GB Women fight hard but lose to Czechs and Dutch

Thu 20 Sep 2018

By Bob Fromer

Hoofddorp, Netherlands: Thursday 20 September – The GB Women’s Fastpitch Team played well and fought hard today at the European Super 6 tournament against two of the top teams in Europe, and had two fine performances from their starting pitchers.  But both games still were lost.

This afternoon, GB’s Amie Hutchison went toe-to-toe with the undefeated Czech Republic and their ace pitcher Veronika Petkova.  Both pitchers threw complete games, and Amie was unlucky to come out on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline.

This evening, 17-year-old Hannah Edwards controlled the European champion Netherlands for four innings, and GB came back to tie the game at 3-3 in the top of the fifth.  After that, however, the game swung towards the Dutch, who eventually won by 8-3.

Both games were encouraging given that the GB Team here in Hoofddorp is missing a number of key players from its Senior Women’s Team and is playing this tournament with a squad of only 12 players.  Performances like today’s suggest that there is both quality and depth in the GB programme that will serve the team well when the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier comes around in a year’s time.

GB now has one game left in the Super 6 round-robin, at 1.00 pm tomorrow (Friday) against Russia.  A win will put Great Britain into the bronze medal game on Saturday afternoon.  A loss will mean that GB will play off for fifth place, probably against Greece.  Going into tomorrow’s game, both GB and the Russians have 1-3 records.

Meanwhile, at the top end of the standings, the final game of the round-robin will pit the Netherlands against the Czech Republic at 6.00 pm on Friday and will hold the key to who will play in the gold medal game.  A win for the Czechs, and they will play Italy in the final.  A win for the Dutch, and the three teams will sit on identical records, with runs conceded among them the decider.

The Czechs will pin their hopes on Veronika Petkova to hold off the Dutch and prove that the balance of power in Europe is changing.
 

Netherlands 8, GB 3

This game started fairly quietly, and was scoreless after two innings, with Hannah Edwards starting her first game in the tournament against Dutch veteran Ilona Andringa.

GB had a chance in the top of the first inning when lead-off hitter Sydney Brown hit a routine pop fly to Dutch shortstop Feline Poot, who dropped it, with Sydney sliding headfirst into second base just ahead of the throw.  One out later, Nerissa Myers walked.  But Amie Hutchison struck out and Steph Pearce hit a soft line drive to second base, and the Dutch escaped.

Hannah Edwards retired the Dutch in order in the bottom of the first inning, and navigated some trouble in the bottom of the second by retiring Laura Wissink on a pop-up and striking out Feline Poot with two runners on base.

Then, in the top of the third inning, GB took the lead.

With one out, Lauren Evans dropped a single into left field and Nerissa Myers beat out a perfect bunt to give GB runners on first and second.  Amie Hutchison then drove a double down the left field line to score Lauren and now there were runners on second and third, still with just one out.

Another couple of runs here, and the Dutch might have got nervous, but Steph Pearce and Hannah Edwards couldn’t get the key hit that GB needed.

The price for this was paid immediately, in the bottom of the third inning, when the Dutch tied the game.  A lead-off walk to Chantal Versluis got things started, and Chantal then stole second, went to third on a single by Jessie van Aalst (who was picked off rounding first base) and scored on a single by Maxime van Dalen.

The Dutch took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, with some help with the GB defense.  Virginie Anneveld opened the inning with a line drive single to right field, and when Emmilee Blowers tried for the catch, the ball got by her and rolled all the way to the fence.  That fence is 270 feet from home plate, and Anneveld had no trouble rounding all the bases. 

Weis Ligtvoet was then hit by a pitch, stole second, was sacrificed to third and scored on an infield chopper on which shortstop Sydney Brown couldn’t come up with a difficult short hop.

The crowd might have thought that the Dutch were now on their way to an easy win.  But GB fought back in the top of the fifth inning to tie the score at 3-3 and put Dutch starter Ilona Andringa out of the game.

Sydney Brown led off by pushing a sharp single past Dutch third base player Virginie Anneveld and moved up to second on Lauren Evans’s sacrifice bunt.  Nerissa Myers, who had three hits and a walk in her four at-bats, then singled to left field to drive in Sydney.

And with two out, catcher Steph Pearce drove a clutch base hit up the middle to score Nerissa.

At that point, the Dutch changed pitchers, bringing in Lisa Hop, and she got Hannah Edwards to ground out to second base to end the inning.

That was the highwater mark for GB, however, as the Dutch scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning off a tiring Hannah Edwards and reliever Carling Hare on four singles, a hit batter and three stolen bases.

A final Dutch run came in the bottom of the sixth inning against Amie Hutchison, back on in relief after pitching a complete game against the Czechs earlier in the day.

There was some final GB resistance in the top of the seventh inning against the Netherlands’ second reliever, Marjolein Merkx.  Lauren Evans drew a one-out walk and Nerissa Myers slashed another single into left field.  But Amie Hutchison and Steph Pearce failed to move the runners.


Czech Republic 2, GB 0

This game was a brilliant pitcher’s duel between GB’s Amie Hutchison and the pitcher that many consider the best in Europe right now, Veronika Petkova of the Czech Republic. 

The difference in the game was just one inning – the top of the sixth -- in which an otherwise excellent GB defense cracked.

The result was two Czech runs – one of them unearned – and 2-0 was the final score as the Czechs won their fourth straight game at the Super 6 and GB lost their second game after their opening win against Greece on Tuesday.

Both pitchers threw complete games, but with a very different approach.  Veronika Petkova throws very hard with excellent location and struck out 11 GB hitters.  Amie Hutchison has less velocity, but specialises in keeping the ball down, and though Amie had just one strikeout, 12 Czech batters were out on ground balls to the GB infield.

Over the first five innings, the game was completely even.  The Czechs had three hits and a walk off Amie Hutchison and GB had two hits, a walk and a hit batter off Veronika Petkova.  Both pitchers had faced just two batters over the minimum thanks to each team executing a double play.

GB’s best chance to score came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Lauren Evans led off by bouncing a single past Czech second base player Tereza Jackesova and Nerissa Myers punched a single through the middle.  After trying and failing to bunt the runners over, Amie Hutchison swung away and hit the ball hard – but right to Veronika Klimpova at third base, who stepped on the bag and threw to first for a rally-killing double play.  Steph Pearce then grounded out to end the inning.

The first serious threat by the Czechs followed in the top of the fifth inning.  With one out, Jana Furkova reached on an infield single and Julie Coufalova singled to left field.  But Furkova was thrown out by catcher Steph Pearce when she tried to steal third on a pitch in the dirt, and Amie Hutchison threw a called third strike past Eliska Thompsonova – her only strikeout -- to end the threat.

The decisive inning was the top of the sixth, and it began, as difficult innings often do, with a lead-off walk, in this case on a 3-2 pitch to Czech catcher Sabina Borecka. 

That brought up the top of the order, and the Czechs immediately turned to the short game.  GB failed to get an out when Veronika Klimpova’s sacrifice bunt was juggled by Steph Pearce, and then Tereza Jakesova beat out a bunt down the third base line to load the bases with no one out. 

That brought up shortstop Tereza Kubicova, who hit a line drive to Laura Thompson in centre field for a sacrifice fly.  A second run scored moments later as GB chased the other runners advancing on Laura’s throw home, and a throw in the infield went awry.

Worse might have followed, but Amie Hutchison got the next two batters to ground out to Chloe Wigington at third base.

Against Veronika Petkova, those two runs were going to be a mountain to climb, but GB had a go in the bottom of the sixth inning as Aubrey Peterson led off by punching a single over the left side of the infield.  But Sydney Brown struck out, Lauren Evans flew out to right field, and Petkova walked Nerissa Myers more or less intentionally before striking out Amie Hutchison to end the inning.

GB had one last baserunner when Chloe Wigington was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, but pinch-hitter Hannah Edwards went down swinging and Emmilee Blowers took a called third strike on the outside corner to end the game.

This was the second straight game in which GB had failed to score, but the approach against Veronika Petkova was much more aggressive and successful than the day before, when GB had gone down tamely on just one hit to Italy’s Ilaria Cacciamani.  And the GB offense was even better a few hours later against the Netherlands.

As for Amie Hutchison, she threw a tremendous game against a very good team, and was unlucky that her opposite number was the Czech Republic’s outstanding ace.

Scores

Scores over the first three days in the Softball Super 6 are:

TUESDAY
Czech Republic 3, Italy 2
GB 7, Greece 3
Netherlands 13, Russia 1 (5 inns)

WEDNESDAY
Czech Republic 5, Russia 4
Italy 6, GB 0
Czech Republic 6, Greece 5
Italy 4, Netherlands 3 (* inns)

THURSDAY
Russia 7, Greece 2
Czech Republic 2, GB 0
Italy 8, Russia 0 (5 inns)
Netherlands 8, GB 3

Standings

Round-robin standings after Day 3 are:

Czech Republic (4-0)
Italy (3-1)
Netherlands (2-1)
GB (1-3)
Russia (1-3)
Greece (0-3)

The final round-robin standings will determine the playoff match-ups on Saturday: the top two teams will play for the gold medal, the middle two teams for the bronze medal and the bottom two teams for fifth place. 

All games from the Super 6 are being webstreamed live, with excellent production by Playo.tv, and are also available on demand on www.baseballsoftball.tv.

The full schedule and all the results can be viewed on the ESF website: http://competition.europeansoftball.org/2018/hoofddorp/schedule.php.

Photos by Paul Stodart

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