Game 1: Southampton 6, Harlow 4
Game 2: Southampton 12, Harlow 6
The Southampton Mustangs drew level with the Herts Falcons at the top of the National Baseball League standings on 16 June by taking two games from the defending champion Harlow Nationals in Harlow's home ballpark.
Gary Davison (4-1) got the start for Southampton in Game One and did not disappoint, picking up the win in a four-plus inning effort in which he allowed four earned runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out five. Tomas Zondra came on in the bottom of the fifth to hold down the fort and ensure a Mustangs victory.
Nationals’ workhorse pitcher Matt Gilbert (3-2) tossed a complete game but had to settle for the loss. Gilbert surrendered six runs (five earned) on 10 hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Three players – Kimiyoshi Saionji (2-for-4, double, two RBIs), Alberto Rodriguez (2-for-3, two doubles, walk, one RBI) and Gary Davison (2-for-4, double, one RBI) – had multi-hit games to lead Southampton’s offense while the Panamanian Victor Aizpurua went 1-for-4 with a two-run double.
Harlow’s Maikel Azcuy went 3-for-3 with a home run, a walk and two RBIs in a losing cause. Edwin Alcantara also picked up an RBI for Harlow in Game One via an RBI double.
Both teams went quietly in the first two innings of Game Two, and it looked like a pitcher’s duel was on the horizon. Then Southampton scored three in the third and one in the fourth before blowing the doors off the barn with a dominating six-run fifth inning that demoralised the Nationals and ensured the visiting Mustangs a convincing 12-6 victory.
Jose Sosa was the grateful recipient of Southampton's double-digit run production despite not having his best stuff. Sosa went five innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits while walking three and striking out four. Hard-throwing Czech import Tomas Zondra then came on once again in relief and for the second time on the day shut down the Nationals' bats to ensure yet another Mustangs win.
Marty Cullen Jr did not fare so well in his third NBL start for Harlow. The young rookie was roughed up by a combination of Mustang patience and quality batting, surrendering four runs (just one earned) on four hits and six walks. The young Cullen dropped to 2-1 on the season.
Gary Davison had a monster game at the plate for Southampton. The GB National Team player went 4-for-4 with a double, a walk and two RBIs to lead the way for his club. Mexico City native Oscar Sierra also had a big day for the Mustangs, going 3-for-4 with a walk, a double and an RBI.
Jose Sosa (1-for-5), Tomas Zondra (1-for-4), Alberto Rodriguez (0-for-4, walk), Phil Johnson (0-for-3, two walks) and Richard Bibby (2-for-3, two walks) each collected an RBI in the game while Kimiyoshi Saionji went 1-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs for Southampton.
Dan Parker (2-for-4) collected four RBIs on a double and a triple and South African Jarrod Pretorius went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Harlow. Unfortunately, they could not do it all themselves as rest of the Nationals' offense sputtered in what was an important loss, with Harlow falling farther off the NBL pace.
When asked after the game if he was satisfied with his team’s performance, Mustangs President Lee Ralph said: “Definitely – we came to Harlow to win both and all disciplines of the games were encouraging. Batting, we had quality time at the plate while adjusting to the calls of the umpire. The pitchers were spotting their game and the defence was top class.”
Next action for the Southampton Mustangs (13-5) is on Sunday 23 June when they visit the South London Pirates (4-10) for a twin-bill at Roundshaw Park in Croydon. The Harlow Nationals (9-11) have this weekend off but will be back at it on Sunday 30 June when they visit the league leading Herts Falcons (12-4) for two games at Grovehill Ballpark.
Game 1: Bracknell 8, Essex Redbacks 5
Game 2: Bracknell 3, Essex Redbacks 1
The Bracknell Blazers got all they could handle from a very tough Essex Redbacks squad at Westmorland Park but still came away with two important wins, 8-5 and 3-1, to keep them in the playoff picture.
Neither pitcher struggled in Game One and the 8-5 scoreline does not do the men on the mound justice, as both teams had issues on the defensive side of the ball.
Henry Collins (2-1) battled both the Redbacks and his own defense throughout Game One but still managed to secure the complete-game victory. Collins went seven innings, allowing five runs (none earned) on eight hits while walking six and striking out a season-high 11 batters.
Redbacks’ Game One starter Sean Briscomb (0-1) also battled his own defense while allowing eight runs (just three earned) on nine hits while striking out two Blazers' batters in the loss.
Joe Taylor led the Bracknell offense in Game One. The powerful lefty went 2-for-4 with two RBIs while smacking his first home run of the season over the right field fence. Guy Packham (1-for-3, double) picked up three RBIs for Bracknell while Chris Matthews (1-for-4) collected two RBIs and Fraser Duggan (2-for-3) recorded one.
Marcus Gooday collected half of Essex’s RBIs in Game One. The Braintree native was 1-for-3 with two RBIs in the Redbacks' 15th loss of the season. Rob Yuille (2-for-4, one RBI) and Sam Rounce (2-for-4) both had multi-hit games while John Read, pinch-hitting, was 1-for-1 with an RBI.
It was a perfect debut for Brendan Hassan in Game Two as his two-run single in the bottom of the fourth inning proved to be the deciding factor as his Bracknell Blazers edged out the Redbacks by a score of 3-1.
Hassan (2-for-3) collected two of his team's three RBIs. Fraser Duggan (1-for-2) picked up the other one, while Miguel Rodriguez (2-for-2, walk), Joe Taylor (2-for-3) and Chris Matthews (0-for-2, hit by pitch) all crossed the plate in the fourth inning rally.
Vince Warner’s 2-for-3 game, in which he picked up his team's lone RBI and their only extra-base hit of the day, highlighted what was a less than explosive offense for the Redbacks. Franklin Emilio Martinez Gonzalez (1-for-3) scored the lone Redbacks run while Sam Rounce extended his hitting streak to six games.
In an effort to break him out of a slump, the Bracknell management decided to start Jordan Edmonds (4-2) in Game Two. The move seemed to pay off, as the talented British youngster surrendering just one earned run over a complete-game seven-inning effort in which he allowed just five hits while striking out six batters.
Essex’s contact pitcher John Read (1-3) also put together a gem of a game. Read made Bracknell get themselves out all day long, giving up three earned runs on 10 hits and one walk over six innings of work. His only blemish was the three-run fourth inning that made all the difference.
Redbacks’ Manager Vince Warner hinted at some possible issues within the club regarding what has been a rough first season in the NBL, but was happy to say that everything was resolved and that the team is back to playing good baseball.
“After a lot of turmoil in the club over the last few weeks, it was good to see the players in harmony and doing what is needed,” said Warner. “Despite losing both games I am very happy with how we performed today and how we conducted ourselves on the diamond.”
Bracknell’s Head Coach Colin Whitton was happy to see his team rebound from last weekend’s 9-1 and 13-1 thrashing at the hands of the Herts Falcons, saying, “It was good to get back to winning ways after last weekend. We are now at .500 for the season.”
Bracknell (9-9) has a chance to move above .500 on Sunday 23 June when they welcome the dangerous London Mets (9-3) to town for a doubleheader. The Essex Redbacks hope to improve on their 2-16 record on 23 June as well, but it will be tough to do as they host the high-flying Herts Falcons (12-4) at Melbourne Park in Chelmsford.
HERTS FALCONS @ SOUTH LONDON PIRATES
LAKENHEATH DIAMONDBACKS @ LONDON METS
Two doubleheaders -- Herts Falcons @ South London Pirates and Lakenheath Diamondbacks @ London Mets -- were postponed.
Herts and South London will make up the games on Sunday 11 August, while no make-up date has yet been announced for Lakenheath and the London Mets.