Gilbert breaks strikeout record on Opening Day
- Credit: Archant
Opening Day of the NBL season proved to be an excellent one for Herts Falcons as they won both of their games and debutant Matt Gilbert set a league record.
The Falcons were run to the wire in both of their games, beating South London Pirates and Southampton Mustangs by a single run.
The biggest news of the day, however, was starting pitcher Gilbert. Needing two strikeouts to overtake Cody Cain’s career mark, Gilbert was getting outs but through groundouts and flyouts.
He was not going to be denied and he eventually recorded his 408th NBL strikeout and took the ovation from the crowd. The ball was taken out of the game and given to Gilbert.
There was little time to celebrate as Pirates led 3-1.
John Blose struck the first blow, launching a three-run home run to left field. Then Maikel Azcuy sent a two-run blast over the fence to put Falcons in front.
Manager Lee Manning sent in Carlos Casal Jr in to close the game and the 17-year-old pitcher came through with flying colours, shutting down the Pirates’ offence and securing a final strikeout to win the game.
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Falcons’ second game, against Southampton, was just as close and it needed Azcuy’s second bomb of the day to open it up.
The Mustangs led 2-0 when Herts’ new signing sent the ball into orbit for a three-run homer. It was Azcuy’s 35th home run of his career and ties the current NBL record, held by Simon Poole.
Starting pitcher Jose Sosa had an impressive game as the Falcons held on to win 6-5.
There were no more home runs from Azcuy, who will have to wait until the next league game on May 10 at the Essex Arrows for another shot at breaking the record. Before that he and the rest of the team will have to turn their attention to the BBF Cup on April 26 when they will travel to the highly-touted London Metros.
Herts Eagles were beaten 13-1 by last year’s Triple-A League finalists, London Metros. It didn’t get any easier in game two of the double-header which the visitors won again, this time 24-5.
Herts Hawks picked up an away win at the Haverhill Blackjacks, which will surprise the rest of the league as the Suffolk side have been the national runners-up for two years in a row in the Single-A League.
Herts Raptors rested this Sunday. They will begin their season on Sunday at home against Tonbridge.