Defense Lets Down Durham in Final Ulster Game

NEWTOWNBREDA, Northern Ireland – Durham committed seven errors in the final game of the Ulster Invitational Tournament and a plucky Tonbridge club came back from a 7-3 deficit as the game concluded with an 8-8 scoreline, Durham’s third draw of the weekend. The tie dropped Durham’s record to 7-3-2.

DSC_0159The Palatinates scored a run in the first on heads-up baseball from Laurence Hodgkins. Durham’s first sacker singlehandedly produced a run, beating out a bad throw on a ball hit to shortstop. After advancing to second and third on wild pitches, Brad Jones walked. Hodgkins then scooted home on a throw in the dirt, though that was all the side would get despite two stolen bases from Jones.

T.J. Garske took the hill against the winless Tonbridge side and quickly got a pair of outs. DSC_0171With two down, however, the Kentish bats awoke with a double down the right field line from B. Carter, a single from Nutt, and another two-bagger from D. Mote. Garske would get out of the nightmarish inning with a bouncer to second with the score at 3-1, though the team lost Hodgkins after the throw from second bounced up and hit him in the eye socket with a large bruise immediately appearing.

Durham finally hung its first crooked number on the scoreboard in the second. Joe Proffitt worked a free pass before Gabriel Fidler ripped a line drive to the gap in right centre to plate him on the two-bagger. Fidler would swipe third easily before scampering home on a wild pitch.

DSC_0168Two outs looked to end the Durham threat, but Sam Ross started another rally with a walk, swiping two bases before Marcus Helland, who had entered for Hodgkins, drove him home on a single. After a walk, Garske would help his own casuse with a two-run safety. Jack Andrew stroked a ball to centre to plate Garske, who had stolen second, but was thrown out at second after trying to stretch his single into a double for the final out of the frame.

Garske got a quick K to start the bottom of the frame, but then gave up back-to-back free passes before the lead runner scored on a fielder’s choice. Nutt roped a double and Mote followed with another two-bagger of his own, but Jones, catching with Garske on the hill, picked off the runner at first to narrowly preserve the lead at 7-6.

The Palatinates added a valuable insurance run in the third after Proffitt led off with a walk, swiping second and third before Fidler earned his second RBI with a groundball to third, but that was all for Durham.

Garske worked out of a jam in the third without giving up a run, getting his third strikeout in the process. Mote, who had entered to pitch for Nutt in the second, got the heart of the order 1-2-3 and Tonbridge took the field for the final inning with Durham up 8-6 and minutes to complete their upset bid.

Fidler moved from right field to close the game, and was greeted by a single from Nutt, his third safety of the game, and moved to second on a wild pitch. A walk to Mote would put two on, and Nutt would then score on a delayed double steal as an errant throw from Fidler to second plated the game-tying run.

The game would end in unusual fashion as Fidler gave up a base hit and the runner advanced to second on an error, but with time expiring, the runner deliberately took an out of the basepaths and Tonbridge took the draw. The game ended with only one out in the fourth in a similar situation to Durham’s draw with Glasgow, as Tonbridge was the home team for the game.

No Palatinate batter had more than one hit, with Garske and Fidler driving in a brace of runs apiece. It was the last appearance in the Black-and-Purple for Garske as the knowledgeable and helpful veteran returns to the U.S.A. Fidler had Durham’s only extra base hit, while the team stole 13 bases in the game, including three from Jones and Proffitt.

Durham concludes its disappointing first appearance at the Ulster tourney with a loss and three draws, finishing fourth of five teams in Group A. With two more weeks in the season, the club is working out additional matches against Scottish sides in Edinburgh and Glasgow, so the season will likely continue through June.

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About Gabriel Fidler

Card Sharp is devoted to my chief indoor hobby-baseball (and occasionally football [that's soccer to you Americans], hockey, American football, and basketball) card collecting.
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