On Sunday’s triple-header affair at Grovehill Ballpark, it was almost as if the weather was tied to the Falcons emotions.
The day started (early) with intermittent rain in the morning as the Falcons took on the 5th place Brighton Jets. Tyler Badenhorst was on the mound for the for the Falcons, facing Jamie Ratcliff of the Jets. After two rain delays, a particularly strong bout of rain forced the umpires to call the game with Jets in the lead. The minimum number of innings (4) had been played however, and the Jets walked away with a 5-1 victory.
After a long break, which saw the London Capitals defeat the Jets, the sun returned just in time for the Falcons second game of the day. With the sun there also came a boost in morale: just one week previous, the Falcons had played two tough games against the Capitals and only narrowly lost them both.
Above: As the weather improved, so too did the Falcon’s performance.
Zack Longboy started on the mound for the Falcons, throwing a complete game and picking up the 10-8 win. The Herts bats looked alive as the team peppered hits off of London’s starter Maxime Flayol and relief pitcher Yusuke Ueno.
Herts led, albeit by a tight margin, for most of the game even stretching the lead to 3 runs in the 5th inning. A late home run gave the struggling Capitals a glimmer of hope, but leading 10-8, Herts Manager Lee Manning left Longboy out to finish the game and the Falcons shut the door.
The 10-8 victory over the 3rd place London Capitals marks the Falcons’ third win of the year, moving them into 6th place and ahead of the South London Pirates. While it is mathematically improbable that the Falcons could sneak into the playoffs, over the next six weeks they will be playing the role of spoiler as they match up against the NBL’s top dogs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Zack Longboy’s dual threat performance When asked for his player of the game, Manager Manning lauded Zack Longboy’s performance both on the mound and at the plate. He went “5 for 6 [at the plate] and pitched beautifully, working his way out of jams like a seasoned pro,” Manning said. “He gets better every time [and] I have the joy of watching him play.” His performance against the Capitals was Longboy’s first career complete game in the NBL and second career win. And, of his five hits, two came with the bases loaded.
More debuts Two more players made their Falcons debut on Sunday. Ian McCann played second base and came on in relief of Badenhorst in Game 1. In Game 2, Aaron Witter, a 14-year-old regular for the Herts Raptors, also got a cup of coffee with the NBL squad as he came off the bench to play right field. Witter’s experience is indicative of the fact that “Herts project youth is starting to pay off,” as Manning said, after the game. “The Capitals are a great team and our youngest player (14-year-old Aaron Witter) got the final out.” (Witter secured a fly ball to end the game.)
Execution, execution, execution Three critical runs of the 10 that the Falcon’s scored came via the suicide squeeze – Manning deploying an aggressive style with runners on third base. Although prior to Sunday, Louis Hare had never laid down a bunt in game, two of these squeezes involved him on the bunting end. A fourth squeeze was also put into motion, although a pick play to third by the Capitals pitcher left Matt Gilbert to improvise. When the dust cleared Gilbert had scored, leaving many rushing to check the record books on the oldest player to ever steal home.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Interference? Late in Game 2, a Capital’s runner scrambled from second to third, dislodging the Falcon’s shortstop in the process. As Louis Hare was in the process of fielding a ground ball, the runner was called out for interference, ending the inning. The Capital’s first base coach reacted strongly to the call, getting in the umpires face and causing a loud confrontation. Subsequently, the player was ejected and play continued without further interruption.
On Sunday July 17th, the Falcons will take on the 4th place Essex Arrows (12-12) at Town Mead Ballpark. First pitch for Game 1 is 12:00 PM and Game 2 is scheduled to begin at 3:00 PM.