Home British baseball British Baseball Beat: Faltering Falcons begin to fly

British Baseball Beat: Faltering Falcons begin to fly

by Matt Smith

BBBHerts Baseball Club has come a long way in recent years.  The 2011 season has started slowly on the field for their three senior teams; indeed they were all seeking their first win of the year prior to Sunday’s games.

However, the Club’s youth programme is growing and looking out over the impressive facilities that they have worked hard to put in place, you got the impression that this disappointing form, even if it turns into a disappointing season, will be a temporary blip for Herts.

At Grovehill Ballpark on Sunday, the National Baseball League’s Herts Falcons were seeking their first win of the season after an 0-6 start to the campaign.  Their opponents, the Croydon Pirates, had achieved only one victory in eight games as well, so both teams looked on their double-header as a great chance to change their fortunes.

Croydon travelled to Herts without a few regulars and the Falcons took full advantage.  Veteran Darrin Ward was on the mound for the opening game and the Pirates struggled to get any offence going.  Alexander von Rosenbach knocked a two-run homer over the short porch in right field during the sixth inning, but that was one of only four hits that Ward allowed over the seven innings.

The Falcons’ pitcher personally took revenge for that one loud shot by hitting a two-run longball of his own over the fence in left-centre field.  Ward was doing it all: going deep with the bat and keeping the opposing hitters off balance.  He even made a play at the ‘pitcher’s cycle’: attempting pick-offs at first, second and third base.

Herts had benefitted from precious little luck over their first six games, so they would have gratefully accepted some on Sunday.  One Falcons hit to centrefield bounced off the grass in cartoon fashion, flying over the head of the leaping centrefielder.  The Pirates also bemoaned another ‘home field hop’ when a hit back towards Ward took a friendly bounce off the mound and gave the Falcons’ shortstop a chance to turn an inning-ending double play, a chance that he took with the minimum of fuss.

Still, few could deny that the Falcons’ play meant they deserved a good bounce of the ball or two and they ran out comfortable 10-3 winners to finally get rid of the zero in their win column.

There was ample time for reflection during the break between the two games, not only about the play on the field, but also the weather over head.  It was warm despite the wind and just as the sun’s rays had stayed out long enough to make you consider reaching for the suntan lotion, the clouds came over and soon had you wondering whether to put your jacket on again.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, deciding on lotion or long sleeves soon proved to be a more pressing question than who would win the second game.

Croydon’s hopes of rescuing a split were high as Tim Ssali took off the tools of ignorance and took to the mound for the second game.  However, it was a rare off-day for Ssali.  Despite showing good life on his fastball, his command wasn’t there and it all unravelled for the Pirates in the bottom of the third inning. A series of wild pitches and an errant throw from the catcher into left centre field helped Herts to a seven-run inning and an 8-2 lead.

Part of that inning may have been captured on ‘Mask Cam’, a small camera that Matt Schwartz allowed to be attached to his catcher’s mask.  It lasted several batters until the mask was tossed to the ground in an attempt to quickly recover a wild pitch, with the camera –undamaged – coming unattached and being put to one side.

The brief end to this experiment at least spared the Pirates from a ‘video nasty’ of recording what must have felt like a never-ending inning in its entirety.  The footage of the camera hurtling through the air may have also produced a good action shot and we await news on how the experiment worked out.

Von Rosenbach rounded the troops for a pep talk after the inning and the Pirates refused to give up.  They scored a run on a squeeze bunt in the fourth inning and received a bit of luck when, with a runner on first, a Falcons hit to centre field was placed through the one-panel gap in the outfield fence, making it a ground-rule double and leaving the lead runner at third base.

That was where the good news ended for the Pirates as the game was called early with the Falcons leading by the requisite ten runs, 13-3.

There ended an enjoyable afternoon at the ballpark.  The home team packed the equipment away cheerfully with a two-game winning streak now on the go.  The Pirates pondered a disappointing day on the field and the rest of us looked forward to a relaxing beer whilst contemplating whether we would regret the next day leaving the suntan lotion in our bags (thankfully not, as it turned out).


The Falcons' Aspi Dimitrov takes avoiding action (Photo: Joe Gray, Project COBB)

Elsewhere in the British baseball leagues …

The Richmond Flames finally brought an end to the Southampton Mustangs’ perfect start to the season in the other double-header played in the NBL.   It looked like the Mustangs would make it to a perfect ten wins after a depleted Flames side was beaten 7-4 in the opener.  However, the Flames fought back in the second game to earn an 8-4 victory.  The split leaves Richmond (8-2) just one game behind Southampton (9-1) in Pool A heading into the NBL Special Event this Sunday.  All ten teams will be in action over five nine-inning games in the top-tier of British baseball.

In Triple-A South, the Richmond Knights (2-8) thwarted the London Metros’ (6-4) plan to gain two games on the dormant Bristol Badgers (9-1) by splitting their double-header.  The results leave the Metros three games behind the division leaders, sharing that spot with the Essex Redbacks (7-5) after they gained two more wins at the expense of the Oxford Kings.  The Kings are 0-6 against the Redbacks, and 6-0 in their other games so far this season.  Oxford will be glad that they have no further games against the Redbacks during the regular season, but their perfect record against the rest will be put to the sternest test on Sunday as they host the Badgers.

In Double-A, the Sidewinders maintained their position as the team to beat by shooting down the previously unbeaten Essex Archers twice.  The Sidewinders (7-0) lead the Guildford Mavericks (5-2) by two games and Thames Valley Bisons (4-3) by three after those two sides split a double-header.  Meanwhile Latin Boys (6-1) extended their lead at the top of South Pool A with two victories over Poole Piranhas (2-3).  The Latin Boys have a double-header against the Richmond Dragons (1-5) this Sunday, while Croydon Pirates III (2-1) and Brentwood Stags (3-2) will both be looking for a sweep of their double-header to keep up with the pool leaders.

The only game outside of the south in AA last Sunday saw Manchester Torrent (3-3) take a 25-4 win over Oldham North Stars (0-6) in the North pool.  The Torrent and Humber Pilots (3-3) currently trail Bolton Robots of Doom (7-1) by three games and they will meet for a double-header this Sunday while the Robots remain on standby.  In the Midlands, Nottingham Rebels (4-4) put their four-game winning streak on the line against the pool-leading MK Bucks (8-0).

The only game in Single-A produced a sixth consecutive win for the Southampton Mustangs II.  They beat the London Marauders (2-4) 24-6 at Finsbury Park to improve their record to 6-0 and will host Guildford Mavericks II (2-3) this Sunday.  Cambridge Royals (5-0), the other unbeaten team in Single-A, travel to Braintree to take on the Rays (2-3).

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Joe Gray June 2, 2011 - 6:37 pm

Great write-up Matt.

If anyone can guide me to some decent free software for editing .AVI files, I can post “Mask Cam” footage. Matt Schwartz was a champion for letting me attach the minicam to his mask.

Thanks in advance to any noble soul who can help…


Joe Gray June 3, 2011 - 10:15 pm

I’ve taken the plunge (although not too deep a one as it’s a free download) and gone for VideoSpin. Let’s see if it does the job.

Matt Smith June 4, 2011 - 8:46 am

Hi Joe. Good news. Looking forward to seeing the end product.

Matt Smith June 4, 2011 - 12:33 pm

Mask Cam footage can be found here:

Aspi June 4, 2011 - 2:06 pm

Joe and Matt. Thank you for coming to the Herts vs Croydon game on Sunday. It was great having you with us. We hope to see you soon at Grovehill Ballpark.

Great article as always.

Matt Smith June 4, 2011 - 2:09 pm

Thanks for the warm welcome, Aspi.


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