By Donald Morris-Vincent
Wednesday 15 June -- The second day of play for the GB Team at the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship in Colorno, Italy was another day of sharp contrasts – but this time, GB came away with two wins to move into second place in the standings.
GB’s morning game with Italy was a real struggle, with GB having to stage a three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning to post a walk-off 12-11 win.
Then, in the afternoon game, GB smashed Germany by 27-4.
If nothing else, this year’s European Men’s Slowpitch Championship is proving highly competitive, even if results are not always consistent. Yesterday’s opening games featured three close contests and today had GB beating Italy by a single run, the Netherlands beating Belgium by the same margin and Ireland beating Germany by only two.
Who will get to the Page Playoffs on Saturday – and who will emerge from those playoffs with the gold medal – is still very much up in the air.
GB 12, Italy 11
In a tense game of good pitching and well-hit singles, GB managed to save the day against a disciplined Italian side in the bottom of the seventh inning, with Robbie Studholme driving a single up the middle to score the tying and winning runs.
On a sunny and cloudless morning at the Campo Dorotea Sofia in Colorno, there was little action until the bottom of the second inning, when Dan Spinks singled to drive in Matt Tomlin and Tom Russell and Adam Hugill doubled to score Dan. An early 3-0 lead for GB.
Italy’s reply -- a single run top of the third inning -- was cancelled out when Mike MacDowell doubled and later scored on a fielding error in the bottom of the frame. That made it GB 4, Italy 1.
The pace started to pick up in the fourth inning, but we’re talking small ball rather than home runs.
Italy took the lead with four runs in the top of the inning on five singles and a double. But in the bottom of the inning Chris Yoxall, pinch-hitting for Josh Stanley drove in Aaron Thomas with a single, and Josh, now re-entering to pinch run for Chris, scored on the end of three consecutive walks by Italian pitcher Ernani Bisbano. Tom Russell then flew out to leave the bases loaded, but at least GB has regained the lead at 7-5.
Two singles and a two-out error in the top of the fifth inning allowed Alessandro Fanfoni to score and reduce the GB lead to 7-6.
But GB seemed to be pulling away in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two out, pinch-hitter Joe Grantham hit the only home run of the game, a deep drive to left field, and a double by Adam Hugill and a single by Robbie Studholme produced another run. Now it was GB 9, Italy 6.
Italy scored to cut the GB lead to 9-7 in the top of the sixth inning, but it could have been more if GB pitcher Dan Spinks hadn’t made a quick reaction catch of a line drive whistled back towards him for the final out.
However, GB failed to score in the bottom of the sixth inning and that encouraged the host Italians, who put together four runs from three singles, a double and a key GB error in the top of the seventh.
Suddenly, Italy had an 11-9 lead and the GB Team was staring a second successive defeat in the face.
Two runs were needed to tie as GB came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning, and three to win.
Tom Russell opened the inning with a single to right field and advanced to second base on Dan Spinks’s fly out. Kelvin Harrison, pinch-hitting for Aaron Thomas, walled. With runners on first and second Josh Smith, batting for Luis Arrevillagas, singled to centre field to score Tom and advance Kelvin to third, with Josh taking second base on the throw.
Ernani Bisbano then intentionally walked Adam Hugill, who was 3-for-3 on the day, to face Robbie Studholme, who also had three hits. Pick your poison.
Robbie singled up the middle to score both Kelvin and Josh and end the game, with GB winning by 12-11. The game was saved, the GB bench was jubilant, and the tournament outlook for GB got a whole lot brighter.
GB 27, Germany 4
Later in the day, like sleeping giants woken by the clarion call of pride, the GB team rose from their close win against Italy and hammered a German team still smarting from their narrow loss to Ireland earlier in the day.
What did the trick was an astonishing top of the fourth inning in which GB scored 22 runs.
Assistant Coach David Lee said, “We worked hard on finding the bats and it paid off.”
The game started off in a more normal fashion and was close for the first three innings with two old NSL foes, Roger Grooms for GB and Wolfgang Walther for Germany, pitching for their respective teams.
Great Britain opened with two runs in the top of the first inning, only for Germany to reply with three.
In the top of the second inning Roger Grooms and Robbie Studholme singled with two out. Matt Tomlin’s double to right field scored Roger and Robbie came in on an error. GB 4, Germany 3.
But singles by Kai Becker and Sven Burr and a sacrifice fly allowed Germany to tie the score in the bottom of the inning.
In the top of the third inning, Josh Smith beat out an infield hit, advanced on a fly ball out and scored on Dan Spinks’s hard-hit single to left field.
Germany failed to score in the bottom of the third inning -- but not for want of trying.
Adam Hugill made a diving catch in right field for the first German out, Josh Smith took a line drive at head height at third base for the second out and Kelvin Harrison made it three with a catch in shallow centre field. GB still led, by 5-4. There was no hint of what was to come.
But the top of the fourth was a huge half inning of hard and focused hitting that felt like it might never end. It included two inside-the-park home runs from Mike MacDowell, a three-run triple from Duncan Waugh and singles and doubles from pretty much everyone else. There were 19 hits in total, two walks, and four German errors, and GB scored a whopping 22 runs.
Now it was 27-4 to Great Britain and game over.
A shell-shocked German team went three up and three down in the bottom of the fourth inning and the game ended on the mercy rule.
Day 2 Scores and Standings
Scores on Day 2 of the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship were:
GB 12, Italy 11
Ireland 18, Germany 16
Netherlands 18, Belgium 17
GB 27, Germany 4
Ireland 13, Belgium 6
Netherlands 23, Italy 8
Standings at the end of Day 2 are:
Tomorrow (Thursday) morning, GB will take on Ireland at 9.00 am (GB’s third 9.00 am start in a row), Germany will play The Netherlands, and Italy will play Belgium, and that will finish the initial round-robin.
A playoff round will begin on Thursday afternoon and continue on Friday, and the top four teams that emerge from that playoff round will battle for the medals on Saturday.