9 Apr 2022
Down to the final out with everything still to play for. Top of the 9th, 2 away, tying run at the plate. The batting line-up still feeding off the comeback fuel from the previous innings. The preceding outs tough to take but collective hope remains. Just one swing. Extra innings within touching distance, then a short ground ball towards the pitcher who makes the routine play to 1st! Sadly, it was not to be for the Mariners whose valiant reply would come up just short. Clichés are usually avoided in sport but games like these give them their place. It had everything.
The Spartans shot out of the gates in the first inning with 3-runs and four of the first 5 hitters getting on base. It was early damage limitation for the reigning champions so they could see what they had to work with for the coming innings. And they, literally, pulled the momentum back towards their favour with Dan Sweatland jumping on one and sending it to left field for an RBI Double. 3-1 Spartans.
Although it was a shaky start for Mariners Starting Pitcher, Jaime Cuevas, he re-focused and no other Spartan batter would touch home plate while he had the ball in his hand. Can definitely hold his head high knowing any starting pitcher in the league would happily take his stats before taking the mound.
The 5th inning is where the Mariners began their charge and changed the lead for the second time. It started by young James Kelly with an infield single that split the Short Stop and Third Base. Leo Farrell then came back from 0-2 and fighting the third off, to taking the next four pitches for balls and a momentum shifting walk. With James Kelly now in scoring position, Sweatland hits his second RBI up the middle, advances Farrell to third and brings Tommy Hernandez to the plate. He keeps it rolling and clears the bases with a 2 RBI, left centre crack of the bat. Mariners ahead 4-3.
Bottom of the 6th and Leo Farrell steps in to relieve Cuevas with a narrow lead to protect. Unfortunately, like in the first inning, the Spartans attacked the fresh pitcher early. The aggressive approach paid off again and they scored 5-runs. Spartans now led by 4.
The Mariners did get those 4-runs over the next couple of innings, with RBIs from Sweatland, Hernandez and Danny Barclay on his solo hit of the day. However, the eventual winning run was scored in the bottom of the 7th as Alan Fox hit a Sacrifice Fly to centre field, which allowed Sam Kelly to cross the plate. Final Score is a Spartans win, 9-8.
Although the loss is disappointing, the effort and performance was not. The champions know that on this occasion, they could not have given any more. They emptied the tank. They threw the kitchen sink at them. And at the end of the day, they did their best. (I did warn you earlier about the clichés!)
There is good to take away from the game with some notable performances. Tommy Hernandez had a near perfect day with the bat as he hit 3-4 and an equalling team high, 3-RBIs. Sweatland had the other 3-RBI performance with 2-hits. Leo Farrell played a text book lead off role by getting around the bases 3-times. And finally, James ‘Clutch’ Kelly who seems to have the youthful ignorance to the word pressure. He stepped in to pitch for Leo at the bottom of the 8th and took 3 Ks with the game on the line to give the Mariners a chance with the bat.
Finally, a special comment has to be made about the resilience and toughness of Alex Capraru. After a clash with Right Fielder, Matt Dutton, on a fly ball in the 5th inning, he could barely move and did not have the mobility to swing a bat. But knowing the team were short on numbers, he finished the game at first base and even managed to get on base himself with a walk in the 7th. We hope he has a speedy recovery, and that the injury is not as bad as it looked.
Next game is at home against the Ashbourne Giants, on the 23rd of April.