GB U-19s blast their way to London Cup win

Mon 9 Jul 2018


A ferocious batting assault over the first two innings on France’s #1 pitcher Sarah Benchali paved the way for the Great Britain Under-19 Team to win the final of the 2018 London Cup by a score of 13-4 on Sunday 8 July at a sun-baked Farnham Park.

The emphatic win by a line-up including a number of Head Coach Robbie Robison’s newer and younger players will put the GB Juniors in a great frame of mind for this week’s training camp and then for the defense of their European Junior Championship title that begins on Monday 16 July in Staranzano, Italy.

After that, 11 players from the 16-player squad will go on to Trnava, Slovakia, to play for the newly-formed GB Under-22 Women’s Team during their first entry into the European Under-22 Women’s Championship that starts on 23 July.


Five-team field

The London Cup, organised by the British Softball Federation’s GB Management Committee with support from BaseballSoftballUK, was contested over the weekend of 7-8 July by the French Senior Women’s Team, the GB Under-19s, a GB Select Team made up mostly of GB Women and Under-22 players, an Under-19 team from the top Czech club team Joudrs Prague and an Irish team made up of Under-19, Senior and some borrowed players.

The tournament offered some high-quality fastpitch softball for a large crowd of spectators that gathered at Farnham Park on Sunday, including a number of VIP guests invited by BaseballSoftballUK.  The weekend also featured a well-attended fastpitch softball game and clinic for young local players, plus a taster session for youth beginners.

The last game of the tournament’s round-robin phase, and then the final between France and the GB Under-19s, were webstreamed live by Eurobaseball TV, and can be viewed on BaseballSoftballUK’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/baseballsoftballuk.

The final, in particular, is well worth watching.

With almost perfect weather (should we really be complaining about the heat?), a brilliant international umpiring crew assembled by BASU Fastpitch Officer Bridget Cameron, and great food served up all weekend to teams and spectators by the Home Plate Bar and Kitchen, including a Saturday night BBQ, the London Cup was one of the best fastpitch events held in the UK for many years.

Round-robin

During the round-robin phase of the tournament, which occupied all day Saturday and Sunday morning, it soon became clear that France, GB Select and the GB Under-19s would be fighting it out for the two places available in Sunday afternoon’s final.

The first match-up involving these teams came in the opening game of the tournament on Saturday morning, and pitted France, coached by the former GB Women’s Team Assistant Coach Celine Lassaigne, against GB Select.

With Amie Hutchison pitching for GB Select, France, took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks to an error and singles by Raina Hunter and Natalie Glover.

GB Select pulled back a run in the bottom of the second inning against French starter Sarah Benchali on singles by Chloe Wigington and Hannah Pitman, plus a French error.

But the French stretched their lead to 4-1 in the top of the third inning.  An error and a third strike passed ball put runners on base and a double down the right field line by Lena Sellam brought them home.

After that, Amie Hutchison shut out the French over the final two innings while GB Select tried to claw their way back into the game.

A triple to the fence in left centre field by Laura Thompson and a sacrifice fly from Megan Allen cut the lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the third inning, but that was still the score when GB Select came up for their final at-bat in a time-limited game in the bottom of the fifth inning.

With one out, Chelsie Robison gave the British team hope with a single to right field, and Laura Thompson promptly singled to left.  A sacrifice bunt by Jade Yerex moved both runners up, but now there were two out and it was up to Amie Hutchison to save her own game.

Amie, who batted well over .400 this year for her American junior college team, promptly slapped a single up the middle to chase both runners home, and the game ended in a 4-4 tie.

Opening Ceremony

An Opening Ceremony held at 2.00 pm on Saturday brought all the teams on to Field 1 at Farnham Park, and featured a short address by BSF Hall of Fame player Stacie Townsend, one of the outstanding players in the history of GB Fastpitch Softball, who led the GB Women’s Team to a host of successes as an outstanding pitcher and hitter from 2005 to 2012.

Stacie was the second leading hitter at the 2012 Women’s World Championship as well as leading the tournament in innings pitched and strikeouts, and was named to the tournament’s All-World Team.

Stacie now takes time off from her career as a commercial lawyer each summer to work as a pitching coach for the French National Team, and talked to the assembled players about the value of tournaments such as the London Cup in giving them the kind of experience they need to compete on a world level.

Key game

The key game in deciding who would get to the final came after the Opening Ceremony, when the GB Under-19s played GB Select.

This game turned into the best pitching duel of the London Cup, with Amie Hutchison again in the circle for GB Select, while Beth Fleming started the game for the GB Under-19s.

Amie Hutchison pitched an excellent game, giving up only four hits over six innings while walking just one, hitting two batters and striking out three.  But the GB Under-19s put up a run in the top of the first inning when Sydney Robson was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a single by Alana Snow, and another in the top of the sixth when Diana Nisbett singled and scored on a long triple to right centre field by Megan Parno.

Meanwhile, Beth Fleming kept a powerful GB Select line-up quiet for four innings with excellent command and change of speeds, giving up just one hit and one walk and striking out eight.

The tone for the game was set in the bottom of the first inning after Laura Thompson led off for GB Select with a bunt single.  Misha Sulcova then tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but the ball popped off to the left of home plate.  GB Under-19 catcher Megan Parno made a full-length dive to catch the ball, then threw to first from almost a prone position to double off Laura Thompson.

Hannah Edwards, who moved up from the GB Under-16s to the Under-19s this year, took over from Beth Fleming in the fifth inning, and was equally effective, keeping GB Select off the board over the final two innings at the cost of just a hit and a walk, striking out two.  So the game ended as a 2-0 win for the GB Under-19s.

Given that none of these top three teams had any trouble with the Irish and the Czechs, this win essentially put the GB Under-19s into the final at GB Select’s expense, despite the fact that that France defeated the Under-19s by 6-4 in the final game of the day on Saturday.

The French came up with four hits in the top of the third inning, including back-to-back doubles by former Under-18 French baseball player Melissa Mayeux, to turn a 2-1 GB lead into a 5-2 deficit, and the GB Under-19s never quite managed to get back in the game.

However, the response from the GB Under-19s was: “We want to play them again the final!”

Meanwhile, Ireland, with several players in their line-up who will go on to the European Junior Championship, defeated the Joudrs Under-19 Team 5-2 on Saturday, to consolidate what would eventually be a fourth-place finish.

The team from the Czech Republic, consisting largely of 17-year-olds and coached by former Czech National Team player Lenka Jaklova, was outgunned in this tournament, but played a number of games on a week-long tour that took in Germany, Belgium and England, and will have benefitted hugely from the experience.


The final

Most people’s expectation of the final between France and the GB Under-19s, who had finished first and second respectively in the round-robin, would have been to see a pitcher’s duel.

Sarah Benchali, who had a victory over the GB Senior Women’s Team last summer at a tournament hosted in France, started for the French, and Robbie Robison chose to start with 17-year-old Hannah Edwards, keeping Beth Fleming and her experience pitching in last year’s Junior World Championship in Florida, in reserve.

Diana Nisbett, another graduate of last year’s GB Under-16 Team, was also in the starting line-up along with three other players new to the programme this year: Morgan Salmon, Sydney Robson and Alexis Larrow.

The French had a big edge in terms of age and experience.  But it was soon evident that this wasn’t going to mean a thing.


Bombardment

The game started tamely enough.  Alana Snow led off for the GB Under-19s and had a long battle with Sarah Benchali, but then flew out to right field.

That brought Morgan Salmon to the plate, and she too worked the count to 3-and-2.  But the next pitch, to everyone’s surprise, was blasted high and far to left field, the first over-the-fence home run of the tournament, and the GB Under-19s had a quick 1-0 lead.

But more was to follow.  Andrea Johnson reached on an error, Diana Nisbett and Lauren King hit sharp singles, and when the half inning ended, the GB lead was 3-0.

Hannah Edwards negotiated the bottom half of the first inning easily enough, and then the GB bombardment resumed in the top of the second.

Sydney Robson led off with a sharp single to right field, Alexis Larrow reached on a French error, Alana Snow walked to load the bases, and Morgan Salmon pushed a single into right field to drive in two runs.  And then Andrea Johnson hit the first pitch she saw for a majestic home run to left centre field, a dazed Sarah Benchali was pulled from the game with five runs in and no one out, and the GB Under-19s were 8-0 ahead.


Momentum

After that outburst, momentum shifted.  French relief pitcher Charline Gartner closed out the second inning with three quick outs and gave up just a single run over the next four innings.

Meanwhile, the French were starting to get runners on base against Hannah Edwards.  But Hannah got out of trouble in both the second and third innings before the French started to chip away, with two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on an inside-the-park home run by Kimane Rogron and another in the bottom of the fifth.  The French were beginning to run the game – but the GB lead was still looming large and Hannah Edwards may have bent, but she certainly hadn’t broken.

Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, with the score standing at 9-3 to the GB Under-19s, Robbie Robison brought in Beth Fleming to close out the game -- but the French crept one run closer. 

Kimane Rogron greeted Beth with a single, and later in the inning a single by Rosie Lyard drove in a run.  And in truth, the score might have been closer still had there not been some fine catches during the game by GB Under-19 centre fielder Alana Snow and especially right fielder Sydney Robson.

But if there was any doubt that the London Cup was going to be won by the GB Under-19s, it vanished in the top of the seventh inning, when Charline Gartner finally ran out of steam and GB re-found their bats.

It started with one out, when Alana Snow reached on an error, and then Morgan Salmon singled for her third hit of the game.  Alienor Toumit replaced Charline Gartner for France, but Andrea Johnson singled, Diana Nesbitt boomed a double to left centre and Lauren King ripped a single and later scored on a French error.

Now it was 13-4 and Beth Fleming was ruthless in the bottom of the seventh inning, striking out Camille Riera and Raina Hunter before Natalie Glover hit a ball down the right field line and Sydney Robson made another fine catch to end the game and a successful revival of the London Cup.

Round-robin scores

GB Under-19s 11, Ireland 3
GB Select 4, France 4
Ireland 5, Joudrs Czech U-19s 2
France 13, Joudrs Czech U-19s 1
GB Under-19s 2, GB Select 0
GB Select 14, Ireland 1
France 6, GB Under-19s 4
GB Select 16, Joudrs Czech U-19s 0
France 11, Ireland 1
GB Under-19s 16, Joudrs Czech U-19s 0

Placing Game:
Ireland defeated Joudrs Czech U-19s

Final
GB Under-19s 13, France 4

Final London Cup standings

1 – GB Under-19s
2 – France
3 – GB Select
4 – Ireland
5 -- Joudrs Czech U-19s

Individual awards

Awards were presented for the Best Batter, Best Pitcher and Tournament MVP.

The Best Batter award went to Melissa Mayeux from France.

The Best Pitcher was Beth Fleming from the GB Under-19s.

The Tournament MVP award was shared between two British centre fielders: Alana Snow from the GB Under-19s and Laura Thompson from GB Select.


Photos by Simon Mortimer and Liz Knight

Back to news listing


Comments

10
Jul

jose felix 22:30

please where can I see the box scores of all the games thank you for the inconvenience

18
Jul

Victor Lester Silva 21:13

Thank You