The New Forest Thunder Knights fought hard in their playoff semi-final matchup with the Cardiff Merlins but eventually fell to a 7-2 defeat.

For large parts of the afternoon the scoreline was within one run as a pitching duel between the Knights’ Chris Lawson and Merlins’ Saliyah Wijesinghe kept the game moving at a frantic pace.

Both pitchers sat the opposition side down in order in the first inning, recording a strikeout apiece in the process. With a combination of power and movement Lawson and Wijesinghe kept both side’s hitters guessing between fastball and their curveball throughout the game.

The home side scored the first run of the game in the second inning, as Wijesinghe doubled, stole third base and then scored on a passed ball. Jamie Cunningham and Ben Davies then drove in two more in the third inning, capitalising on a couple of errors from the Knights.

However, the away side came to life in the top of the fourth. Mitch Sullivan led off with a well hit single into shallow centre field, Alex Frampton followed him with a broken bat infield single to put runners at first and third. After Frampton stole second, Marcus Senior drove in Sullivan with a hit into right field – Frampton then scored on a wild throw into the catcher.

Knights’ ace, Chris Lawson, put on a fantastic pitching display

The game went back and forth for a couple of innings following the Knights rally, Andy Moore recorded a hit through the left side of the infield, Senior took a fantastic grab over his shoulder and Eddie Donald pulled off two excellent catches to keep the score close. Lawson also got himself out of a bases-loaded jam with help from Rob Holbrook and Andy Swann and a strikeout.

After throwing 130 pitches and eight strikeouts, Lawson was relieved by Senior in the seventh inning. Following a strikeout and a pop up to Swann, the Knights’ Manager was unlucky to give up a couple of runs as the Merlins moved out to a 7-2 lead.

Despite the best efforts of the New Forest side, they couldn’t quite get the bats going against Wijesinghe who closed out a complete game and booked the Merlins a spot in the South West and Wales League playoff final.

The defeat draws a successful first season to a close for the Thunder Knights, as they finished with a winning record, gave competitive debuts to a number of players and reached the playoffs for the first time.


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