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Falcons pick up much needed win

Herts Falcons, 9 – Brighton Jets, 8

After a run of poor performances from the Herts NBL side, things finally came together on the one-game road trip to Brighton this past Sunday. Defensively, an area where the Falcons have struggled greatly in recent weeks, the team was near flawless, with particularly strong performances from Andrew Fulford behind the dish, Jamie Warren in centerfield, and Moises Vasquez at third. The pitching staff too, looked to be revitalized in the one-game, 9 inning format.

Continue reading “Falcons pick up much needed win”

September blues? Not this time.


Raptors celebrate making post season
The Herts Raptors celebrated a successful season despite losing their last game.

By Ken Pike

Well that’s it, another season said and done for the Raptors. Time to pack our backs, go home for a long off-season and chill ou….wait…what? Finals? Funny guy, pull the other one. Oh, you’re serious? Well I never! The erstwhile ‘Craptors’ have shed  the mantle of rubbishdom in exuberant style and made it to the post season. This is a team that three years ago struggled to get any wins and now they are through to Farnham Park! Not as a wildcard either, but as one of the top two seeds. Probably second, as the Marauders at the time of writing need 1 win from their last two. While Milton Keynes could give them a run for their money it would be a BIG upset were they to lose to the 2sox (and I mean no offense to Leicester who have played with heart and soul, but not the same level of success as the Marauders).

Either way that means a first round bye, home field advantage in the semi finals on September 7th. If they get to the finals they would also enjoy homefield advantage against any team except (possibly) the Marauders. Admittedly there were a couple of stumbles along the way. Mid season saw a run of two defeats to sister-team the Eagles (congrats to them for a very respectable four wins from the season) and pool rivals the MK Coyotes, while the end of the season saw them trip up again in the last two games against the Dukes and Tonbridge. But despite those blips they have also beaten each of the other pool leaders, and every second placed team bar the Dukes as well so they can go to Farnham confident of being capable of beating any team they face. Sadly they won’t have the air of impenetrability and momentum that they had mid-July though. That said, they should benefit from the return of their young pitchers Zac Longboy and Will Zucker whom they were deprived of for almost all of those four losses, and, subject-to-appeal the powerful bat of Glen Downer who could return from a long absence.

So who have been the standout performers that got the Raptors to this stage? First plaudits have to go to Arnie Longboy. The first Raptors coach to take the team to post season will put him in Herts history books, and his (usually) calm and considered leadership saw the team play with a competence and level-headedness that saw them come back from behind to win in style on several occasions. I believe it is his firm  insistence on base running discipline that has led the Raptors to being the most offensively dominant team in the league despite not having any real power hitters to speak of.

As for play, starting from the mound and going round, the afore mentioned Zac and Will have been leading lights joined by Brodie Careess. The young trio have two wins a piece and truly demonstrated indomitable nerve and supreme skill in dispatching of side after side. Longboy leads the way between them on ERA but they have all been key to the Raptors success. That said they were joined at various stages by stand-ins Theo Scheepers and Jeff Whitter who also pipped a win to their names each (and in Whitter’s case two saves as well.)

Behind the plate Ken Pike received the vast majority of pitches in what was his first full season as a catcher. Being as I am the one writing this article I can hardly sing my own praises but I have been assured by Zac and Arnie that I did a good job of the issue. While I still have much to learn I am looking forward to continuing in what has been the position I have enjoyed by far the most, and taken to with relative comfort.

First base duties were initially taken on by Jeff Whitter and covered in his absences by Charlie Mayhew. Both performed outstandingly throughout the year being solid and generally error free despite some occasionally errant throws coming their way. Jeff’s amicable and calm nature made him one of the on-field captains helping to calm the team in times of frustration, while Charlie’s continual improvement saw a climax in the final game against Tonbridge where a series of amazing full-stretch catches helped to keep the game very close indeed.

Second and short were shared intermittently between the young pitchers, Theo Scheepers and coach Arnie, while by Sonam Lama, in his first year with the Raptors, demonstrated the kind of arm power capable of easily reaching first base and thereby cemented third base as his own. The coach again led the way from the front demonstrating the fewest errors per game for an infielder, and in fact one of the lowest numbers for the whole team. That said it will be fielding errors that he will want to cut out the most, preferably by post season but certainly by next year with nearly half of the team’s conceded runs coming un-earned.

Outfield was shared by Warwyk Byrne, Charlie Mayhew (when not at first), Mark Caress and Andy Bartram. Andy has made a solid case for rookie of the year (not just by virtue of being the only rookie on the team, but also by having the lowest error-per-game rating of any of the regular players. His assured glove, good arm, and fast pace to reach the ball made him a reliable and key player for left and centre.

Along the way there were notable performances by players who only joined for brief periods too. Matt Kiddie’s pitching against the 2sox at mid-season blew the side away and showed unbelievable pace, whilst two grand-slam homers from Ben Marques against the Mavericks helped to seal the game that confirmed the Raptors as Pool winners. Raptors Veteran Glen Downer was sadly occupied elsewhere for most of the season but managed to get in two games where he played solidly in the outfield. He is appealing for special dispensation to the commissioners to be allowed to join the team for post-season.

Defensively the Raptors were 5th in the league for runs conceded, but as for batting, well that’s where the stats really get interesting. While Arnie has not shared the statistics including the last two games, the production was spread throughout the team and at game 12 the numbers were as follows:

  • Runs leader was Ken Pike (41), followed by Arnie (35) and Sonam (35).
  • Hits went to Arnie (24) followed by Pike (20) and then Sonam and Brodie on a par (19).
  • Home run leader by a mile is Ben Marques (2) followed by Jim Arnott (1).
  • On Steals Ken Pike led by some distance (41) over Lama (25) and Arnie and Charlie (24 each).
  • Base on balls leader was Charlie Mayhew (26) followed by Theo (22) and Arnie again (18).
  • Arnie lead the way for AVG, SLG and OPS too but was closely followed in all three by a variety of people including his son Zac, while OBP leader Charlie Mayhew was clear of the rest of the field by some way.

While Arnie, Ken and Sony consistently led the line-ups between them, the whole team demonstrated consistency and ability at the plate averaging 24 points per game and having scored 46 runs more than any other team over the season. They had 7 games in which they scored 30 runs or more.

So in summary? Well the team will be relying on that offence to see them through at Farnham, but that being said the defence had consistently improved throughout the year and should they play to the kind of levels that saw them hold pool B leaders the Blackjacks to 12 or the Eagles and Archers to 4 and 6 respectively then they will be a real danger team. They have proven themselves fallible, but they have also proven that when they set their minds to it they are a force to be reckoned with, and they will surely be fired up to the max in Slough come September. Key warm-up friendlies, hopefully against higher division opposition such as the Hawks, will be key to preparing the team up for things to come. Meanwhile, we all cross our fingers and get our lucky charms at the ready and pray for a successful post season.

Please note, any players from teams not going to Farnham park, your assistance either as, experienced base coaches, bat men, general helpers and especially supporters will surely be massively appreciated and you will get to be a part of Herts Baseball history with the Falcons and Raptors both set to feature. Give Arnie and Lee a shout if you can help out in any way.




Raptors make Blackjacks walk the plank despite downpour

By Ken Pike

What a difference a month makes in baseball. On the third weekend in May the Raptors had just suffered the second defeat in a row levelling their record at 2-2 after what had been a very promising start to the season. Errors had plagued the team, and while part of the damage came from notable absences of the younger members having to undergo end of year exams, the remaining players had to admit at the time that lapses of concentration had cost them dearly. Playoffs still seemed a very long way away and it was clear that no more mistakes could be tolerated if those were to ever become reality.

Fast forward four games and victories against league leading London Marauders, the solid Redbacks, a dominant performance over the 2Sox, and vengeance against their sister team the Eagles had restored their position at joint top of Single A Pool A and revitalised faith in their abilities. What’s more, the manner of victories had also been resounding – four straight mercy rule games, with a significant drop in error rates, and impressive pitching performances.

Yet much more was to come. Despite the continued success there was no light between their Pool opponents the MK Coyotes and the next few games saw them face 2 pool leaders (including MK), a team that could top their pool if they won their games in hand, and a series of teams all with winning records. First up, the Haverhill Blackjacks, a team that had suffered a rocky start to the season before notable acquisitions from the local US Airforce base had significantly improved their fortunes with rumours of a near unbeatable pitching/catching partnership.

The first inning started with a touch of the shakes for Herts. A couple of fielding errors led to three unforced runs scoring for the Haverhill team, but the Raptors had seen far worse starts turn to victory and were barely phased by that. The Raptors offense is rapidly making a name for itsself having outscored every other team in the league by 50 runs over the season. The bottom half of the first saw Ken Pike get on base and test the fabled visiting battery early on with a steal to second. A hit moved him to second before he took his opportunity on a pass ball. In what was a close play the pitcher made the mistake of stepping over the plate into the path of the 13 stone Raptors catcher. The wind promptly knocked out of him, the ball was no-where near a glove and the home team were on the scoreboard. Only one more runner would score to bring the game back to one.

The second inning saw the Raptors defence hit their stride. Young Will Zucker was cutting through the Haverhill lineup and a series of powerful plays saw the side retired without further score. The bottom half of the inning saw a significant change of pace. Perhaps the pitcher had suffered slightly from his collision, or perhaps the batters had taken heart from the fact the battery wasn’t as dangerous as they had heard. Either way they batted around the order nearly twice with 13 runners scoring before the side was retired (not before Haverhill had gone through two pitchers and descended into a full blown on the pitch argument with themselves). No fancy homeruns required for the home team, just a solid on base percentage with the youthful and fast side making the most of any opportunity to advance.

The third inning saw Will Zucker swapped for the equally young Brodie Caress on the mound, but little else changed. One Blackjack came around before the side was retired, barely denting the Raptors lead of 12. Said lead was promptly restored in the bottom of the inning, but not with quite as much aplomb as the previous inning. Three runners scored – a lead of 14 runs. Sadly not without loss of limb (though thankfully not life.) The cursed first base on the old Grovehill diamond had struck again as Warwyk Byrne landed awkwardly on his hand while returning to first on a pickoff attempt adding a broken finger to the long list of Herts players having suffered in the same position (Duncan Hoyle, Ken Pike, Rob Jones, Joe Osborne-Brade etc etc etc).

Brodie’s performance on the mound continued into the fourth too, this time retiring the side in rapid progression, the first two batters departing within 3 pitches. A walk later the fourth batter went for a simple fly out with barely 15 pitches having passed all inning. Again, another 3 Raptors runs were added stretching the team’s lead to 21-4.

With clouds looming the fifth inning proved more exciting. Caress’ arm was clearly tiring and despite him comfortable lead some of the accuracy had departed. Six runs from Haverhill gave them a fighting chance but they still had work to do to overcome the mercy rule which loomed within two innings. Sadly for the away team, their work should have started on defence in the bottom of the fifth. Instead the Raptors went to town again putting the game well beyond doubt, going around the order again plating 10 more runs to extend the lead to 31-10.

As the sixth started an increasing rainfall started to play havoc with Caress’ accuracy before the heavens opened deluging the field sending both teams heading for umbrellas as umpire Adrian Smithers called for a rain timeout of 5 minutes. Those minutes passed without change for the better and the game was called with a result being called and Havehill’s score being pulled back to the end of the fifth. End result 31-10.

Raptors manager Arnie Longboy praised another great performance: “I think our offense had another explosive game against a tough opponent.  I want to be sure though that we can keep up the momentum for our next two opponents.  Sony Lama continued his hot hitting streak with two singles, a double, triple – just missing the cycle by a homerun.  Jim Arnott’s production also carried over with a team season high seven RBI’s . And of course Ken Pike added to his team lead in stolen bases with another 3.”

The Raptors have now convincingly demolished the leaders of both other pools, and thanks to the Coyotes – Marauders game being postponed by two weeks they now sit top of their group by a half game. They face MK in two weeks, and suddenly the resurgence of faith and potential has turned into a serious charge for the end season. No predictions can be made in what is a very close fight to the finish in all the pools, but whoever wins that game will be strong favourites to finish top of their group. That said, that might make little difference the second team in pool A will be very strong candidates for the first of the three wildcard spots. What will matter however is pride, bragging rights, belief, and above all, momentum.


Team 1 2 3 4 5 R H E L
Haverhill Blackjacks 3 0 1 0 6 10 7 5 3
Herts Raptors 2 13 3 3 10 31 15 4 7