The London Mets shut out the Mustangs in both games to sweep their closest rivals and move two games clear at the top of the NBL. This was expected to be the toughest test of the season so far for both sides, and while Southampton came up well short on the day, the Mets showed both class and determination to prove they are worthy of top spot.
Southampton’s lack of offense was the only constant across the two games, which saw a 10-0 mercy-rule victory for London followed by a nail-biting 1-0 triumph in extra innings. The Mets got to Gary Davison early in game one, scoring two in the first and two in the third, before a catalogue of infield errors in the fourth allowed them to take an 8-0 lead. After a solid start to the season defensively, the Mustangs were left scratching their heads as play after play went awry. Justin Frosina and Victor Aizpurua each registered two errors, while others had only generous scoring to thank for the fact that their misplays were not documented. Meanwhile, Julian Somers pitched dominantly for the Mets, allowing just two singles and one walk as the Mustangs never looked like scoring. Davison conceded a further run in the fifth before new-boy Jose Sosa pitched a one-run sixth, meaning Southampton suffered the ignominy of a mercy-rule defeat in six innings. Martin Tucker (2 hits, 2 RBIs) and Josh Rapaport (2 hits, 5 steals, 2 runs) were the biggest offensive contributors for the Mets.
Game two was a memorable pitcher’s duel, as Tomas Zondra and Pietro Sollecito both performed brilliantly. Frosina put his earlier defensive woes behind him, starting three double plays to lead an errorless performance from the Mustangs. Zondra did not get the offensive support he needed, however, with Southampton unable to produce timely hits to take advantage of several promising situations. The game’s key play came with the game tied at 0 in the bottom of the seventh, as Southampton’s Aizpurua tried to stretch a one-out double into a triple. Though he was initially called safe at third, the umpires convened and reversed the call much to Southampton’s dismay. Their pain was exacerbated in the top of the eighth, as a sac fly from Jonathon Cramman scored Trevor Allen to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. There was still drama to come, though, with Davison reaching third with one out in the bottom of the frame. However, Sollecito held his nerve to retire the last two batters and preserve the win for London. Both pitchers went the full eight innings, with the Mets ace allowing 7 hits and 1 walk with 3 strikeouts, while Zondra gave up 6 hits and 3 walks to go with 6 strikeouts.
This double header was a reality check for the Mustangs, who had every reason to be bitterly disappointed with their performance in game one. It was billed as their biggest game of the season so far, and they produced probably their most inept display since joining the NBL. However, stand-in manager Ross Arieta chose to focus on the pride they restored in game two: ‘After failing to perform at our level in the first game, I was proud of the performance in the second. A ball dropping here or there would have been the difference in a closely fought contest’.
Player of the day: Tomas Zondra for a heroic pitching performance with no offensive support.
Play of the day: Justin Frosina, take your pick among his three double plays in the second game.