GB Women top second-round group at Euros

Wed 3 Jul 2019

By Bob Fromer

Ostrava, Czech Republic: 3 July – The GB Women’s Fastpitch Team completed the second round at the European Women’s Championship with two more wins today to remain unbeaten and ensure a place in the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier.

The first of those wins was a tense and thrilling extra-inning 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic earlier today, a game that confirmed our place in the Olympic Qualifier and in which GB ace Georgina Corrick out-pitched Czech ace Veronika Petkova.  The story of that game has been on the website since this afternoon and can be found below.

This evening, GB played their final second-round fixture against Spain, which was essentially a dead rubber since GB (definitely) and Spain (almost certainly) were sure of going through to the next round and of playing in the Olympic Qualifier that will start on 23 July in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

So whereas the atmosphere had been electric in the game against the Czech Republic, the game against Spain was a low-key affair in which two tired teams played out the string, and the result was more or less as expected.

GB won the game 7-0 in five innings as Amie Hutchison pitched a four-hit shutout and got stronger as the game went on after a shaky start.

Meanwhile, the GB offense put up five runs in the bottom of the first inning, enough to settle the game, and added another run in the third inning.  In the bottom of the fourth, a solo home run over the wall in left centre field by Nerissa Myers brought up the potential mercy-rule margin of 7-0, and Amie Hutchison set the Spanish down in order in the top of the fifth, including two strikeouts, to make it so.


Looking ahead

GB will now join the Czech Republic, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and France in “Pool X” starting tomorrow – but GB’s wins against the Czechs and Spanish will be carried forward and GB will enter the pool with a 2-0 record (the Czechs will be 1-1 and Spain 0-2).

From the other side, the Dutch, the only other unbeaten team in the tournament, will enter Pool X at 2-0, followed by Italy on 1-1 and France on 0-2.

France have made the cut by virtue of a 7-6 win against Greece yesterday, and Spain are there, first because they beat out a strong Israeli team in the first round and had a strong 13-6 win over Ireland today.

Tomorrow (Friday), GB will play France at 2.00 pm and the Netherlands at 8.45 pm, finishing with a game against Italy at 6.30 pm on Friday.

At that point, the top two teams in the Pool X standings will go forward to the gold medal game on Saturday at 6.00 pm and the third and fourth-ranked teams will play the bronze medal game at 3.30 pm, since the ESF has abandoned the Page Playoff system.

All games on Friday and Saturday will be webstreamed with a multi-camera set-up on www.playo.tv.


Game details

Spain put their lead-off hitter, Candela Garcia, on base against Amie Hutchison in the top of the first inning via a single bounced over third base, but three infield outs followed as the Spanish were hitting Amie’s patented drop pitch into the ground.

The next two innings were more difficult, and the Spanish had more baserunners, but each time the infield defense bailed Amie out with well-executed double plays.

In the fourth and fifth innings, the Spanish went up and down in quick succession.

Meanwhile, GB had scored all the runs they were to need in the bottom of the first inning.

With one out, Aubrey Peterson walked against Spanish starter Ane Barandiaran, Nerissa Myers beat out a bunt single and Alicja Wolny slashed a line drive to left field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Aubrey.

Five straight singles then followed, by Lauren Evans, Amie Hutchison, Alana Snow, Olivia Lee and Katie Burge, and that, along with a double steal that led to Nerissa Myers pilfering home, brought in four more runs.

Spain brought Beatriz Parejo in to pitch in the second inning, and she had better luck, holding GB scoreless in the bottom of the inning.

In the third inning, a walk to Olivia Lee, a single by Sydney Brown and another double steal made the score 6-0, with Katie Burge running for Olivia Lee on the catcher-replacement rule with two out and scoring.

As noted above, Nerissa Myers’s home run in the fourth inning allowed the game to come to a merciful early close.


Reflections

Veteran European softball observers are saying that this is the best GB Team they’ve seen, and they’re probably right.  The mixture of young and veteran players, speed and power and pitching depth is something that no GB Team from the past would have quite been able to match.

The question now is how much farther the team can go, both here and in Utrecht.  GB has won seven straight games here, including the win against the Czechs, but the supreme tests against Italy and the Netherlands are yet to come.
 

GB v Czech Republic

A tense but thoroughly-deserved 2-0 win over the Czech Republic earlier today was the game that guaranteed the GB Women’s Team a place in the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier in the Netherlands later this month and the chance to win Europe's place in next summer's Tokyo Olympics.

“That was the first mission accomplished,” Head Coach Rachael Watkeys said after the game.  “Now we’re shooting for medals.”

Just as they did two years ago in the bronze medal game at the European Women’s Championship in Italy, Georgina Corrick for GB and Veronika Petkova for the Czech Republic hooked up in a classic pitcher’s duel that went to extra innings, and once again Georgina and GB prevailed.

Veronika Petkova is a fireworks pitcher, and the strikeout is her main weapon.  Today she racked up 17 of them in eight innings, while Georgina Corrick struck out only eight Czechs.  But Georgina was by far the more efficient pitcher, throwing only around 75 pitches in eight innings and giving up only two hits and no walks.  Meanwhile, in between the strikeouts, Petkova gave up six hits plus a hit batter and walk, and GB had far more scoring chances throughout the game.

But the strikeout is a great rally-killer, and despite GB’s chances, that’s why the score was 0-0 after seven innings. 

In the eighth inning, however, with Petkova possibly tiring, GB converted their tiebreak situation, scoring not just the obligatory one run but a crucial second as well, and the Czechs never got close to scoring their tiebreak runner or anyone else in the bottom of the eighth.


Chances

This was another great team effort, with GB playing almost flawless defense -- and centre fielder Aubrey Peterson made what might have been a game-saving play in the bottom of the sixth inning.  Czech pinch-hitter Kristina Hala singled to shortstop to open the inning and was replaced on first base by Eliska Thompsonova after a fielder’s choice out at second.  Czech lead-off hitter Veronika Klimpova then hit a little fly ball over second base that looked certain to drop for a hit – until Aubrey made a spectacular diving catch and got up to throw out Thompsonova trying to get back to first base.  That play fired up the GB Team and fans and may have demoralised the Czechs.

The only other scoring chance the Czechs had in the game was when Tereza Jackesova had sliced a one-out double down the left field line in the first inning.  But Georgina Corrick struck out the next two hitters swinging to end the threat.  Apart from those two innings, the Czechs went up and down in order.

Meanwhile, GB had runners on base in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings against Veronika Petkova.

The best chance came in the fourth inning, when Aubrey Peterson led off with a single to short, Alicja Wolny sliced her second single of the game to left field and both runners moved up on a wild pitch.  But Veronika Petkova recovered to throw great sequences to two of GB’s best hitters, Amy Moore and Lauren Evans, striking out both of them.

The same thing happened in the sixth inning, when Nerissa Myers walked with one out and Alicja Wolny was hit by a pitch.  Nothing daunted, Veronika Petkova carved up Amy Moore and Lauren Evans again for strikeouts.


The tiebreak

When the eighth inning and the tiebreak came, however, GB were in the best possible position: the final out in the seventh inning had been made by Katie Burge, their fastest runner, and now she started the eighth inning as the tiebreak runner at second base.

The time-honoured play is to bunt your tie-break runner to third, and Sydney Brown tried, but popped up the bunt, with Czech third baseplayer Veronika Klimpova making a fine catch in foul territory near the fence.  That gave the momentum to the Czechs, but GB took it back moments later when Aubrey Peterson put down a perfect bunt and beat it out easily for a hit.  Katie Burge took third, and Aubrey took advantage of the Czechs not paying attention to move up to second base.

That brought up Nerissa Myers, who sliced a fly ball into short left field.  In most other situations, a runner on third would never try to score in that situation, but Katie Burge is really quick and GB needed to make something happen.  Katie slid in just ahead of the throw, which was dropped in any case by catcher Tereza Kubicova, and GB had a precious run, with Aubrey Peterson moving to third.

Moments later they had the killer second run, as Alicja Wolny drove a ball to the hole between shortstop and third base for her third hit of the game and Aubrey Peterson scored.

Tereza Kubicova, the face of this tournament as she plays for the local club Arrows Ostrava and is on posters all over town, was the tiebreak runner for the Czechs to start the bottom of the eighth inning, but she never moved off second base.

Because GB had a two-run lead, the strategy of bunting the runner to third was out the window, and the Czechs had to find base hits.  But Ludmila Kucerkova hit a soft line drive to Nerissa Myers at second base and Lucie Petraskova struck out on three pitches – though there was a heart-stopping moment when she drove the one-strike pitch way down the right field line – and inches foul.  Finally, pinch-hitter Julie Coufalova hit an easy bouncer to Nerissa Myers at second base.

GB had overcome the Czechs and Veronika Petkova yet again, along with a raucous home crowd.

“This was the first time in the tournament we’ve faced a good team and a really good pitcher,” Hitting Coach Linda Derks said, “but we were still able to put enough pressure on her to win.”

Rachael Watkeys said, “We couldn’t have been in a better place when the tiebreak came.  But we played really well in a pressure game.  The defense plugged all the holes, Aubrey Peterson was spectacular on offense and defense, Alicja Wolny’s at-bats were fabulous and George threw really well.  It was another really good team effort.”

Scores and standings

The first Championship Playoff round – Pools E and F -- will be complete by the end of today, and the six teams that will advance to the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier will be known. 

Those teams will also advance to Pool X, while the two teams that finish at the bottom of Pools E and F will play for seventh place on Friday.

Here are today’s scores and final second-round standings:
 

POOL E SCORES
Great Britain 2, Czech Republic 0 (8 inns)
Spain 13, Ireland 6
Great Britain 7, Spain 0 (5 inns)
Czech Republic 4, Ireland 3

POOL E STANDINGS
Great Britain (3-0)
Czech Republic (2-1)
Spain (1-2)
Ireland (0-3)
 

POOL F SCORES
Netherlands 5, Greece 1
Italy 7, France 0 (5 inns)
Netherlands 7, France 0 (5 inns)
Italy 11, Greece 0 (4 inns)

POOL F STANDINGS
Netherlands (3-0)
Italy (2-1)
France (1-2)
Greece (0-3)

Results and standings from the consolation pools can be found on: http://competition.europeansoftball.org/2019/ostrava/schedule.php.


Photos by Jason Lee and the ESF

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