After succumbing to their first defeat of the season against the Plymouth Mariners, the Muskets took on the only undefeated team left in the SWBL on Father’s day, the Exeter Spitfires. It would prove to be the toughest game the Muskets have had this season so far, as an entertaining pitcher’s duel took centre stage.
The hosts made a sluggish start to the game, allowing the Spitfires to take an early lead in the bottom of the first. Andres Bianco took charge of the situation early from the mound, striking out the three outs needed in the first for the loss of two runs. Unfortunately for the Muskets the Spitfires’ defence were not as generous as their hosts and their pitcher seemingly dialled into the strike zone from the off. The first three Musket batters went down in order and, while Andres and Leroy Bailey got the first hits in the bottom of the 2nd, the Taunton outfit couldn’t affect the scoreboard. While the bats were still cold the Muskets defence began to support the great pitching, it began with Scott Morse making a great catch at centre, before infield plays for Kevin Snow and Jake Palmer, all the while Andres continued to notch up the strikeouts.
With the game still close the Muskets continued to toil at the plate, Dean Emery, Chris Chantrey, Jamie Pollard and Kevin all got bat on ball, but none could beat the Spitfires’ infield to get on base. The Spitfires then applied a few more blows, as they found the gaps and added a few more runs to their tally. However baseball is game of equal opportunities and sometimes all you need is a couple of big plays and the tides of momentum can shift. The first such play fell to Alistair Hutton at shallow left centre field, as a high fly ball, which took an eternity to drop, gave the Muskets a new lease of life. That spark then got the bats smoking, as the hosts started to find their rhythm.
The shutout was finally broken in the bottom of the 6th, as a two out rally started by Kevin saw the Muskets get two runs back and take the score to 7-2 to the visitors. After Exeter added one more it was left to the last two innings for the Muskets to claw back the runs to avoid successive defeats. They started with two in the bottom of the 8th inning, with hits for Jake and Jamie leading to runs. Needing four in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game a walk for Scott, followed by a double from the sub Alan Trunks gave the Muskets a glimmer of a late rally. However, it proved too much, as the Muskets succumbed to a second defeat to the hands of Southern Conference opponents, ultimately losing the game 8-6. Both starting pitchers managed complete games and combined for an impressive 25 strikeouts, a testament to their great individual efforts on the mound. The majority of the Muskets have a week off, as the SWBL hosts the annual all star game. Jake, Kevin, Jamie and Andres will carry the clubs banner in representing the Northern Conference at Bristol. The rest of us will be back in action in two weeks against the Bristol Bats at Canonsgrove as we look to get the second half of the season underway.