For the first time in 2024 both the New Forest Thunder and the New Forest Knights were in action, as the Thunder made their season, and AAA, debut away to the Bristol Badgers.

Despite fighting valiantly in both games, the debutants came up short against an experienced Bristol side. However, Manager Warren Doyle was very happy with the performance from his side, praising the way they fought – particularly in the first game.

After a slow start, the Thunder rallied around Shannon Hall on the mound after he kept them in the game through the first three innings. At 3-0 down, Mitch Sullivan recorded the first ever AAA hit for the away side as he forced the ball down the right field line to fire up his teammates and get the bats going. With Hall also on base, Chris Lawson drove Sullivan in, before the Thunder added a second via a failed pickoff attempt.

Going into the sixth the score remained close, with Bristol adding another run to put them 4-2 ahead. Hall collected his first hit of the year with a single into the outfield, before a Lawson double put runners on third and second. Making his Thunder debut, Angus Blair drove in Hall, before Andy Moore collected his first hit and RBI with a single to right field, scoring Lawson.

Amongst six debutants for the Thunder was Bobby Samuelson who put in an excellent performance in Left Field making a great sprinting catch and throwing out a Bristol runner at third base. 

Despite the comeback, the New Forest side couldn’t quite hold on and a fifth Badgers run sealed the game for them in the bottom of the sixth, as the game finished 5-4.

Chris Lawson hit the Thunder’s first double (Photo: Jack Raynor)

Game two also went back and forth through the first few innings, before the home side showed their experience to close out an 8-2 win. Chris Lawson was solid on the mound for the Thunder, striking out five Badgers through five innings, but a mix of the weather and some tired ABs for the away side saw the game slip away towards the end.

Lawson and Moore collected hits, whilst Samuelson added his first RBI in Thunder blue by drawing a walk with the bases loaded. In the outfield, David Jarmillo and KiJae Seung were excellent, catching everything that came their way, whilst Doyle, Blair and Hall turned the first double play of the season for the new AAA side.

At Single A, the Knights came up against one of the South West and Wales League favourites as they matched up with the Taunton Muskets at Ballard School. Despite dropping both games, the home side played with energy and commitment throughout and ran the experienced Muskets close in game two.

Amongst the highlights was Jordan Snelling’s snag at second base off a rasping line drive that looked destined to go the fence. Ben Coxhill continued his fantastic start to the season with two hits in game one and Shaun Barrett played well in his first appearance at first base in a Knights jersey.

Rhi McMah’s three hits led the team in game two, as her batting average moved up to .625, with Chris Stickland picking up two knocks and driving in four runs. Coxhill also picked up five stolen bases to take him to 17 on the season and fifth on the national leaderboard after four games.

The Thunder travel to Cardiff on Saturday to take on the Merlins, whilst the Knights visit Bristol for the first time this season to play the Buccaneers on Sunday.


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