A perfect weekend for GB Slowpitch Select

Sun 7 Apr 2019

By Mike MacDowell

Sunday 7 April -- Everything went to plan across the weekend of 6-7 April for the GB Slowpitch Select Team at the Spring Slowpitch Classic in Belgium.  The weather remained a comfortable 17 degrees with no rain, the team had a 7-0 record, and all 11 players contributed to this success.

Everyone hit at least .500, all of the women had multiple extra-base hits and all of the men hit at least one home run, either over the fence or inside-the-park, as GB Select flashed their power and speed.

Dan Patterson won two games in the circle, David Lee won the other five and both pitchers showed craft and guile to keep hitters off balance, despite facing the same batters multiple times across many games.

New GB Slowpitch squad members Keegan Rhodes and Megan Beard both had a great weekend and will take a great deal of confidence into next weekend’s GB Challenge Tournament, a key selection event for this summer’s European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship. 

Keegan was a consistent hitter from various positions in the line-up, driving the ball into gaps and pushing fielders with his speed.  Megan hit two over-the-fence home runs and was a power threat protecting Steve Hazard in the line-up.

All the games over the weekend were played in great spirit and the camaraderie among the teams was well in evidence.

GB Select went 3-0 on Saturday (you can read a report here) and brief reports on the four games they played on Sunday are below.  All games were played with no new inning called after 50 minutes.

Game 1:  GB Select 12, Belgium 6

GB Select produced a confident performance to beat the Belgian National Team 12-6 in five innings.

Aaron Thomas, Keegan Rhodes and Katherine Golik all picked up three hits each, Dan Patterson homered and Steve Hazard picked up a pinch-hit walk in a single plate appearance.

The highlight of the game was Belgian shortstop Christophe Samyn robbing Mike MacDowell of a hit with a full-length dive on a line drive.

Game 2:  GB Select 11, The Netherlands 9

This game started positively for GB Select, but their bats went cold and The Netherlands almost stole it at the end.

GB Select scored four runs in the top of the first inning on a two-run home run by Mike MacDowell and a two-run triple from Dan Patterson.

Dan also homered later in the game as GB Select built a seven-run lead and he led the offense with three hits.  Kimberly Hendry was busy at first base making good picks on tough throws and Mike MacDowell threw a runner out on a force play from left field.

But the lead almost disappeared as the Dutch displayed their power towards the end of the game.  Fortunately for GB Select, Steve Hazard snagged a line drive and doubled a runner off first base to end the threat and the game with GB Select still ahead by 11-9.

Game 3:  GB Select 11, Belgium 4

In the only game in which they trailed over the weekend, GB Select had to dig deep to beat the Belgians.

All of GB Select's scoring during the first three innings came via a two-run home run from David Lee in the top of the first and it wasn't until the fourth inning that they scored again.

In the meantime, the Belgians took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning and tacked on another in the bottom of the second.

But David Lee led off the top of the fourth inning with a home run, Crista Reed-Thomas had a two-RBI double and Mike MacDowell scored her with a line drive home run to center field.  By the time Aaron Thomas hit an inside-the-park home run, GB Select had exploded for six runs over the course of just seven batters and had a lead they would not relinquish.

Katherine Golik drove in two more runs in the fifth inning on a driven ball that handcuffed the Belgian first base player and GB Select shut out the Belgians for the remainder of the game to emerge 11-4 winners.

Game 4:  GB Select 15, The Netherlands 8

The last game of the day saw a noticeably tiring GB Select grind out a win against The Netherlands thanks to a 10-run first inning.

After GB Select shut out the Dutch in the top half of the inning, Aaron Thomas and Kimberly Hendry were quickly out and the bottom half of the inning could have been over had Steve Hazard's ground ball not been misplayed by the Dutch third base player to allow Steve to reach base.

Four walks, two more errors, a Kimberly Hendry triple and a pitching change later, GB Select had a 10-run lead.  It was a lead they wouldn’t give up despite a six-run inning from the Dutch in the top of the fourth.

Following that, Steve Hazard and Dan Patterson homered and Claudine Snape drilled a ball into centre field that had extra bases written all over it until it was cut off on a nice play by a Dutch outfielder.

David Lee kept the powerful Dutch line-up fairly quiet and the result never looked in doubt.

After three innings time expired with GB Select leading 15-8.

Looking back

Although GB Select won all seven games relatively comfortably, they were pushed in each of them – which was one of the benefits of the weekend.

Ultimately, the difference was the quality of GB’s pitching and their consistency throughout the line-up. This continued no matter who batted who batted where, with players moved up and down across the weekend to put them in different situations and roles with different expectations.

In the circle, Dan Patterson and David Lee moved the ball laterally and pitched to the strengths of their fielders and the weaknesses of the hitters.  This gave the GB Select team the confidence to be aggressive and execute plays in the field and they demonstrated this by producing the most double plays, tag plays and force outs from the outfield among the three teams.

As a first outing for the 2019 season, the Spring Slowpitch Classic was a great tournament at a great venue.  It was well organised, with good umpiring and a schedule that allowed the teams to mix and match their players and line-ups to enable the best game practice.

The GB Select team can be very proud of their performances over the weekend and their 7-0 record against some strong opposition.  The players involved have made a good start towards the NSL season and potential selection for the European Championship.

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