The New Forest Thunder picked up their first win at the AAA level after an intense day of baseball in Cardiff on Saturday.

Across two low scoring games the Thunder pitching duo of Chris Lawson and Shannon Hall gave everything they had to put the New Forest team in a position to take two wins against the Merlins. Sadly, the second game slipped away in the very last inning, but the show that both teams put on was a testament to the way they have stepped up two levels in 2024.

Game one was all about the pitching display put on by Lawson as he struck out 11 and only allowed five hits through seven innings. In a characteristically determined performance, the Thunder starter got stronger as the game developed, striking out the final batter and stranding a runner in scoring position.  

Earlier in the matchup, the away side’s plate discipline and some timely hitting put six runs on the board through the first three innings. First inning RBIs for Lawson and Marcus Senior, along with a throwing error put three runs on the board, before Warren Doyle and Bobby Samuelson came into score in the second following a single to left field from Hall. 

Assured fielding from Rob Holbrook, Angus Blair and Hall helped seal the victory, with Lewis Kelly and Andy Swann also contributing on their AAA debuts as the New Forest side held on for  a 6-4 victory.

Angus Blair continued his excellent start to the season at CF (Photo: Jack Raynor)

After a short break in the Welsh sun, the second game proved to be even tighter than game one. 

On the mound, Hall struck out twelve and only allowed three hits in a dominant display. However, the Thunder bats couldn’t quite back up their starter and the away side succumbed to a walk off 1-0 win after seven tense innings.

Senior, Hall and Andy Moore put hits on the board to match the three from the Merlins, but the New Forest side couldn’t get the luck they needed as several well hit balls were excellently fielded by the Cardiff third baseman and centre fielder. 

With the game seemingly heading to extra innings, Nick South made his way around the bases after pinch running for Rhodri Cavell. With one out and the runner on third, Griffin Phillippi made enough contact to force the ball back past the mound and Lawson’s throw to Holbrook behind the plate couldn’t quite prevent the winning run from scoring.

The New Forest Knights were also in action, as they made their first visit to Bristol to play the division topping Buccaneers. 

Strong hitting performances from Sam Williams, Ben Coxhill and Doug Sutherland weren’t quite enough to see the Knights come away with a win. However, Williams was upbeat despite the results, seeing a lot of positives, including some good pitching from Coxhill to finish the second game of the day.

Game one saw the Knights rally around starter, Chris Stickland, several times as the Buccaneers were made to work at the plate and on the bases. Some good fielding from Coxhill and Sutherland limited the home side to one run in the second inning, before a rasping line drive double from Williams helped bring the Knights close.

Eddie Donald and Dan Churchill added hits, as the away side had one of their best days at the plate of the season, but a strong Buccaneers lineup kept the line moving and walked away with a 15-5 win.

It was much the same in the second game, where Williams and Coxhill hit well again, but the home side were able to take advantage of a number of walks to put the game beyond the reach of the Knights. 

Shaun Barrett added three runs to his stolen base total after a couple of walks, bringing his season tally to 17 and four behind Coxhill’s team leading 21. Jordan Snelling also got in on the stolen base action after drawing a fourth inning walk, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap as the home side ran out 20-6 winners.

The Thunder return to Cardiff to face the Merlins again next Saturday, whilst the Knights return to Bristol for a crucial matchup with the Brunels.


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