GB Select Team finishes fourth in Indoor Cup
Sat 21 Jan 2017
By Bob Fromer
A GB Select Team made up of GB Women and GB Under-19 players, plus three guest pitchers, finished fourth out of 16 teams at the prestigious annual Indoor Cup in Schiedam, Netherlands, on the weekend of 14-15 January.
GB teams have attended this tournament on a number of occasions over the years, and this was our highest-ever finish. The GB Select Team had a final record of 2-4, but wound up playing four of its six games against teams that finished in the top six places, including the two finalists.
Every game was close and hard-fought, and GB’s four losses were only by scores of 2-1, 2-1, 2-0 and 3-0 to the eventual winners of the tournament, the Dutch club team Roef. GB beat two Dutch Silver Division teams – UFSA by 2-0 in the first game of the tournament and Eurostars by 5-2 in the last game.
The Indoor Cup always draws high-level teams, and the field this year included the European Champion Netherlands Under-22 National Team (GB Select only lost to them by 2-1), most of the best Dutch club teams, six Under-18 Gold All-Star teams from the United States and the top Czech club team Joudrs Prague.
GB’s performance, especially on the Saturday when they played four games, was all the more creditable because the team was held up for more than an hour when their train from Schiphol Airport to Rotterdam broke down on Friday night, and the players and staff only reached the hotel after 1.00 am with a game to play at 9.00 am the next morning.
With a team consisting of some experienced GB Women and Under-19 players, a promising 16-year-old with no experience at this level and two other players with limited experience who were there to show what they could do, the mystery was how the GB Select team parlayed a 2-4 record into a fourth place finish.
It happened for two reasons:
1) GB Select had invited three top European pitchers as guest players, who held down the opposition in every game. They included Dutch National Team pitcher Lindsey Meadows, former Dutch Junior National Team pitcher Anna-Be Bartels, and Belgian National Team pitcher Evelyne de Wolf. A huge thank you goes to all three, who not only pitched brilliantly, but integrated well in the team and spent time over the weekend giving coaching tips to some of the younger players.
2) In both GB’s first and second round-robin pools, one team went undefeated to win the group, and the other three teams (including GB Select) all finished 1-2. In each case, mainly because the GB Select pitchers gave up so few runs, GB came out second in the group both times. After the first round-robin, that got us into the playoff round, and after the second round-robin, it left GB in fourth place, just one place away from the medals – and the prize money this tournament offers to the medallists!
Softball at the Indoor Cup in Schiedam is not exactly softball as we know it (see below), but the central battle between pitchers and hitters is the same, and the level of pitching across the tournament is high.
So one of the highlights of the weekend was the performance of GB Women second base player Amy Wells, who at the age of 22 has only just begun to switch from being a right-handed batter to becoming a left-handed slap hitter to take advantage of her speed. Amy led all the GB Select batters at the tournament with a .385 average and a .500 on-base percentage, a tribute to hard work and focus and a determination to became a better international player.
GB Women catcher Steph Pearce, who lives and plays softball in the Netherlands, mainly to keep herself in the best possible shape to play for GB, caught all but two innings of the tournament, threw out two baserunners (which is hard to do indoors with shorter bases), and showed her patience at the plate with five walks to go with three hits.
Hannah Pitman, who is relatively new to the GB Fastpitch programme, displayed good power and only struck out twice in six games; Chelsie Robison had the key hit that drove in two runs and put GB Select in front of Eurostars on the way to their 5-2 win; Sian Wigington made some fine plays at first base and Laura Hirai made a lot of good contact to further her own attempt to become a left-handed batter. Saskia Davies, facing pitching at this level for the first time, consistently put bat to ball and did not have a single strikeout, and Lauren Gillott had a hit and looked comfortable playing different positions. Finally, Chiya Louie, returning to fastpitch after a two-year absence, hit a lot of balls hard, had GB’s second-best hit total and was only foiled by some of the peculiar rules at the tournament venue that can turn hard-hit balls into automatic outs (again, see below).
The scores in the six games GB played were:
GB Select 2, USFA (NL) 0
Arsenal (USA) 2, GB Select 1
Dutch Under-22 National Team 2, GB Select 1
Twins (NL) 2, GB Select 0
Roef (NL) 3, GB Select 0
GB Select 5, Eurostars (NL) 2
The GB Select Team for the Indoor Cup was as follows:
Anna-Be Bartels (NL)
Evelyne de Wolf (BEL)
Lindsey Meadows (NL)
Head Coach: Rachael Watkeys
Assistant Coach: Robbie Robison
Team Manager: Simon Mortimer
Assistant Manager/Media: Bob Fromer
The final at the tournament, watched by a large crowd, pitted the Dutch Under-22 National Team against the Dutch club team Roef, who were promoted at the end of last season into the Dutch top division.
This was a repeat of last year’s final, which was won by the Under-22 National Team, but this time a talented and aggressive Roef team turned the tables and won 6-1. Roef went undefeated throughout the tournament, and the toughest game they had was their 3-0 win over GB Select.
The final standings were:
1 - Roef
2 - Netherlands U-22
3 - Terrasvogels (NL)
4 - GB Select
5 - Eurostars (NL)
6 - Twins (NL)
7 - Impact (USA)
8 - Velocity (USA)
9 - Avengers (USA)
10 - Birds (NL)
11 - UFSA (NL)
12 - Destroyers (USA)
13 - Onze Gezellen (NL)
14 - Chaos (USA)
15 - Joudrs Prague (CZ)
16 - Arsenal (USA)
The Indoor Cup in Schiedam is a great tournament. It runs like clockwork, with 50-minute games that all start and end on time. The standard of play is high. The Dutch organisers are great hosts and very friendly. There are a lot of spectators – many of them parents and relatives of players on the American teams --and the atmosphere is great. For those of us in Europe, you can always see a lot of old friends and foes.
The tournament is played in two sports halls within 500 metres of each other; one hall with two pitches separated by a divider and a fairly low wooden ceiling with bleachers where right and right centre field would be; the other hall with a higher ceiling suspended on metal beams, a second floor spectator gallery and a wall where right and right centre field would be.
So teams play eight fielders and no right fielder.
The most frustrating thing for hitters is that because of the low ceilings in Halls 1 and 2 and the low beams in Hall 3, there is really no such thing as a fly ball. Any ball hit even vaguely in the air will hit the ceiling or the beams, and no matter how hard you hit it, it’s just a foul ball – unless someone catches it off the ceiling, and then you’re out.
As in normal fastpitch softball, you can hit as many foul balls as you like during an at-bat – but if you hit two of them off the ceiling, you’re out.
In Halls 1 and 2, you can smash the ball into the right field bleachers – but it’s only a single. In Hall 3, you can smash a line drive over second base – but quite often, the second base player
will turn around, play it off the wall, and throw you out at first. Amy Wells did that on numerous occasions for GB Select.
But perhaps the strangest feature is that on all three pitches, the flooring is a very slippery kind of linoleum – and when you slide on it, you keep going. Players new to the tournament will slide into a base on a hit or a steal in the normal way – and generally slide 20 feet past it, after which the base player smiles and tags you out. Unless you start the slide around halfway to the base, there is just no way to stop this happening. A couple of GB Select rallies ended this way before the players adjusted.
This trip by the GB Select Team to the Indoor Cup is just the first of a number of trips that groups of male and female GB fastpitch players, at different age levels, hope to make to European invitational tournaments during the first half of this year to give them more experience before European and World Championship competitions in the summer.
The experience gained at these tournaments – and the chance to face good live pitching not often available in the UK – is invaluable if GB-based players are to progress to becoming impact players on the international stage.
Photos by Simon Mortimer