Courtesy: British Baseball Federation
The Harlow Nationals clung to their top spot in the National Baseball League standings after a convincing sweep of the Southampton Mustangs on Sunday. Meanwhile, Lakenheath swept the Essex Arrows with a pair of dramatic walk-off wins.
The Harlow Nationals regained the top spot in the National Baseball League on Sunday, 24 June with a sweep of the Southampton Mustangs. In the day’s only other matchup, Lakenheath edged both games by a single run in their double-header with the Essex Arrows. Herts-London and Bracknell-Croydon fell victim to the weather.
HARLOW NATIONALS AT SOUTHAMPTON MUSTANGS
Game 1: Harlow 11, Southampton 5
Game 2: Harlow 7, Southampton 3
Having not lost back-to-back games all season, Southampton slumped to their fourth defeat in a row following their sweep by the Harlow Nationals. With the London Mets at Herts Falcons double-header being washed out, Harlow took full advantage to open up some breathing space at the top of the standings.
The Nationals came out swinging in Game 1 and were determined to stamp their authority on the game from the outset. Harlow opened the scoring on a RBI single from Will Lintern before an infield error from Southampton allowed Edwin Alcantara to score as the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Alcantara then turned provider in the top of the second scoring Maikel Azcuy and Brendan Cunliffe before another infield error plated Roberto Almanzar. Harlow put the game well and truly out of reach in the third scoring four more times thanks to Almanzar’s RBI double and a three-RBI double from Will Lintern to give the Nats a nine-run lead.
Lee Ralph came in to relieve Alberto Rodriguez in the fifth for Southampton and steadied the ship somewhat. The Mustangs added some respectability to the scoreline with a late rally as Marius Urbanavicius hit a two-RBI single in the sixth and Alberto Rodriguez added a two-run double in the seventh.
Roberto Almanzar closed out the complete-game win allowing five runs on seven hits with five strike-outs and is now 9-0 on the season.
Gary Davison took the start for Southampton in Game 2 and shut Harlow down for most of the game allowing just three hits through five scoreless innings. Alberto Rodriguez continued Game 2 how he finished Game 1 with a RBI single in the first. Victor Aizpura also scored on an error as the Mustangs jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Another error in the fourth saw Ben Davis score and, with Gary Davison dominating on the mound, Southampton looked in complete control.
All was to change in the sixth though as Harlow’s bats finally came alive and, mixed with some helpful fielding from their hosts, the Nationals turned the game on its head. Carlos Casal, Jose Sosa and Mikael Azcuy all had two-RBI singles and Luis Goncalves added one of his own as Harlow scored seven times in the frame.
Brendan Cunliffe kept Southampton off the board over the final three innings to record the second complete-game win of the day for Harlow as the Mustangs were left to rue that one inning.
Southampton manager, Ben Davis, said, “In Game 1 we were just outplayed, we started slow out of the gate and never recovered. We started Game 2 better but a couple of errors shifted momentum. They scored all their runs in the top of the sixth and we squandered too many chances early in the game, we should have had more runs on the board by then.” Of the Mustangs current slide he added, “Hopefully this is our low point for the season and we are getting all of our errors out of our system now. Historically we play sound ball. We have a week off to regroup and we are looking forward to the final nine games. The Final Four is in our sights and we will be there for the third straight year.”
Nationals manager, Marty Cullen, was in no doubt about the secret of Harlow’s success: “It all starts with good pitching and Robbie [Almanzar] gives us that every time he takes the mound. When you are as cool under pressure as he is teams never get a big inning off of him. In Game 2 Brendan was great, he does his job every time out getting groundouts and flyballs, he keeps the ball in the park and when he does that we feel like we’ll win. They get good run support as well, everyone in the lineup had a hit in Game 1, Will [Lintern] is hitting as well as anyone in the league right now and I’d love to see him add a batting title to all his Gold Gloves”.
ESSEX ARROWS AT LAKENHEATH DIAMONDBACKS
Game 1: Lakenheath 11, Essex 10
Game 2: Lakenheath 13, Essex 12 (9 innings)
After a 45 minute delay for groundworks following a torrential downpour, Lakenheath and Essex played out two tense encounters with the D’backs taking a sweep by the narrowest of margins.
Lakenheath debuted Taylor Portman on the mound, which proved early on to be a baptism by fire as he allowed five runs in the opening frame. Portman would settle down later in the game but not before Matt Mulvaney crushed a three-run shot giving Essex a commanding lead. Lakenheath began to slowly claw their way back into the game before a big sixth inning saw them draw even at 10-10.
With the score still tied in the bottom of the last inning, Colton High hit a leadoff double for Lakenheath
and moved up 90-feet as Brad Simpson reached on an error. A double play set-up a grandstand finale but Ken Reber stepped up to the plate and stayed perfect in the game as he slapped a ball to left field for the walk-off win.
Game 2 was every bit as thrilling as the first with both sides’ bats catching fire. Following an impressive debut Jed Oliver was given his second start for the Arrows but it would be the hitters that would star as Lakenheath’s Leo Perez sent a three-run no-doubter out of the park and, in a reversal of Game 1, Lakenheath threatened to run away with the game as Ken Reber hit a two-run shot of his own.
Kevin Carr started for the D’backs and kept Essex to two runs through four innings before a fifth inning rally saw them score four times to reduce the deficit to 10-6. It would be the Arrows this time who set up the tense finish as Luke Foley hit a grandslam to tie the game at 10-10.
Rocked by the Arrow’s comeback, Lakenheath were not able to capitalise in the seventh as they had in Game 1 and the game went to extra innings. Both sides traded a run in the eighth and Essex took the lead again with a single run in the ninth. In the bottom of the frame Lakenheath’s Kevin Carr turned a sac-bunt in to a base hit before a blooper from Chase Richey loaded the bases. Another blooper from Brian Carter scored the tying run and a wild throw to third allowed Carter to turn the corner and reach home for the D’backs second walkoff win of the day.
Lakenheath head coach, Ken Reber, commented, “We had multiple chances to score more runs in Game 1 but we kept at it, kept hacking away and we were rewarded with the big inning we were looking for. I was really proud of how Taylor [Portman] finished out the game. I can’t say enough about both teams. Everyone played their heart out today and it was great to finally get our first sweep of the season.” And the reason for their change of fortunes – “We think it might have had something to do with the new black jerseys,” Reber jested.
BRACKNELL BASEBALL CLUB REACHES ITS 20-YEAR MILESTONE
This Saturday, June 30th, the Bracknell Baseball Club will celebrate its 20th birthday.
The Club would like to invite all British baseball teams, players and fans to join them at Westmoreland Park for a celebration that will include youth baseball and adult softball activities and an exhibition game against the GB Cadet National Team as part of their warm-up ahead of a tour in Ontario, Canada in July.
Food will be available all day and baseball apparel will be sold, too.
Come out to Bracknell to celebrate the club’s many successes and the great achievement of twenty years in the British Baseball Federation!