Two more wins for GB Slowpitch at the Euros

Wed 17 Jul 2019

By Bob Fromer

Budapest, Hungary: 17 July – The GB Slowpitch Team had a tense, important and well-executed 15-9 win over the Czech Republic this morning and a 30-0 demolition of Hungary this evening on Day 2 at the 2019 European Slowpitch Championship.

The results leave GB undefeated at the top of Pool A, but the team will face an interesting day tomorrow (Thursday).

In the morning, GB will play their final first-round pool game against the Netherlands at 10.25 am on the tiny Budapest Field, where two power-laden teams will try to use their three allowed home runs strategically and be disciplined about keeping the ball in the park.

Win that game, and GB will top Pool A and take a 2-0 record forward to the second round, with the Czechs finishing second (taking a 1-1 record forward) and the Dutch third (taking an 0-2 record forward).  This will be an optimum scenario that will give the GB Team a strong chance of getting to the gold medal game on Saturday.

Lose to the Dutch, however (with the Czechs bound to beat Hungary in their last pool game), and it will mean that GB, the Czechs and the Dutch will all be 4-1, and runs conceded in games among those teams will be needed to sort out the order in which they finish.  More to the point, each team will take a 1-1 record forward to the next round. 

That is a situation that GB will wish to avoid as they plan their strategy for a tricky game against the Dutch.

Meanwhile, Pool B is already decided, with the undefeated Irish topping the group and Germany and Belgium going through to Championship playoffs with them.  Carrying results forward means Ireland will go into the second round with a 2-0 record, while Germany will be 1-1 and Belgium 0-2.

And if GB can defeat the Netherlands in the morning and win Pool A, their first game in the second round will be a showdown meeting with the Irish at 6.45 on Thursday evening.

But all that lies ahead.  A report on GB’s excellent and exciting game with the Czech Republic has been on the BSF website since this morning and can be found below.  Meanwhile, here is what happened against Hungary.

GB v Hungary

There’s not much to say about games that finish 30-0. 

GB starter Matt Tomlin gave the Hungarians only five singles and a walk in four innings, there was errorless defense behind him and the Hungarians only managed to get a single runner as far as third base.

The Hungarians, in their first appearance in a European Slowpitch Championship, have played some exciting games in the tournament, holding the Netherlands to just a 13-8 win, and losing by only 22-19 to Serbia and 11-10 to Austria.  Hopefully, that will encourage them to come back even when they’re not hosting the event.  But GB were out of their league.

The British team scored eight runs in the bottom of the first inning, five more in the second inning and then 17 runs in what would have seemed an endless third inning for Hungary, with 12 GB hits to go with five walks, two pitching changes and four Hungarian errors.

Matt Tomlin, Steve Hazard, Amy Rice and Kelvin Harrison had three hits each out of a total of 24 hits sprayed to all corners of the huge Antonia Morua Baseball Field where GB played both their games today.

Chris Yoxall had GB’s only home run (pictured below), but nine of GB’s hits went for extra bases.

“We all kept going and did what we had to do,” outfielder Mike MacDowell said after the game, “and it sets us up nicely for tomorrow.”


GB v Czech Republic

The GB Team took an important step this morning towards winning Pool A and putting themselves in great shape for the playoffs with a 15-9 win over the Czech Republic.

This was a tense, absorbing game that went back and forth and was tied at 9-9 when GB came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning.  But GB continued to pump out base hits, the Czechs got a little sloppy on defense, and a six-run outburst decided the game. 

There was time for one more inning (games here are timed to no new inning after 75 minutes), but the Czechs, who had scored in each of the first four innings, went down quietly in the top of the fifth, thanks mainly to a fine 5-4-3 double play (Chiya Louie to Duncan Waugh to Amy Rice).


New start

This morning’s game against the Czechs was GB’s first on the spacious Antonia Morua Baseball Field, where the fences are at 300 feet and there is a massive amount of space to cover in the outfield and in foul territory.  On this kind of field, even four outfielders look very far apart, and singles routinely become doubles if the batter has any speed. 

Yet the fences can still be cleared by the bigger hitters, so the field provides a fair test of both offense and defense.

“We all felt that this was the real start of the tournament,” Head Coach Stephen Patterson said afterwards, “playing good opposition on a proper field.”


Back and forth

It was clear from the start that this felt like a big game for both teams, and the Czechs set out their stall in the top of the first inning against GB starter Dan Spinks, spraying singles and doubles into those big outfield spaces and putting up four runs on five hits.

The big blow was a two-run double driven over the head of Robbie Studholme in left field by Czech Republic and Chromies’ player Misha Sulcova.

But GB weren’t fazed at falling behind for the first time in the tournament and responded with four runs of their own in the bottom of the first.

Stephen Patterson had stacked his line-up with power hitters, but there is more than one way to get a home run, and lead-off hitter Robbie Studholme drove a pitch to the fence in left centre field and tore around the bases before the Czechs could get the ball back to the plate.

Then, with one out, Chris Yoxall tripled down the left field line, Amy Rice singled him home and Steve Hazard hit a high fly ball over the fence in left centre field to tie the score.

In the second inning, the Czechs scored one run and GB scored two, on RBI hits by Chiya Louie and Chris Yoxall, and Dan Spinks and the GB defense held the Czechs to just one more run in the top of the third inning that tied the game at 6-6.

In the bottom of the third, GB took a 9-6 lead on singles from Steve Hazard, Dan Spinks, Kim Hendry and Robbie Studholme, plus a huge triple by Mike MacDowell and an error by Czech shortstop Jakub Prochazka.

Mike MacDowell, cunningly tucked down at the bottom of the order in the #9 position, had a double, two triples and three RBIs in three at-bats, and made sure there was no relief for Czech pitcher Tomas “Wayne” Rambousek anywhere in the GB line-up.

But the Czechs came back and tied the game one last time in the top of the fourth inning. 

With one out, Josef Kolacek and pinch-hitter Helena Novotna singled, and that brought the scary Jakub Prochazka to the plate, who had batted 1.000 for the Czechs in last year’s Softball World Series in the UK.

Dan Spinks pitched carefully and took the count to 2-1.  But the next pitch got too much of the strike zone and it was gone the moment Prochazka hit it.


The decider

At that point, a fascinating game was still anyone’s to win, though GB had the distinct advantage in a timed game of being the home team.

And as things turned out, the bottom of the fourth inning was to prove decisive.

Chris Yoxall had started the game at second base and had produced a triple and a double in two at-bats, but had then been replaced by Duncan Waugh to give the defense a bit more range and the offense a bit more speed.  And now Duncan started the bottom of the fourth by turning a hit to right field into a double.

Amy Rice walked and Steve Hazard singled to drive in a run, but then two force plays by the Czech defense recorded two quick outs at the cost of just one more run.  A third out at that point might have given momentum back to the Czechs.

But Vicky Chapman stroked a clutch single up the middle and Mike MacDowell drove in two runs with a triple down the right field line, then scored himself when the Czechs threw the ball away trying to catch him off the bag at third.

And Czech defensive woes continued, with Kim Hendry the beneficiary.  First, the Czech catcher dropped a pop-up behind home plate, then Jakub Prochazka threw wildly past first base on Kim’s ground ball to short.

That was to cost the Czechs a final run, as Robbie Studholme doubled Kim home to make the score 15-9.

Sensing the game was up, the Czechs went down quietly, as described, in the top of the fifth inning, and GB sent three batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth without scoring, at which point time expired.


Consistency

This was a game between two good teams, but GB had more consistency on offense, racking up 17 hits to 10 for the Czechs.

Unusually, it wasn’t the women who decided the outcome, as there were just four hits by women on each team.  On this occasion, GB’s men outgunned the opposition, with Robbie Studholme, Steve Hazard and Mike MacDowell getting three each.


Scores and standings

Below are the scores and standings after Day 2 of the European Slowpitch Championship.  As noted above, Teams in Pool B have finished their games and the table below is their final standing, but each team in Pool A has one game to play on Thursday morning.

POOL A SCORES: DAY 2
Netherlands 22, Serbia 4
GB 15, Czech Republic 9
Austria 11, Hungary 10
Czech Republic 26, Serbia 11
Netherlands 18, Austria 4
GB 30, Hungary 0

POOL A STANDINGS
GB (4-0)
Czech Republic (3-1)
Netherlands (3-1)
Serbia (1-3)
Austria (1-3)
Hungary (0-4)

POOL B SCORES: DAY 2
Germany 16, Bulgaria 15
Belgium 12, Italy 10
Ireland 20, Bulgaria 4
Germany 24, Belgium 15
Ireland 20, Italy 12

POOL B STANDINGS
Ireland (4-0)
Germany (3-1)
Belgium (2-2)
Bulgaria (1-3)
Italy (0-4)


Photos by Pete Saunders

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