GB Women open Euros with key win over Greece

Sun 30 Jun 2019

By Bob Fromer

Ostrava, Czech Republic: 30 June – The GB Women’s Fastpitch Team has a new weapon this year – home run power – and it carried them to a 12-5 mercy rule win over Greece this morning in their opening game at the European Women’s Championship.

Four different players launched home runs off three Greek pitchers, accounting for eight of the 12 runs GB scored, and each home run came at a strategic time in what was a far closer game – at least for a while -- than the final score would suggest.
 

Back and forth

Greece took a 1-0 lead on two hits in the top of the first inning off GB starter Beth Fleming, but the GB offense put five straight hits together in the bottom of the inning against Greek starting pitcher Mia Marinakis: a single by Aubrey Peterson, a triple by Nerissa Myers and singles from Alicja Wolny, Amy Moore and Lauren Evans, good for three runs.  And GB seemed to be cruising after Alicja Wolny’s two-run home run over the fence in left centre field in the bottom of the second inning pushed them into a 6-1 lead.

But four Greek runs on four hits and a walk in the top of the third inning against Beth Fleming brought the score back to 6-5 and Greek tails were definitely up.

It seemed odds-on that GB would score more runs in the game, but that had to wait until the bottom of the fifth inning, after GB’s second pitcher, Georgina Corrick, was forced to wriggle out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, with one out, Katie Burge and Sydney Brown reached base on infield singles, and moved up to second and third when Aubrey Peterson bounced back to Greek relief pitcher Lauren Stavrou.

That brought GB second baseplayer Nerissa Myers to the plate with first base open, and in her previous at-bats Nerissa had blasted a triple and two hard-hit singles.  Greek supporters in the stands were shouting “Walk her!”, and the Greek coaches and players had a long conference in the circle before deciding to pitch to Nerissa after all.

It was a mistake that arguably decided the game.

Lauren Stavrou pitched carefully, keeping the ball away from Nerissa, and the count went to 3-and-1.  Then Stavrou slipped in strike two on the inside corner and thought maybe she could do it again for strike three.  Instead, the ball disappeared over the fence in right-centre field and GB had some breathing room with the score now 9-5.

Georgina Corrick certainly wasn’t mowing down a good Greek batting line-up, and had baserunners in each of the three innings she pitched.  But importantly, she kept the Greeks off the scoreboard, striking out four and making good pitches when she had to.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Greeks brought in their third pitcher of the game, Sophia Skerik, and the end came with unexpected suddenness.  Lauren Evans walked, Georgina Corrick lofted a home run over the fence in centre field, and then Chloe Wigington brought the game to a mercy rule end with a towering fly ball that soared over the fence near the left field line.

Altogether, GB had 17 hits in six innings, and left eight runners on base in addition to the 12 they scored: a convincing offense display.  Nerissa Myers was 4-for-4 with nine total bases and Alicja Wolny, in her first game for GB since 2015, had a single, a double and a home run.

In truth, GB went into this game not knowing quite what to expect frfom themselves, since they have had a week of training, first in the Netherlands and then here in the Czech Republic and Poland, but no scrimmage games to test themselves against live opposition after a number of countries declined invitations for pre-tournament games.

“It was good to play a real game after so much training,” Assistant Coach Liz Knight said afterwards.  “The bats have been really hot in training, and to see that carry over into a game was nice.”

Head Coach Rachael Watkeys said, “It was a great start, and I’m pleased we had a tough game in the end.  We hit with power – which is what we expected with the team we have this year – and everyone hit the ball hard up and down the line-up.  We have a few things to work on defensively, but overall I was very happy.”

Significance

The European Women’s Championship got under way today with 23 countries playing in initial round-robin pools of six – or in the case of GB’s Pool D – five teams.  This round-robin will take up the first two-and-a-half days of the tournament, and only two teams from each pool – eight teams altogether -- will advance to Championship playoff rounds.

So victory this morning over the team likely to be GB’s closest challengers in Pool D couldn’t have been more important. 

It puts GB in early charge of the group, and a win in their second game on Monday morning against Germany – not a game to be taken for granted – will make it virtually certain that GB will win Pool D and thus get easier teams to play in the second round.  That’s when the eight teams emerging from the four first-round pools will be whittled down to six teams guaranteed a place in the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier in the Netherlands from 23-27 July, along with South Africa and Botswana.

After that, succeeding rounds will be all about final placings, medals, and any psychological advantage that the top teams can accrue for the Qualifier.

Scores and standings

Below are the scores of games that were played on Sunday, and the resultant pool standings after Day 1:
 

POOL A SCORES
Czech Republic 15, Lithuania 0 (3 inns)
France 14, Belgium 0 (4 inns)
Sweden 2, Slovakia 1
France 19, Lithuania 0 (3 inns)
Belgium 2, Slovakia 1
Czech Republic 7, Sweden 0 (5 inns)

POOL A STANDINGS
France (2-0)
Czech Republic (2-0)
Sweden (1-1)
Belgium (1-1)
Slovakia (0-2)
Lithuania (0-2)


POOL B SCORES
Italy 41, Turkey 3 (3 inns)
Israel 9, Ukraine 1 (6 inns)
Spain 8, Austria 1 (5 inns)
Israel 15, Turkey 0 (3 inns)
Italy 11, Austria 0 (4 inns)
Spain 10, Ukraine 1 (5 inns)

POOL B STANDINGS
Italy (2-0)
Israel (2-0)
Spain (2-0)
Ukraine (0-2)
Austria (0-2)
Turkey (0-2)


POOL C SCORES
Russia 3, Denmark 2
Netherlands 19, Hungary 0 (3 inns)
Ireland 8, Poland 0 (5 inns)
Russia 27, Hungary 3 (3 inns)
Poland 7, Denmark 0 (5 inns)
Netherlands 13, Ireland 2 (5 inns)

POOL C STANDINGS
Netherlands (2-0)
Russia (2-0)
Ireland (1-1)
Poland (1-1)
Hungary (0-2)
Denmark (0-2)
 

POOL D SCORES
GB 12, Greece 5 (6 inns)
Germany 15, Switzerland 1 (4 inns)
Greece 15, Switzerland 4 (4 inns)
Germany 10, Croatia 0 (4 inns)

POOL D STANDINGS
Germany (2-0)
Great Britain (1-0)
Greece (1-1)
Croatia (0-1)
Switzerland (0-2)
 

This is the stage in a big European Championship where shockingly few games go seven innings, and you can get results like the 41 runs Italy scored on Turkey or the 27 runs that Russia ran up against Hungary.  Things will of course get better from the second round onwards, where the strong and weak teams alike are playing at the right level.


Looking ahead

The GB Women have the rest of Sunday off, apart from attending the Opening Ceremony in Ostrava this evening, but will have two games tomorrow (Monday), including a 10.00 am encounter in the small Polish town of Zory with Germany, a dangerous opponent.

After that, GB will finish the initial round-robin with what should be easier games against Croatia on Monday afternoon and Switzerland on Tuesday morning.

Reports on all GB games will be posted daily on this website.


Photos by Jason Lee

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