Great wins for GB Slowpitch over Dutch and Irish

Thu 18 Jul 2019

By Bob Fromer

Budapest, Hungary: 18 July – The GB Slowpitch Team had a brilliant win over the Netherlands this morning that took them into the European Slowpitch Championship playoffs undefeated, and then they knocked off the undefeated Irish this evening to give themselves a great chance to reach the gold medal game on Saturday.

The win against the Netherlands this morning in the final first-round pool game was based on a brilliantly-executed game plan that strangled the Dutch and resulted in a 19-4 GB victory.  A report on this game has been on the BSF website this morning and can be found below.

The win over the Irish this evening, in the first game for both teams in the Championship playoff round, Pool C, was a game of two parts.  GB dominated the first four innings and built up an 11-3 lead, but the momentum switched to Ireland over the last two innings and a four-run Irish rally in the fifth inning made the score relatively close. 

But that was the extent of the Irish uprising, and GB closed out a 13-8 win as darkness descended on the Antonia Morua Baseball Field.


State of play

The scores of today’s Pool C playoff games and the Pool C standings at the end of today show why GB is in the driver’s seat to reach the gold medal game, which will be played on Saturday by the top two teams in the final Pool C standings.  But nothing is yet guaranteed.

The ESF has abandoned the Page Playoff system and also disdains semi-finals, so it’s the standings that send teams to appropriate medal games.

POOL C PLAYOFF GAMES: THURSDAY
Belgium 16, Netherlands 6
Germany 20, Czech Republic 11
GB 13, Ireland 8

POOL C STANDINGS: AFTER THURSDAY
GB (3-0)
Ireland (2-1)
Germany (2-1)
Czech Republic (1-2)
Belgium (1-2)
The Netherlands (0-3)

Every Pool C team will have two games tomorrow (Friday), so these standings can certainly change.

Meanwhile, Consolation playoff games played today and Friday will set up games for seventh and ninth place on Saturday (see more at the end of this article).


Looking ahead

GB will play Belgium at 2.30 pm tomorrow, a team that surprised a lot of people – including themselves – with a playoff win today over the Netherlands.  So the Belgians could be confident and dangerous.

The final Pool C game for GB will be at 6.30 pm against the defending champions Germany, a re-run of the final from two years ago, and the team will be aware that the Germans spotted the Czechs a 6-0 lead today and roared back for an emphatic victory.

Nevertheless, GB has successfully met every challenge posed to them in the tournament so far, and is now the only undefeated team in the competition.

 

GB v Ireland

“If I had to give a cap or a gold star or something for this game,” GB Head Coach Stephen Patterson said afterwards, “it would have to go to Dan Spinks.”

For most of the game, with the exception of the fifth inning, Dan pitched almost perfectly to the game plan the coaches had devised for Ireland and hit his targets with incredible accuracy.

But pitching wasn’t his only contribution.  In the top of the first inning, when GB had only one run in, two outs, and two runners on, Dan drove a long double to centre field to score both runners and give GB a more substantial 3-0 early lead.

Dan walked and doubled in his next two at-bats, but in the top of the sixth inning, after Ireland had cut the GB margin to just five runs, he blasted a long home run over the fence in left field to add one more insurance run and put an exclamation point on the game.


Good start

GB’s three runs in the top of the first inning may have been capped off by Dan Spinks’s double, but they owed a lot to nervousness on the part of Irish starting pitcher Simon Lewis, who tried to nibble and ran up three-ball counts on six of the eight batters he faced, though only Amy Rice managed to draw a walk.

In the bottom of the first inning, Dan Spinks retired the dangerous Irish leadoff hitter Eric Kelly on a deep fly ball, and the Irish failed to score.

Both teams put up just a single run in the second inning, but in the top of the third, GB pulled away, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs.  A single by Chiya Louie, a double by Steve Hazard and a single by Amy Rice got things started, and later in the inning there were doubles from Kelvin Harrison and Robbie Studholme and singles by Jenny Ball and Aaron Thomas.

The GB offense rather subsided after that, scoring only two further runs over the final three innings, one thanks to an Irish error and the other the home run from Dan Spinks.  “We’ll need to talk about that,” Stephen Patterson said.

But for a while, it didn’t seem to matter, as Dan Spinks and the GB defense held the Irish to just single runs in the bottom of the third and fourth innings.  Fine defensive plays at key points by Steve Hazard and Aaron Thomas, and later by Kelvin Harrison and Amy Rice added to Irish frustration.
 

Irish rally

But in the bottom of the fifth inning, with GB ahead by 12-3, the Irish suddenly appeared to solve Dan Spinks, and they opened the inning with five straight hits, by Frank Geoghegan, Norma McIntyre, Simon Lewis, Julie Trundle and Brian Hehir, good for three runs, and a fourth run soon scored on a long sacrifice fly by Sal Rizo.

But the inning ended on a rally-killing play when right centre fielder Kelvin Harrison got a force out at second on a single by Emma Kilbride.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, after a lead-off double by Eric Kelly and a one-out RBI single by Frank Geoghegan, a great grab by Amy Rice at first base on a smash by Norma McIntyre took the sting out the situation and there was no further scoring by the Irish.

“England versus Ireland games will always be tense,” Stephen Patterson said, and this one was.  But I was impressed with the Irish: they had a game plan as well and they’re a class side.”

If GB and Ireland meet again in this tournament, both teams will hope it’s in the final.

 

GB v Netherlands

GB swept past the Netherlands by 19-4 this morning with a brilliant and mature display that took the team into the playoff round undefeated.

The game was played on the tiny Budapest Field with a three-home run limit, which was potentially constraining for two teams that depend on power, but GB adapted almost perfectly to the conditions while the Dutch failed to do the same.

GB pitcher Dan Spinks tied Dutch hitters in knots over the whole of the five-inning game, supported by a defense that again played errorless softball.  The Dutch scored single runs in the first, second and third innings on wasted solo home runs and one in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly, but GB’s defensive strategy and Dan’s accurate pitching held a team that had so far averaged 16 runs a game to just four hits plus one walk.

GB, by contrast, had 16 hits, and though they had some accidental early home runs and only scored five runs in the process, they put on a masterclass in hitting single after single through or over the Dutch infield, especially in the fourth and fifth innings when they scored seven runs in each frame and moved the game out of reach.

And it has to be said that three Dutch pitchers didn’t help their cause by walking 10 very disciplined GB hitters over the course of the game, which made life a lot easier for the GB offense and cost the Dutch a bunch of runs.

GB Head Coach Stephen Patterson was grinning like the Cheshire Cat after this performance, and credit has to go, not only to the players for nearly flawless execution, but to Stephen and Assistant Coach David Lee for devising a strategy to deal with the short field and making sure the players knew how to deliver it.

“We talked a lot about the adjustments we needed to make from playing on the big field to this one, and we did it perfectly,” Stephen said.  “We’d worked in practice and in tee work on how to just get base hits, and the work paid off.

“On defense, we planned to be aggressive,” Stephen added.  “We played the outfield in and completely surrounded them, and Dan kept the ball low so they had to extend.  They had nowhere to hit.”

And when the Dutch did manage to hit the ball hard and low, which had to be the aim, the GB defense had answers.  Matt Tomlin made some fine plays on sharply-hit drives to second base, and in the fourth inning Robbie Studholme threw out former Dutch Fastpitch Team star Debbie Connor at first base on what should have been a single to left field.

Game details

Having said all of the above, it took GB a while to break things open and make the game safe.

GB was the visiting team and put up four runs in the top of the first inning on two-run home runs that Steve Hazard and Mike MacDowell probably didn’t mean to hit.  It might have been more, as Dutch starter Robin Jansen de Vries walked three in the inning, but GB left the bases loaded.

In the GB second inning, only one run was added, on a line drive home run to left field that Robbie Studholme certainly didn’t intend.  Jenny Ball and Steve Hazard followed with singles, but both were left on base.

In the top of the third inning, GB didn’t score at all, and Amy Rice was out for hitting the ball over the fence.

Meanwhile, the pattern was exactly the same for the Dutch in each of their first three innings: a solo home run and three outs.

So the score was only 5-3 to GB after three innings of play, and nothing was decided.

But in the top of the fourth inning, GB patience at the plate began to be rewarded as the first seven batters reached base on singles deliberately placed through the Dutch infield by Robbie Studholme, Jenny Ball, Chiya Louie, Mike MacDowell and Claudine Snape, plus walks to Steve Hazard and Dan Spinks.

After Amy Rice broke the spell by flying out to left field against new Dutch pitcher Rinaldo James, RBI singles by Matt Tomlin and Ruth Macintosh completed a seven-run inning.

GB repeated the trick in the top of the fifth inning against James and a third Dutch pitcher, Ren Versteeg.  This time, Steve Hazard, Dan Spinks and Robbie Studholme had the singles, there was a Dutch error, and Jenny Ball, Mike MacDowell, Claudine Snape, Matt Tomlin, Ruth Macintosh and Steve Hazard drew walks.  The result was seven more runs, and when the Dutch went down in the bottom of the fifth without scoring, the mercy rule ended the game.

For GB, it was an almost perfect game, and a great result.

 

Consolation playoff scores and standings

Below are the results of Consolation playoff games played this afternoon, plus Consolation pool standings (Pool D).

CONSOLATION PLAYOFF GAMES: THURSDAY
Italy 14, Hungary 1
Serbia 10, Bulgaria 5

POOL D STANDINGS: AFTER THURSDAY
Austria (2-0)
Bulgaria (1-1)
Serbia (2-1)
Italy (1-1)
Hungary (0-3)


Photos by Pete Saunders

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