GB Softball starts the year at the Dutch Indoor Cup

Mon 15 Jan 2018


A GB Select team made up of senior and junior players travelled to Schiedam in Holland for the weekend of 13-14 January to take part in Europe’s best winter women’s fastpitch tournament, the annual Indoor Cup.

This was the 18th edition of the Indoor Cup, and the fourth straight year that a GB Team has attended, though we occasionally took part in the more distant past.  With teams from the United States, the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, the tournament provides a chance for high-level competition in the depths of winter, and brings members of the European softball community back in touch after the Christmas hibernation.

This year, the 16-team competition had six American junior teams featuring national-level players, plus seven Dutch club teams, the Dutch Under-17 National Team, Joudrs from the Czech Republic and GB Select.

The tournament was won for the third year in a row by the Dutch club team Roef, but it took a wild eight innings before they defeated another Dutch team, Terrasvogels by a score of 9-8, with the lead changing hands several times.

Timing

Last year’s GB Select team recorded a highest-ever fourth place finish at the Indoor Cup; this year’s team had an identical 2-4 record but finished seventh, proving once again that it’s not necessarily how many games you win, but when you win them.

In fact, all of GB’s games were competitive, which is the reason for making the trip, and the GB Select Team did very well considering that they twice had to face the Dutch National Champions Olympia Haarlem, coached by Stan Doney and featuring one of Europe’s top pitchers, hard-throwing Dutch National Team left-hander Eva Voortman.

This summer, Eva Voortman will become the first European player to pitch in the top level of Japan’s professional league, so facing her at 9.00 am on a Saturday morning in a cold gymnasium was something of a challenge.

GB lost 6-1 to Olympia in that opening game, but their other three losses were only 2-1 to the American team Destroyers United, 1-0 to another American team, Impact United, and then 2-0 to Olympia Haarlem and Eva Voortman in a knockout quarterfinal.

GB’s two wins were a convincing 6-1 dismantling of a third American team, Velocity United, and a 9-4 demolition of the Dutch club team Twins in a knockout game on Sunday morning.

The GB Softball programme took nine position players to the tournament but used two pitchers from the Dutch top division: Anna-Be Bartels, who has pitched for GB Select teams before in this tournament and the London Cup, and Cheyenne Scheffer.

And since one of the younger position players – Esme Potter from last summer’s GB Under-16 Team -- arrived with her right arm in a sling as a result of a recent badminton injury, playing time was not a problem as everyone played in all six games.

The fact that Esme and her parents were still prepared to make the trip despite the injury, so that Esme could at least watch and learn, was a tribute to her commitment to become a better player.

Madness

Indoor softball is always a bit of a madhouse, and the Indoor Cup in Schiedam is no exception. 

The three playing courts are all rectangles, so there is no right field and no right fielder.  The bases are only 53 feet apart instead of 60, so infielders have to be exceptionally quick to get ground ball outs.  It’s not possible to hit a home run or a triple by rule.

The floors are a kind of linoleum, so the trick when sliding is not to wind up sailing 10 feet past the base.  The ceiling is relatively low, and balls that hit the ceiling are foul -- but they can be caught for outs, though this is harder to do than you might think.  Also, if you hit two balls that touch the ceiling during your at-bat, even if no one catches them, you’re also out.

Games are 50 minutes long to the second, so clock-watching dominates the second half of each game and the home team has a huge advantage.  And of course that linoleum surface is very bouncy, so any ball chopped downwards is going to bounce high in the air, giving frustrated infielders no chance at all.

Highlights

The GB Select team made some outstanding plays on defense.

Centre fielder Laura Thompson threw out two batters attempting to reach first base on singles to the outfield, which brought applause from the crowd.  GB Women’s Team catcher Steph Pearce blocked outstandingly, threw out four would-be base stealers and gunned down a number of other batters who bunted the ball anywhere near home plate.

Chelsie Robison, at third base, made a great catch off the ceiling, resulting in a double play, and a fine snag of a viciously-hit one-hopper in the quarter-final against Olympia Haarlem.

Meanwhile, Amy Wells at second base made several diving stops and covered the position with her usual quickness, Sian Wigington at first dealt well with some difficult throws and Jessica Woodhams in left field, another player from last year’s GB Under-16s, coped with what came her way.

Offensively, Chiya Louie and Laura Thompson both hit .500 over the six games, while Chelsie Robison weighed in at .364 and 16-year-old Caitlin Frank, who had never seen pitching at this level, showed exceptional plate discipline and drew a number of walks, including one with the bases loaded.

Robbie Robison took the reins as Head Coach for the first time, with GB Women’s Team Head Coach Rachael Watkeys assisting.  GB Women’s Team Manager Simon Mortimer organised the trip with his usual efficiency and everyone had a good time.

But more importantly, eight players from various levels of GB Softball were able to face pitching ranging from good to outstanding and cope with the demands of six fast-moving and competitive games over a period of just 27 hours.

It’s this that makes the Indoor Cup worthwhile, and GB Softball will almost certainly be back in Schiedam in January 2019.

Scores

The scores in the six games GB played were:

Olympia Haarlem 6, GB Select 1
Destroyers United 2, GB Select 1
GB Select 6, Velocity United 1
Impact United 1, GB Select 0
GB Select 9, Twins 4
Olympia Haarlem 2, GB Select 0


GB players

The GB Select Team for the Indoor Cup was:

Caitlin Frank
Chiya Louie
Steph Pearce
Esme Potter
Chelsie Robison
Laura Thompson
Amy Wells
Sian Wigington
Jessica Woodham

Guest Pitchers
Anna-Be Bartels (NL)
Cheyenne Scheffer (NL)

Staff
Head Coach: Robbie Robison
Assistant Coach: Rachael Watkeys
Team Manager: Simon Mortimer
Media: Bob Fromer

Photos by Simon Mortimer

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