The Hemel-based Herts Falcons faced a daunting task in the playoffs on Sunday to reach their first National Baseball League final since 2012.
First they would have to beat Southampton Mustangs, who had the best record this season, and then would have to overcome the vaunted London Capitals on the same day.
They fell behind early to the Mustangs, trailing 9-2 in the second inning, but fought back in what would be a high-scoring game. Club veteran John Blose got the hit to tie the game at nine.
Southampton twice surged back ahead and led 17-16 going into the final inning. Herts replied, loading the bases and levelling the scores but the next two batters got out. Finally, with a last gasp, Phil Clark hit a single to secure a famous 18-17 win.
There was no time to celebrate as the Capitals awaited.
Falcons boss Cris Hiche was the starting pitcher for the afternoon clash and it was to be a completely different game, a pitcher’s duel with quality defence.
After five innings it was 2-2, but the Falcons’ bats came to life with three runs for a 5-2 lead. The Capitals got one back, but a dramatic catch by Blose at the fence stopped them scoring more.
Hiche closed it out for a 5-3 victory, leading the team to the finals for the first time in six years, where they will face London Mets. The Falcons also booked a place in next year’s European club competitions.
Hiche praised his team’s belief in two tough encounters, while Great Britain catcher Conner Brown said the team had come through to earn recognition.