GB Slowpitch Select have a productive day

Sat 6 Apr 2019

By Mike MacDowell

Saturday 6 April -- A lovely warm day in Belgium produced three wins from three for the GB Slowpitch Select Team at the Spring Slowpitch Classic in Wielsbeke, Belgium and a set of solid performances from all the players.

The schedule for Saturday was two 90-minute co-ed games against the Belgian National Slowpitch Team and a mixed game with a different men-to-women ratio, played by a GB & Belgian team against The Netherlands.  The two co-ed games against the Belgians ended with comfortable wins for GB Select, which allowed the team to rotate players through different positions in the field and in the batting line-up.

The mixed game in the evening was low-scoring until the final innings, when GB Select & Belgium pulled away from the Dutch to win 16-9 in seven innings.


Co-ed Game 1:  GB Select 25, Belgium 5

A couple of pre-tournament injuries to the GB Select squad meant that only 11 players travelled, so GB Select borrowed a player from the Belgian team for each of their games.

In Game 1 GB Select were the away team and the Belgians recorded two quick outs in the top of the first inning.  But six line drives and a walk later, GB had taken a five-run lead.

Unfortunately, that lead disappeared in the bottom half of the first inning, with some errors costing outs as the Belgians also scored five runs.  Those runs, however, were all Belgium would score for the rest of the game.

The next two innings saw GB Select pull away, with a flurry of over-the-fence home runs, including two from Steve Hazard and Aaron Thomas and one each from Megan Beard and David Lee.

Everyone in the GB Select line-up had at least two hits and a big highlight was GB Select's borrowed Belgian player, Nathalie Hosten, hitting an inside-the-park home run over the Belgian right fielder's head.

After the first inning GB Select was slick in the field, including a double turned by Steve Hazard and Aaron Thomas.  Keegan Rhodes, a new player in the GB squad, was outstanding in left field and ended the game with three hits.

The final score was 25-5 to GB Select.


Co-ed Game 2:  GB Select 25, Belgium 10

GB’s line-up for the second game was the same, but different.  All the batters were in the same order --  but the order started in the middle of the previous game’s line-up.

This meant that Aaron Thomas led off the bottom of the first inning after Belgium had failed to score, and doubled, followed by a single from Kimberly Henry and a home run from Mike MacDowell.

Crista Reed-Thomas and Katherine Golik went on a tear in this game, collecting seven hits and three doubles between them.

Meanwhile, Steve Hazard hit another long ball and Keegan Rhodes went 4-for-4 in the middle of the line-up.  Claudine Snape smashed a line drive double to right field, picking up two RBIs, and Megan Beard smashed a long double to the fence which almost sneaked over, making the fence ripple.

GB Select was immaculate in the field and for the second game running their pitcher kept the Belgian hitters off balance with a good mix of height and movement.  Both David Lee in Game 1 and Dan Patterson in Game 2 pitched expertly and were big factors in limiting the Belgian line-up to 15 runs across the two games.

GB Select ended the game 25-10 winners after another strong performance and went into the mixed game against a strong Dutch team with high hopes for a clean sweep.


Mixed Game:  GB Select & Belgium 16, The Netherlands 9

Playing mixed slowpitch is somewhat of a novelty for British players, as they are used to co-ed where you always have an even number of men and women on the field.

In mixed there must be at least three women in the line-up, but there are no limitations on line-up structure.

With a four of the Belgian co-ed players to bolster the squad, GB Select & Belgium rolled out a strong 8-and-4 line-up to take on the unbeaten Dutch, who had, up to this point, been playing only men's games.

The game started slowly for both teams, with good hits being trumped by outstanding fielding, and after three innings GB Select & Belgium led 1-0 on a Jimmy Cools sacrifice fly that scored his Belgian teammate Christophe Samyn.

At this point the game livened up, with Megan Beard hitting another long ball deep over the fence as the team's bats came to life.  Keegan Rhodes hit two doubles over the rest of the game, Katherine Golik had a triple and Aaron Thomas continued his hot streak with three hits and a walk.

David Lee again spun a gem in the middle of the diamond, and when Jimmy Cools came in to close the game out in the last two innings, he restricted a powerful Dutch line-up to just two more runs.

GB Select & Belgium turned two slick infield double plays and Mike MacDowell threw a runner out from left field on a nice tag by Christophe Samyn at second base.

Everyone in the combined squad got at least two at-bats and all the batters had at least one hit.

The game ended 16-9 to GB Select & Belgium and so the GB Select squad had a perfect 3-0 record across the first day of exhibition games.


Perfect practice

These games were a great opportunity for all the players to get out on a diamond for the first time in 2019 and play a variety of positions.

All 11 GB Select players played at least two different positions and most played three or more.  Claudine Snape and Megan Beard were errorless at first base across the three games and all six male players used as a pitcher or middle infielder made good plays.

In the outfield, there were some tough catches made and Keegan Rhodes made an outstanding play, staying with the ball after almost making a diving catch to come up and throw out the runner on a force play at second base.

GB Assistant Coach David Lee declared himself very happy with the day. 

"It was a good test for all of the players,” David said, “and they all passed with flying colours.  Tomorrow gives us an opportunity to work on some specific aspects of our play and we will look to improve on our consistency with both bat and ball."

After the conclusion of the games, some of the British and Dutch players engaged in some friendly games of Spikeball to go with their beers and then the whole squad sat down with the Belgians for a Flemish specialty -- beef stew -- which was fantastic.

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