BASEBALL: First home runs at Crispin’s as Centurions prove too strong for Cambridge

Allister Viljoen hits his home run for Centurions
Allister Viljoen hits his home run for Centurions

Northants Centurions hosted a revenge-seeking Cambridge Royals side in 30-degree heat last weekend.

The home side started with Montreal native Nick Russell taking the mound at St Crispin’s on Canada Day, with Josh Clegg starting for the Royals.

Russell was on fire from the start, with Cambridge struggling to string anything together. Clegg pitched well, but his control was a little off from his usual standards and the Centurions hitters were able to take full advantage to race into a commanding lead.

There was some good and smart hitting interspersed between taking walks when they were available.

When the Cambridge hitters did manage to make contact, they found the Northants infielders and outfielders in excellent form.

Something that Saint Crispin’s had yet to see was a hitter putting the ball out of the park.

But an hour into the game, Northants brought in South African Allister Viljoen at first base, and when he stepped in against Clegg, he connected with a sumptuous line drive that cleared the centre field fence to break the park’s duck.

Cambridge continued to battle hard, but there was too much to do and the score finished 11-3 in Northants’ favour.

The heat was taking its toll, and as the sides prepared for game two, illness and injuries left stand-in manager Nick Russell with nine players.

There are excellent relationships between all of the clubs in the region, and huge thanks are due to Cambridge who stepped in to provide an umpire and ensure that both teams went out with equal numbers.

With Matt Ingram less than 100 per cent after a big performance last week, Gareth Beeby took the ball in game two, facing young Cambridge left-hander Cameron Doncaster.

Beeby soon settled into a rhythm, while the young Cambridge pitcher, pitching with some good velocity, struggled to find the zone, and the Centurions were able to take full advantage, racing into a 10-1 lead after two innings.

However, it was not to be plain sailing the rest of the way.

Cambridge rallied in the third inning, and third baseman Clegg, who had surrendered the first home run while pitching in game one, decided that it was the sort of day to make history and cleared the left field fence to double the total at the ground.

Two more runs were scored and suddenly it felt a little closer.

Northants held firm and kept the damage to a minimum.

Sam Yarwood and Dan Sewell finished off the pitching for Cambridge but Northants were able to put up another five runs, leaving Cambridge chasing an unlikely 11 in the last inning to force Northants to bat again.

Cambridge got off to a good start with the first two hitters getting on base.

But Beeby held his nerve, the defence held strong and Northants secured a 16-7 victory.