The Herts Falcons suffered a setback in their push for a playoff spot after two painful defeats in their league doubleheader with reigning champions, the Southern Nationals.
The grudge match lived up to its build-up and provided high drama for this season’s largest crowd at Grovehill Ballpark.
The Nationals took an early lead in the first game but the Falcons kept breathing down their necks throughout.
Abel Salas, Darrin Ward, Jose Sosa and Phil Clark all drove in a run each for Herts, which in the case of Salas was a solo home run over the right-centerfield wall.
The turning point in the game came in the sixth inning when, with two outs, the Falcons defence had two chances to end the inning but defensive errors kept it going.
Ambiorix Hurtado took full advantage by driving in two runs to give the Nats a 6-3 lead.
The Falcons reduced the deficit to 6-5 but ultimately ran out of time as Nationals pitcher Matt Gilbert stayed strong to the end to secure the win.
Game two was just as close. Despite trailing in the first few innings, the Falcons took a lead for the first time with the score 4-2 in the fourth inning.
They also had Salas on the mound on top form. He had a season-high 14 strikeouts in the game, which means that two out of every three outs of every inning came by way of a strikeout.
Somehow the Nationals found a way through Salas and manufactured the runs they needed to win the game 6-4.
The Herts Falcons are now two games off the playoff places, but they know that they are within reach and their fate is still in their own hands. Their next game is on July 13 away at the London Mets.
The other Hertfordshire team in action was the Herts Raptors. They produced their best performance of the year, but went down 12-9 against the reigning Single-A League champions, Richmond Dukes.