Falcons nearly re-write history but breathtaking comeback falls short

Carlos Casal jr in action. Richard Lee Photography

Carlos Casal jr in action. Richard Lee Photography - Credit: Archant

Herts Falcons came close to making one of the biggest comebacks in British Baseball history, but at the end of the day found themselves needing a miracle in the remaining four games of the season to reach the National Baseball League playoffs.

Occupying sixth place at the start of the day, they needed to win both games of their double-header against fourth-placed Southern Nationals to stand a chance of overtaking them.

The first game was slipping away with the score 4-2 to the Nationals going into the final inning. Hits by John Blose, Lee Manning, Abel Salas and Ryan Hackel drove in five runs put Falcons in front and pitcher Abel Salas stayed in control to close out a 7-5 win.

However, there was more work to be done before the celebrations could begin. They knew that this win would be almost worthless if they failed to win the second game.

Going into the final inning of the second game the Falcons were trailing 10-3. Not even the most optimistic Herts fans could think that the team could make another comeback, especially as the Nationals got two quick outs.

What happened next will instantly enter British baseball lore.

One-after-another Falcons batters started to find holes in Nationals’ defence and were somehow managing to reach base. The seven-run deficit was gradually disappearing. For a team which had conceded only three runs over the previous 20 outs of the game, it seemed inconceivable that the Nationals would not be able to get the final out of the game.

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Six Herts runs scored to make the score 10-9, and still that final out was eluding the reigning national champions.

Lee Manning had reached second base representing the tying run. The Falcons decided to bring in Cris Hiche as a pinch runner. Hiche is still recovering from the wrist and finger fractures earlier in the season, so he is not able to bat yet, but the team needed speed on the bases and he is one of the best players to have in this situation.

The next Herts batter delivered another hit into centerfield, but would it be deep enough for Cris Hiche to come around third base and score? The Nationals’ centerfielder made an laser throw to home plate where the catcher applied the tag for a gut-wrenching game-ending play.

The defeat means that the Falcons will need to win their remaining four games of the season and hope that the Nationals and Bracknell lose all of their games. The Falcons travel next to the Essex Arrows on Sunday hoping for a miracle.

The only other Hertfordshire team in action on Sunday was the Herts Hawks in the third tier of the British Baseball League. They came close to shocking the league-leaders, London Mammoths, scoring five runs in the final inning but lost 9-8 at the end.