European gold for GB Slowpitch Men’s Team!

Sat 16 Jun 2018


Chocen, Czech Republic: 16 June – Great Britain is the first-ever European Men’s Slowpitch Champion -- and deservedly so, as the team went through the tournament undefeated with an 11-0 record and produced a 20-5 mercy rule demolition of Germany in the final.

The Germans, who finished with a record of 6-6, have been the only team to challenge GB’s slowpitch hegemony in Europe over recent years, and last summer Germany became the first team apart from Great Britain ever to win a European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship gold medal.

But the Germans were playing their fourth game of the day in this evening’s final – three of them against GB -- and it may have been a game too far.

GB’s prolific home run duo of Mike MacDowell and Chris Yoxall continued to fire in the final, with another two home runs each and nine RBIs between them, and GB pulled steadily away from Germany as the game wore on.  Adam Haywood also contributed a home run to the festivities.

Mike MacDowell finished the tournament with 13 home runs and Chris Yoxall with 12, and the two were potent run producers at the heart of Head Coach Stephen Patterson's very prolific GB offense.

Three of Germany’s five runs came on solo home runs from Mario Beuchert, Wolfgang Walther and Max Verhusen, but GB’s winning pitcher, Mark Bowman, scattered 13 German hits across six innings, and Germany only scored in three of those innings, and never more than two runs at a time. 

By contrast, GB got off to their usual strong start, with seven runs in the bottom of the first inning.  It was a demonstration of the GB hitting machine in action – team with intelligent base-hitters and a couple of long-ball specialists -- as the team batted through the order and started the game with seven straight hits.

Robbie Studholme and Matt Tomlin led off with singles, Mike MacDowell and Kelvin Harrison doubled, Joe Grantham singled, Chris Yoxall cleared the fence in left field and Aaron Thomas singled to left field before Mark Bowman brought the merry-go-round to a halt by hitting into a double play.  But that was followed by triples from Luis Arrevillagas and Adam Haywood before German pitcher Oliver Stiehl managed to escape the inning.

The rest of the game was pretty much icing on the cake.

GB added four more runs each in the second and third innings and scored in every frame, utilising 20 hits and two walks.

GB’s final two runs, that brought the game to a mercy rule close in the bottom of the sixth inning, came on a German error, with no one out in the inning.  It was a sad way to end the tournament for Germany, but GB’s dominance, in their third win over the Germans on the day, and their fourth over the course of the tournament, was complete.
 

Reflections

Oddly, the GB offense was able to hammer almost every team into submission during the tournament except for the Czech Republic.  In two games against the Czechs, who could only finish fourth with a 3-7 record, GB had narrow one-run and three-run wins.  No one else got closer to the British than 11 runs.  Go figure.

There is no question that the ESF’s first European Men’s Slowpitch Championship was a big success, with a number of strong teams competing, a host of exciting games and a feast of hits and runs along with some great defense.  And one GB coach called the umpiring at the tournament the best he’d seen.

Significantly, the tournament marked the first time that Europe’s two leading softball nations, the Netherlands and Italy, had played in an official European slowpitch competition.  It certainly won’t be the last.

GB Assistant Coach and self-styled “back-up pitcher” said: “Germany tried everything to stem the relentless tide of line drives and more huge home runs from Mike and Chris,  but nothing worked.  GB had the best hitters, the fastest runners, the best defense, the best pitchers and the best  coaches.  GB was  the best team in the competition by some distance and has set the benchmark for future teams.

“Everybody on the squad delivered in spades,” David added.  “Some may have been a little more peripheral than others, but when thier opportunity came they grabbed it with both hands and continually produced results.  All the other teams were very complimentary about the skills, commitment and drive shown by a relatively young but ultimately very talented team.  The GB players thoroughly deserved all the plaudits.

The final was only the climax to a long and exciting day of softball.  Below is the story of how we got to the final game.


Finishing the Championship round-robin

Two remaining games from the Championship round-robin that began on Friday afternoon were played on Saturday morning, but neither game had any meaning except to determine who would be home and away when the same teams met again in the Page Playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
 

Netherlands 30, Czech Republic 21

In the first of these games, the Netherlands had clearly come determined to win, and fought back after the Czech Republic scored 12 runs in the bottom of the first inning to take a 12-3 lead.  The Dutch kept scoring throughout the game while the Czechs were held scoreless from the second through the fifth inning.  Each team committed eight errors, and the final score was 30-21 to the Netherlands.

The Dutch had put in a formal protest to the organisers, as the tournament page on the ESF website and instructions at the pre-tournament technical meeting had indicated that results from the first round-robin would carry through to the next round.  This would have meant the Dutch finishing second and qualifying for the 1 v 2 Page Playoff game after the second round, rather than third.  In the event, this turned out to be a misunderstanding, and the Dutch were not best pleased.


GB 19, Germany 7

In GB’s final round-robin game, Mike MacDowell blasted three home runs, good for five RBIs, and Chris Yoxall added two solo round-trippers as GB coasted to a 19-7 win over Germany. 

Neither team put out their strongest side, knowing they would be meeting again in a much more important game a few hours later, but GB still had too much offense for the Germans, pounding out 23 hits and scoring in every inning except the sixth.

A six-run top of the first inning got GB off and running, and it started when lead-off when hitter Aaron Thomas reached on an error.  Four straight hits followed, including Mike MacDowell’s first home run of the game, and when the smoke cleared GB had six runs on the board.

David Lee started in the circle for GB, and held the Germans scoreless in the first two frames, so by the time Germany came to bat in the bottom of the third inning, GB already had a 13-0 lead.  The rest of the game was anti-climactic, but GB couldn’t quite score enough runs to bring the mercy rule into play, so the game went the full seven innings.

With the warm-up games now over, the tournament moved on to the sharp end as the Page Playoffs began, with all four teams still in with a chance to win the gold medal.
 

Page Playoffs

The first Page Playoff encounter was the 3 v 4 game between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, with the loser facing elimination and a fourth-place finish.
 

Netherlands 28, Czech Republic 22

The Czechs had a far larger and fitter squad, but though the Dutch were carrying injuries, they played through the pain, scored in every inning and hit several balls over the fence in winning 28-22.

The Czechs gave the Netherlands a good deal of help by committing nine errors.

The Czechs scored heavily as well, and made a brave attempt to take over the game by scoring nine runs in the top of the sixth inning to post a short-lived 22-21 lead.  But the Dutch immediately responded with seven runs in the bottom of the inning, including a three-run home run by Roel Legerstee.

After Ondrej Kucerka led off the top of the Czech seventh with a walk, the next three batters subsided quickly.

So it was the host Czech Republic that finished out of the medals, while the Dutch were still alive, with a game to come against the loser of the 1 v 2 game between GB and Germany.


GB 19, Germany 8

Mike MacDowell and Chris Yoxall continued GB’s power barrage with another two home runs each, and Mark Bowman completely shut down the Germans over the last five innings of the Page Playoff 1 v 2 game as GB reached the final with a 19-8 win that was more hard-fought than the score might suggest.

Apart from the second inning, however, when Germany scored seven runs on 10 hits and briefly took the lead, it was Mark Bowman and the GB defense who were in control.  Germany got one run on three hits in the top of the first inning (the run was a solo homer by Marco Beuchert), enjoyed their seven-run outburst in the top of the second, and then had no runs and just two hits over the last five frames.

In a tournament that has largely been dominated by batting, that was an amazing feat.

A lot of this had to do with stellar play from the GB outfield, who, acting in concert, had produced a hefty proportion of the outs GB had recorded over the tournament, and they were as devastating as GB'S hitting in reducing the opposition’s options.  Robbie Studholme, in particular, had made a number of spectacular catches, and in this game he sprinted almost 100 feet to slide under a deep-driven foul ball down the left field line to make an important second out in the final frame.

After the Germans had scored that one run in the top of the first inning, GB came out of the gate with one of their patented surges.  Robbie Studholme led off with a single to right field, Matt Tomlin walked and Mike MacDowell blasted a home run to centre field.  GB suddenly had three runs on the board.

More was soon to follow: Kelvin Harrison made it round the bases on a comedy of German errors, Joe Grantham walked and Chris Yoxall drove a home run down the left field line.  The final total for the inning was seven.

But the Germans were not quite ready to be subdued, and in the top of the second inning they unloaded a barrage of singles and doubles that brought seven runs of their own across the plate and gave them an 8-7 lead.  At that point, no one would have predicted the shutout five innings that followed.

GB took the lead back with five runs in the bottom of the second inning, featuring a triple by Matt Tomlin and yet another home run from Mike MacDowell. 

After that, the GB offense also went a bit cold, but whereas Germany scored no further runs at all, GB scored in every inning -- just not very many.  With single runs in the third and fourth innings, however, plus two in the fifth, and a final three in the sixth (Chris Yoxall homered and Robbie Studholme and Dan Patterson had triples), GB pulled further and further away.

An incident in the fifth inning, when a German runner was called out for a deliberate standing collision with GB third baseman Joe Grantham, merely made GB more determined to shut down the Germans in the final frames.

While the win booked GB’s place in the final and meant they could not finish lower than second, Germany now faced a game against the Netherlands to see which of those teams would also contest the final.  The teams had split a pair of the games up to that point, so the outcome was anyone’s guess.


Germany 23, Netherlands 20

It was perhaps inevitable that GB’s European nemesis, Germany, was the team to get to the final after a nerve-straining slugfest with the Netherlands in the pre-final.

The best way to illustrate how close this game was, and how the teams traded blow for blow, is to look at the line score:

TEAMS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Netherlands 5 1 6 0 5 2 1 20 19 5
Germany 7 1 4 5 5 1 X 23 22 4



 

The top of the fourth inning was clearly the key.  It was the only half-inning in the whole of the game when no runs were scored – in this case by the Dutch – and the five runs that Germany scored in the bottom half of the inning ultimately decided the contest.

Four German home runs to two for the Netherlands were also key to the German win, and Mario Beuchert, who had two of those home runs, drove in seven runs.

Now the Germans would face GB in the final, having already played three games on the day to GB’s two.

And we already know the outcome!


Scores

Scores in the last two Championship round-robin games this morning were:

Netherlands 30, Czech Republic 21
GB 19, Germany 7


Page Playoff scores were:

3 v 4 Game
Netherlands 28, Czech Republic 22

1 v 2 Game
GB 19, Germany 8

Pre-final
Germany 23, Netherlands 20

Final
GB 20, Germany 5


Final standings

The final standings at Europe’s first-ever Men’s Slowpitch Championship are:

1 – Great Britain
2 – Germany
3 – The Netherlands
4 – Czech Republic
5 – Italy
6 – Belgium
7 – Ireland

A placing round-robin on Friday involving the bottom three teams from the first round of games had established the order for Places 5-7 in the standings.

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