registering you can log on and mark your availability.

To be eligible to play in the Hunlock Series, players must be 14 years of age or above on 31 December 2023.

Entry fee

2023 club members, including non-roster club members, do not have to pay an entry fee as the Hunlock Series is part of their membership package. If you don’t have a Hunlock Series team shirt, you can buy one before your first game. The price is £10. Many players already have Hunlock Series team shirts from previous years and, to keep costs down for players, an online group will be set up where they can exchange their shirt if they have been picked by a team wearing a different colour team shirt.

New players or players from other clubs can play by paying the £24 entry fee which includes a free Hunlock Series shirt of the team which has drafted them.

For more details about playing in the Hunlock Series, contact us.

End of the road for Ravens and Cardinals

The Herts Ravens (A) and Cardinals (AAA) fought to the last in playoff games which capped their excellent seasons. But ultimately they fell one step short of the finals they had been chasing. Both teams can be proud of their year, and of the games they played at its climax.

(Photo by Iestyn Dallimore)

The Ravens had to navigate a wildcard game on Saturday, 9th September, after an unexpected BBF ruling removed their tied regular season game and replaced it with a loss. But when they faced the Cambridge Royals at home they overpowered them with an 18-1 win.

That meant a long road trip to Cardiff the next day to face the Merlins. That stacked the odds against them, and the absence of their star slugger Zak Beller and ace pitcher Nic Goetz — who took the win on Saturday – offered further challenges.

But Herts opened up strongly against the winners of the South West and Wales league. Sony Lama drove a hit to centre, stole a couple of bases, and came home on a passed ball. Greg Bochan drove in Eric Ferng and the visitors took a 2-0 lead.

Then when Cardiff’s leadoff man hit a fly ball to the outfield it ended in another big blow to Herts. It deflected off Lama’s glove as he chased into foul ground for the play, and opened a cut above his eye which required stitches at the local hospital. He has recovered well, but losing his arm and his bat from the lineup did not help the Ravens cause.

Andrew Slater’s deceptive curve kept the Merlins batters off balance and the first few innings were tight and low scoring. Norman Peng and Eddie Wang made good defensive plays.

After three, Cardiff had managed to edge ahead 3-2. But then they were able to surge ahead. Essentially, their batters figured out a solution before the Ravens were able to solve the Cardiff starter Eiki Ito, who issued 7 walks but also struck out 10.

After Cardiff jumped to an 8-2 lead, Herts’ defense dug deep to put a zero on the scoreboard. But in the end they could not hold off the home side. Oscar Landin and Jamie Cunningham continued the damage they had done all season and the Merlins won it 12-2 in six innings.

The Herts Cardinals also faced a long road trip, heading to Bournemouth to face the Bears. And they too started strong. They led 2-1 after four innings thanks to an Erik Gustafson RBI hit and a Will Davis home run. Tyler Cote was solid on the mound.

Bournemouth rallied in the bottom of the fifth to retake the lead, but the Cardinals bounced right back. Vytas Macenas cleared the loaded bases for 3 RBIs and the lead. The Bears had the final word, though, with two home runs helping them to a 9-5 lead which they would preserve to take the victory.

Cardinals manager Brian Dearing said it had been a fun and tough fight, with amazing efforts top to bottom from the team.

The playoff finals for the BBF’s A, AA and AAA leagues take place this Sunday at Farnham Park. Herts players can turn their attention to the post-season Hunlock Series which brings together all levels of the club in a fun tournament in October to wrap up the year.

Thanks to Iestyn Dallimore for the excellent photos of the Merlins-Ravens game. Google him and you will find many more!

Herts Ravens face Cambridge Royals in Wild Card game. Winner will be off to Cardiff for Semi-Final.

Herts Ravens face Cambridge Royals in Wild Card game. Winner will be off to Cardiff for Semi-Final.

On Sunday, Herts Ravens fans were anxiously following the game updates from around the Single-A League divisions. When the final out of  the 2023 regular season was recorded and after some off-field BBF deliberations, the Ravens were confirmed as the fourth seed team for the Postseason.

Wins for the Cardiff Merlins, Tonbridge Bobcats and London Mustangs on the final day combined with a decision by the league to roll back the score of the earlier Ravens versus MK Bucks game which was suspended tied 5-5 in extra innings and has now been declared as a 4-3 Bucks win, meant that the  Ravens dropped from second to fourth seed.

Single-A Postseason Seedings (Win-Loss %)

  • 1st Seed – Cardiff Merlins (.917) – Severn Pool Winner
  • 2nd Seed – Tonbridge Bobcats  (.913) – South East Pool Winner
  • 3rd  Seed – London Mustangs (.893) – South Central A Pool Winner
  • 4th Seed – Herts Ravens (.875) – South Central B Pool Winner
  • 5th Seed – Cambridge Royals (.625) – East of England Pool Winner

This implies that the Herts Ravens will have to go through a Wild Card game to earn the right to play in the Semi-Final. Their opponents will be the Cambridge Royals who are the fifth seed but the win-loss average in the different pools may not be the best indicator of the strength of these teams as there are no interleague games between the five pools and there may be a disparity in the strength of opponents in each pool.

As the higher seed, the Ravens will have home field advantage in this Wild Card Game so it will be played at their home field – Basing Hill Ballpark in north west London. First pitch is at 12pm. Admission is free and fans are advised to bring their own seating as the ballpark may not have enough seating capacity for everyone.

If the Ravens overcome the Royals, they will need to swiftly get on the M4 motorway to meet the Cardiff Merlins in the Semi-Final which will be played in Cardiff 24 hours later – a 300-mile round trip.

Fans who cannot see the game in person can follow update on the BBF website.

Herts Ravens book Playoff ticket. Scores on Sunday will decide the seeding.

Herts Ravens book Playoff ticket. Scores on Sunday will decide the seeding.

Two hard-fought wins for the Herts Ravens against the Herts Raptors on Sunday confirmed their place in the Single-A League Playoffs. Those were their final regular season games and the wins mean that they will finish top of their pool ahead of the Milton Keynes Bucks.

PosTeamWLPctGB
12130.8750
22040.8331
38140.37012
48150.34812.5
51220.06319.5

The two teams were neck-and-neck all season long but the Ravens’ 19 consecutive wins were enough to win the race despite losing their first two games in Milton Keynes on Opening Day.

Pitcher Nic Goetz will go into the postseason with a 2.52 ERA, 54 strikeouts and a 7-0 record

The Herts Ravens now wait for the outcome of other games in the other pools this Sunday to find out their seeding and who they will face in the postseason.

Going into Sunday’s games they have the second best win-loss average among the first placed teams in the four Single-A League pools.

  • 1st Seed – Tonbridge Bobcats (.900) – South East
  • 2nd Seed – Herts Ravens (.896) – South Central Pool B
  • 3rd Seed – London Mustangs (.885) – South Central Pool A
  • 4th Seed – Cambridge Royals – (.625) – East of England

If Tonbridge slip up against the Hurricanes, the Ravens will leap ahead of them.

The Single-A League postseason format and schedule (photo by the BBF)

To follow live updates on Sunday go to the BBF scoreboard webpage.

Eagles celebrate big moment; Ravens, Cards get crucial wins

A win is a win, but some wins are bigger than others. For the Herts Eagles, the victory at the Essex Redbacks on Sunday was special. It was, they said, “epic”. For this was their first win this season, which has been a tough year in which a team made up of largely rookie players battled numbers, availability, and the baseball gods.

The first game of the double-header had ended in a 5-5 tie which was, in itself, a great step forward. Joseph Coulson struck out 7 in a complete game effort, and made a highlight reel catch in foul ground. The Eagles outhit the Redbacks, too.

But even better was to come in Game 2. Jake Spicer turned in a solid pitching performance, and he was backed with an offense which struck early and often. Neil Chilton and Pavan Sunkara delivered key hits in the first inning, Sammy English ran wild on the bases in the second, and the Eagles jumped out to a 7-0 lead.

Defense, as always, was crucial too. A double play at first base, and a great catch down the left field line by Atena Barani, helped protect the lead. And when Spicer tired in the final inning, Chilton stepped in for the save. He secured the final out with a fielders’ choice at home plate, and Eagles took the game 9-6.

Manager Reece Crawley – who said he was “on cloud 9” after the win – had a long list of shout-outs to every member his squad for giving everything. “I couldn’t be prouder of the hard work and dedication of a team that never gave up”, he said.

There was credit for George Llewellyn Thomas – for keeping the spirits high when energy was low — and to coach Sydney McCall – for helping everyone stay focused, and to move when they had to and stay when they needed to!

A team wins together, and the Eagles were able to celebrate together after a well-deserved victory.

The Herts Ravens took their win streak up to 15 games in their Single-A doubleheader at Grovehill against the Herts Raptors. The Ravens are leading their division, but the post-season rules mean every game is a must-win to be sure of a place and to secure seeding.

Zak Beller at bat

Eddie Wang took the win in Game 1, his sixth of the year. He didn’t perhaps have his best stuff and the Raptors offered stiff resistance, working walks and mustering 6 hits – Max Kuszewski with two of them. But Wang battled out of trouble and he was helped by the crucial batting power of Ravens’ lefty slugger Zak Beller. He went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a triple, and drove in 7. It ended 19-8.

Game 2 saw ace Nic Goetz deliver the goods again, striking out 7 to take the win. But again Raptors fought hard, with Jamie Wise and Natasha Romoff among the hits. For the Ravens, Jack Page got two hits to drive the offense. Sonam Lama also racked up his sixth walk and fifth run of the day, and helped nail down the 13-6 win.

On Grovehill’s other diamond, the Herts Hawks of the Double-A league were facing the MK Bucks, who are challenging for the playoffs.

While wins eluded the Hawks in both games, there were some outstanding performances. Jack O’Brien was excellent on the mound, striking out 7 and dominating the opposition in much of the first game. Kobby Darteh drove in a pair and both he and Seth Muirden — recently promoted from the junior leagues – put in huge and successful efforts to adapt to the senior leagues.

Game 2 saw tremendous defence from Harry McMenamin and from Max Farmborough, who put in an excellent shift at shortstop, out of his usual positions. He ended one inning with an impressive double play, making the catch and gunning out an aggressive runner trying to score. Manager Ken Pike felt his team were starting to show their mettle as they tightened their defense and got the bats going – “the Hawks may be newly promoted but they are starting to show that the step up, while it’s a challenge, is setting great groundwork to re-establishing a credible Herts Hemel Hempstead double A presence.”

The Hawks defensive aces

The Cardinals faced Bournemouth Bears at Basing Hill in Triple-A, and needed to get a result if they were to stay in the playoff hunt. The Bears took the win 7-2 in Game 1, despite a solid outing by Tyler Cote and three hits by Osvaldo Badia.

But the big win came in Game 2. Early exchanges were tight, but then the Cardinals went ahead for good. RBIs by Badia, Cote and Mike Cresswell gave the home side a 5-3 lead. They extended it in the fourth, courtesy of Naohiko Kumagai and Hiroki Fujimoto, who both enjoyed multi-hit games.

Brian Dearing took the 9-3 victory on the mound, surrendering just 3 runs in five innings of work. Stephen Wong recorded the save and the Cardinals stay in the postseason race.

The Ducks were swept by Sidewinders in their doubleheader in Double-A, while the Herts Falcons went out with a bang as they were finally eliminated from playoff contention in the NBL. They pushed the London Capitals all the way, even going to extras in Game 2. But they came away empty handed, and because rained out games against Sheffield can’t be rescheduled they are out of the race.

There was a welcome treat for Falcons fans – and British baseball fans more generally – as the games were streamed online. Viewers checked in from around the world to see the drama, and to see how well the Falcons closed their first season back in the top flight.

Ravens Round the Bases on Raptors

Ravens Bring the Heat to Raptors

The second matchup between the Ravens and Raptors saw many of the Ravens hitting for the fences.

Game One

Game One saw Wei-Chieh Wang take the mound as the starting pitcher, hoping for his 6th win this season. The Ravens were driven through the early innings by their rapid pitching and solid defence.

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Zak Beller Rounding Second Base

Slugging champion Zak Beller stepped up to the plate for his 4th at-bat of the game, and with two doubles and a triple already under his belt, he was ready to go again. An at-bat filled with foul balls and wild pitches meant Beller had to be careful with what he chose to swing at, but when the perfect ball fell through the zone, all he had to do was unleash the bat. The Raptors left fielder was left sprinting for the fences, desperate to throw the ball back to the infield before Beller could reach third, but to no avail. He took his place on third base once more, only a short distance from home plate, and his cheering team. “Triple No.2 and Hit No.4 for Zak Beller”

The Game ended a 19-8 victory for the Ravens, a fantastic display of hitting and fielding, especially by the undisputed Player of the Day, Zak Beller.

Game Two

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Nic Goetz on the Mound

Nic Goetz walked up and took his place on the mound as game two’s starting pitcher. With his fingers gripped firmly around the baseball and his eyes focused on the glove of catcher Hunter Devine, he was ready. The inning saw strike after strike, batter after batter, and ended with all three outs credited to Goetz.

Rookie right-fielder Jack Page lead game two in hits after hitting the ball past the infielders in both corners, allowing himself to reach first base easily. Last years rookie Henry Bell also hit to the outfield on his second double of the day. His early swing of the bat squeezed the ball straight down the left field line, narrowly avoiding the Raptors third-baseman and giving him the time to round the bag and stand up safely into second base.

Sonam Lama showed incredible patience and plate vision after tallying up six walks across the two games. He made the most out these oppurtunities, making his way around the bases and bringing in runs for the team four of those times.

The Game ended a 13-6 victory for the Ravens, their 15th consecutive win.

The Ravens are facing the Essex Redbacks next on the 20th of August, their final game at Basing Hill.