Falcons battle bravely in double-header with the table-topping Mustangs

Carlos Casal Jr gives it his all against the Mustangs. Picture (c) Richard Lee, www.richardleephotography.org

Carlos Casal Jr gives it his all against the Mustangs. Picture (c) Richard Lee, www.richardleephotography.org

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For fans of the Herts Falcons, the remaining eight games of the National Baseball League season will be spent biting nails and keeping track of scores coming in from other ballparks around the country.

With the odds stacked heavily against them, the team needed to win both games against league leaders Southampton Mustangs on Sunday to keep their playoff destiny in their own hands.

And with support from an ever-growing fan base, the Falcons came from behind to score three runs in the penultimate inning to win the first game of the doubleheader 4-2.

The crucial runs were driven in by a double from the red-hot John Blose, while Jose Sosa produced a top class performance on the pitching mound to secure the win.

But the belief injected by that win evaporated quickly in second game as starting pitcher Mike Osborne suffered an arm injury before stand-in Jamie Gregory struggled to find the strikezone.

Falcons found themselves trailing 11-2 after just two innings, so the team coaches took the unusual step of asking shortstop Ryan Hackel to step into the pitcher position.

No-one knew what to expect at the time but this proved to be a stroke of genius as Hackel pitched the remaining five innings, allowing only one run.

As Southampton’s offence went quiet, the Falcons bats suddenly came to life – including a two-run homerun for catcher Phil Clark – but the Mustangs held on for a 12-9 win.

If they are to reach the playoffs, the Falcons will now need to sweep their nearest rivals, the Harlow Nationals, when they meet on August 3 and hope that they lose one of their other six remaining league games.

The drama of the playoff race resumes on Sunday, with a home double-header versus the Bracknell Blazers. If the Falcons win both games, they will leapfrog Bracknell into fifth place in the table.