Falcons kick off season with Pirates doubleheader

PUBLISHED: 13:00 07 April 2015

Chris Hiche opened the NBL season with a home run 12 months ago. Picture: Richard Lee Photography

Chris Hiche opened the NBL season with a home run 12 months ago. Picture: Richard Lee Photography

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The National Baseball League kicks off this weekend with the Herts Falcons taking on the South London Pirates at Grovehill Ballpark.

Opening Day timetable at Grovehill Ballpark

10:30am - Herts Falcons vs South London Pirates (NBL)

1:00pm - South London Pirates vs Southampton Mustangs (NBL)

1:00pm - Herts Eagles vs London Metros (AAA League)

3:30pm - Southampton Mustangs vs Herts Falcons (NBL)

3:30pm - Herts Eagles vs London Metros (AAA League)

Maikel Azcuy, Robbie Almanzar, Edwin Alcantara and Moises Vasquez are expected to make their Herts debuts while the Pirates are somewhat of a mystery after a quiet offseason.

The Falcons won three of the four meetings between the two teams last year.

The Pirates will then play the 2014 NBL runners-up, the Southampton Mustangs, who will round off the day with a tie against the Falcons.

During the winter, Southampton has strengthened its roster further with the acquisition of Shaun Macey from Australia, American Kevin Hightower (USA), Alrey Lorenzo from Cuba and Polish player Piotr Kosiba.

Macey brings over 20 years experience and was most recently a pitcher for the Auburn Orioles of the NSW Major League. Hightower is a catcher and can also play at first or second base. He spent the last ten years in Florida and Washington DC playing in the MABL. Alrey Lorenzo is a shortstop who previously played for the Southern Nationals. Kosiba is a former member of the Poland National Team. He also has experience playing in Italy, France and Germany.

Herts Falcons won two and lost two of their games with the Mustangs last year.

Manager, Lee Manning, will need his players to make a good start if they are to be in the play-off race this year. He is going into the new season in an upbeat mood not only due to the new arrivals but he can also count on the return of players who missed most of 2014 with injuries. The one big setback for the Falcons is the news that shortstop Ryan Hackel has had an emergency deployment. The date of his return is not confirmed at this stage.

TRIPLE-A LEAGUE

The Herts Eagles also open their Triple-A league season this Sunday at home. They have the hardest possible start against the London Metros, who were runners-up last year. In 2014 the Eagles finished last with a record of 2-16. They will once again go into the season with a team made up predominantly of U19 and U17 players who have grown in the club’s youth system. They are now a year older and the newly appointed managerial duo of Arnie Longboy and Jake Caress are going into the season with optimism.

In addition, they will be able to count on several more returning experienced players such as pitcher Louis Hare, outfielder Mahendra Prasad, pitcher and infielder Gilberto Median and new signings Gary Ward and Omar Vallenilla among others.

There are seven players in the Eagles roster who are battling to win a place with the Great Britain U19 and U17 National Teams. The biggest challenge for the team would arguably be to survive the weeks when players are called up to the national team.

SINGLE-A LEAGUE

The Hawks find themselves in new surroundings as they will make their first appearance in the BBF Single-A League. They are on the road on opening day, making the trip to the Haverhill Blackjacks who reached the Single-A final in 2013 and 2014 but just missed out on winning the championship on both occasions.

This will be a major test for the Hawks and it will give Herts fans a good idea about the team’s chances of reaching the play-offs. The Hawks have lost the services of ace pitchers Nick Russell who transferred to Northampton and Zack Longboy who is now with the Herts Eagles in the Triple-A league. Despite this, the team will not be lacking in the pitching department with Andrew Slater, Greg Bochan, Jim Arnott and Nic Goetz who are all experienced pitchers.

The Herts Raptors will have to wait an extra week for their season opener. They start at home on April 19 against Tonbridge who impressed in the Herts Spring League over the last three weeks.


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