The Herts Eagles and Herts Londoners faced each other at Basing Hill Ballpark in their final games of the regular season. Stakes are always high in a club derby, but these were crucial games for the home side, the Londoners, if they were to keep alive their playoff hopes. The visitors were keen to play the spoiler! Here are your two game reports, one from each side.
By Kumail Jaffer
The Eagles may have been out of the playoff race, but they were keen to finish strong after a season hampered by player absences and injuries.
And as much as the two teams were friends off the diamond, they had enjoyed some feisty affairs on it. Sunday was no different.
The Londoners quickly showed why they boast an impressive record. Andrew Slater and his infamous curveballs (or are they just junk-balls?) frustrated the Eagles early on, and he retired the first NINE batters he faced.
Eddie Wang, Kenny Liao, Hunter Devine and Zak Beller all came home in the first inning, while a solid single from Greg Bochan allowed Sonam Lama to cross the plate in the third.
The Eagles’ strength this year has been their offense – with good hitting and quick base-running throughout the order, their firepower has often made up for occasional errors in the field and on the mound.
But no runs through the first three innings meant that, despite a good shift from starting pitcher Saira Smith, they were 5 behind going into the fourth.
The bats suddenly threatened to get going, however, with Thomas Hill, Kumail Jaffer and Taysir Barakat all getting hits to bring home the Eagles’ first run.
But the Londoners showed their experience, with hit machine Kenny Liao, Lama and Beller driving in more runners.
The Eagles tried to rally as Neil Chilton doubled to score Michael Green, but Slater continued to bamboozle the batters and eventually secured the 8-2 win for the Londoners.
By Rob Jones
Giving up a leadoff home run is not how you want to start a game which you have to win. But that’s exactly what Londoners did as hard-throwing ace Nic Goetz took on the Eagles’ slugger Mike Wakelam.
With one loud crack of the bat, a fastball was launched over the left field fence.
But a couple of fly-outs and a strikeout nullified any further threat, and Wakelam was not able to have the same impact when he stepped on to the mound to pitch. Walks and steals put runners in good position, and 2 runs scored before Jack Page drove in 2 more with a single to centre field.
Things were looking good for the Londoners, but with two out and two men on, Wakelam came up to bat again in the top of the second. And, yes, you can guess what happened. Three run homer. Tied game. 4-4.
But the home side were able to nose back in front and stay there for good. Kenny Liao delivered again to drive in Eddie Wang, while Liao and Sony Lama came home on wild pitches.
This was a game full of oddities. One runner who could have scored on a wild pick off at third accidentally blocked the ball, denying him an easy run. Another runner was out at third when a hot shot ground ball which deflected off the third baseman ricocheted straight to the shortstop as he moved towards the base, and he got there to apply the tag.
And it was one of these quirks which finally sealed the Eagles doom in the top of the third. They had loaded the bases with just one out, and threatened to rally back. Neil Chilton then worked a walk to bring home a run.
But the Londoners manager Matt Bell called time and, armed with his iPad, pointed out that Chilton shouldn’t have been batting at all. He was out of turn.
That meant that the scheduled batter Brad Charalambous was automatically called out, the run was taken off the board, and Chilton had to return to the plate to go again. This time he flied out and the inning was over.
Wakelam had started firing on all cylinders now with his pitching, but it was too late. Goetz was matching him and he polished off the Eagles in the fifth with a fly-out, a groundout and — for emphasis — his fourth strikeout. It ended 7-5.