A vintage year for the Herts Hawks – posting a regular season record of 11-2 – ended with a far from vintage performance at baseball’s National Championships.
They were facing Tonbridge in the second semi-final, with Guildford waiting in the final.
Andrew Slater started on the mound for Herts; he had been the joint league leader in wins during the regular season, and the game began well enough with a scoreless first inning.
But when Herts came up to bat, the tone of the day was set. Centre-fielder Ilya Dimitrov led off by reaching on an error. But he rashly made the turn for second with the loose ball still on the infield – Tonbridge recovered, caught him in an efficient rundown and snuffed out the threat. One down.
Sonam Lama then walked, stole a base and moved up to third on a pass ball while Tim Elkins struck out. But he was picked off at third, and the Herts inning was over. These were not the sort of mistakes the Hawks were used to making.
Tonbridge seized their chance and began hitting the ball hard in the second inning. There was malaise in the Herts defence too; there was confusion over simple fielding jobs, and catches were dropped in the outfield. After the second inning, Tonbridge were 5-0 up. After the third, they led 9-0.
Slater left after allowing 11 hits, striking out one and walking one. Charlie Mayhew came in to pitch in relief, but was unable to shut the opponents down.
Herts’ only hits of the day came from second baseman Ken Pike, while outfielder Dan Bartram got a walk. But Herts could not get any of their runners round to score as Tonbridge won it 14-0.
Herts club president Aspi Dimitrov spoke for many when he urged the Hawks not to feel too downhearted, however. “You have had a great season,” he said. “Everyone at Herts Baseball Club is very proud of you.”