Sporting events with big build-ups don’t always live up to their billing, but the clash between the Harlow Nationals (11-4) and Herts Falcons (10-4) last Sunday in the National Baseball League undoubtedly met the high expectations.
As noted by Joe Gray earlier this week, there nearly was an actual clash between the two NBL sides when Nationals slugger Edwin Alcantara, who won the batting triple crown last season, celebrated his latest home run in a manner that some of the Falcons didn’t take too kindly to. It couldn’t have helped that the three-run jimmy jack tied the game at 9-9 and had been preceded by a disputed longball by former Falcon Luis Goncalves, which the umpires judged to have just gone the right side (from the Nationals’ perspective) of the right-field foul pole.
Tempers briefly flared, but cooler heads prevailed despite the Nationals going on to take the game 13-9. The Falcons channelled their frustration in a positive way for the second game, rushing out to a 13-3 lead and holding off a Harlow comeback to finish the game 15-10 winners. The victory came on a surprising Herts return for pitcher Darrin Ward, who had left the Falcons over the offseason to join the Essex Arrows and has now quickly made his way back to further strengthen Herts’ roster.
Grovehill Ballpark will be the place to be once again this Sunday as the Falcons move from one home series to another, this time against the league-leading Southampton Mustangs (12-3). The Mustangs swept a double-header in Southampton against the Arrows (7-9) to keep hold of the top spot by one game. The Falcons and Mustangs split a double-header earlier in the season and this Sunday’s pair of games in Hemel Hempstead are sure to be fiercely contested.
In the other results from last Sunday, the Croydon Pirates (1-13) finally broke their duck and claimed their first win of the season with an 11-8 victory over the Lakenheath Diamondbacks (4-7), who bounced back with an 8-1 win in the second game. There were also two impressive victories by the London Mets (8-3) over the Bracknell Blazers (1-11). The Mets will take on the Pirates this Sunday, with the D-Backs heading to Bracknell to face the Blazers and the Nationals playing against the Arrows.
AAA: Vondy’s no-hitter
The outstanding individual performance of the week came at Bootle Stadium where the Liverpool Trojans and Great Britain U23 pitcher Rob Vondy pitched a no-hitter against the Bolton Robots of Doom. His pitching mate Martin Godsall nearly matched it with a one-hitter of his own, as the Liverpool Trojans maintained their perfect record (12-0) with two more victories and condemned Bolton to their tenth consecutive loss. The Cartmel Valley Lions (8-4) are in second place in the AAA North after sweeping a double-header against the Menwith Hill Patriots (7-5). The Lions are impressing in their first season of Adult level competition and are genuine contenders for a playoff spot this season.
In the AAA-South, sadly it’s been confirmed that the Bracknell and Windsor Bears have pulled out of the competition and it leaves seven strong teams vying for four playoff places. The Cambridge Royals and Oxford Kings both swept double-headers, over the Richmond Knights and Latin Boys respectively, to show that they will be firmly in the mix. The Essex Redbacks and London Metros split a double-header, while the Bristol Badgers benefitted from two forfeits from those Bears.
This Sunday, the Knights will look to bounce back with a home double-header against Badgers, the Redbacks host the Latin Boys and the Metros head to Cambridge to take on the Royals.
AA: Guildford keep going
The South division is just as competitive in Double-A. The Guildford Mavericks have been the class outfit so far and they made it a perfect 10 to start the season with two wins over the Southampton Mustangs II on Sunday. Poole Piranhas kept up with the pace with two wins of their own over the Latin Tigers to improve to 9-1, while the Pool B-leading Sidewinders (6-2) split a double-header against the Essex Redbacks II.
Kent Mariners took two wins at the expense of the 0-8 Brentwood Stags and their next task is a home double-header against the Sidewinders on Sunday. The London Mammoths (3-3) host the Redbacks II at Finsbury Park, while the Richmond Dragons are the latest team to attempt to spoil Guildford’s glorious start to the season.
In the Midlands, the Leicester Blue Sox (5-4) and MK Bucks (4-2) split a double-header at the former’s Western Park and the Bucks will move on from that split with a double-header at the 5-0 Nottingham Rebels this Sunday.
In the North, the Harrogate Tigers are three games behind the Sheffield Bladerunners after taking two wins over the Newton Aycliffe Spartans on Sunday. The Bladerunners are scheduled to face the Manchester A’s this weekend.
The Essex Archers look unstoppable at the moment as they made it six wins in a row with a 32-15 victory over the Herts Eagles. The defeat dropped the Eagles back down to .500 with a 3-3 record, but the team were not too disheartened by their latest result. Duncan Hoyle’s official report states: “Despite what on paper looks a heavy loss, Herts will be able to take away some satisfaction from the manner in which they played the game and the fact they scored 15 runs – 1 more than all five previous opponents of the Archers have scored put together”.
The Old Timers are also unbeaten as their 23-4 victory over the Essex Redbacks III made it three wins on the spin for the veterans. Their early season form will be put to the test by the Archers this Sunday.
Tonbridge won their battle with the RIchmond Dukes to gain their first win of the season 20-4 and will try to make it two wins in a row in a road game against the 0-3 Braintree Rays this weekend.