Falcons end season with a loss; Longboy, 16, stars in NBL debut

Derrin Ward pitched in place of Abel Salas in a 10-2 loss to Essex Arrows. Picture: Paul Holdrick

Derrin Ward pitched in place of Abel Salas in a 10-2 loss to Essex Arrows. Picture: Paul Holdrick - Credit: Archant

Herts Falcons were eliminated from the National Baseball League play-off race seven days ago, but on the final weekend of the regular season they had a chance to ruin the plans of the Essex Arrows who needed a win to secure top spot and a much easier path to the final.

The Falcons planned to unleash their ace pitcher Abel Salas on them but an arm injury before the start of the game meant that Darrin Ward had to take his place. Despite a closely fought battle, the Arrows pulled away in the late innings to win 10-2 and clinch top spot, taking pole position going into the play-offs. They will meet either the London Mets or Southampton Mustangs or Southern Nationals in the NBL Final.

Two more games were played on Sunday which enabled the Falcons to end their season on a positive note Zack Longboy, 16, made his NBL debut and pitched a complete game, winning 11-6 against the South London Pirates. The arm injury prevented star-player Salas from pitching, but that didn’t stop him from hitting a grand slam home run in that game.

In the Single-A League the Herts Raptors suffered a 39-14 defeat against the Essex Archers.

This was the final weekend of a disappointing season for the four teams from Hertfordshire. None of them reached the play-offs and, despite a real fight put up by the Herts Falcons in the NBL, they and each of the other three Herts teams ended the year with more losses than wins.

The hopes of Herts baseball fans now rest on the club’s three youth teams which are preparing for the play-offs in the U17, U14 and U12 leagues. The British Baseball Federation has just announced that the Herts Harriers have been awarded a place in the U17 national semi-finals automatically as the second seed. In a repeat of last-year’s semi-final, they will face the London Mets who are the third seed.

The path to the final is a lot more difficult for the Herts Cardinals in the U14 who will have to go through a three-team wild card play-off, facing the Brentwood Bucks and Essex Redbacks.

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The U12 team will also have to go through the wild card play-off where they will face the U12 team of the Brentwood Bucks. The BBF has selected Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead as the venue to host these games on September 6. The winner of these game will progress through to the national semi-final where they will face the top seeds in the respective age groups.

Boys and girls from around the region are still contacting the club and signing up to play in these exciting games to determine the national baseball champions, so it is not too late to get involved.