By Donald Morris-Vincent

The opening day of the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship at a hot and sunny Campo Dorotea Sofia in  Colorno, Italy was a tale of two mercies for the GB Men’s Slowpitch Team.  

What started out in the morning with a pummelling of Belgium ended up with Great Britain getting a bloody nose from the Netherlands.

The GB Team opened their account by beating Belgium in a 21-2 mercy rule win in the morning but succumbed to a nine-run second inning by The Netherlands in the afternoon to end up suffering the mercy rule themselves, losing by 17-2.

GB 21, Belgium 2

After Belgium went up and down in order in the top of the first inning, GB jumped ahead with 13 runs on 12 hits in the bottom of the frame, including a two-RBI home run from Dan Patterson and a three-run home run from Chris Yoxall, both to deep left field.

Although Belgium managed to score a run in the top of the second inning, they left two on base against GB Starter Roger Grooms and GB replied immediately with a Mike MacDowell home run that scored Robbie Studholme ahead of him.  Later in the inning, Josh Stanley tripled to centre field, scoring Chris Yoxall and Jo Grantham, and a total of six runs in the bottom of the second inning brought the score to 19-1.

GB made four substitutions prior to the third inning: Tom Russell for Dan Patterson in right field, Dan Spinks for Luis Arrevillagas at first base, Adam Hugill for Chris Yoxall at catcher and Kelvin Harrison for Mike MacDowell in centre field.

Belgium managed a single to right centre field in the top of the third inning but this was immediately erased on a 1-6-3 double play.

However, Belgium gained one more run in the top of the fourth inning, with a hit by Florian Van Acker scoring Tim Liekens, who had doubled to centre field.

GB added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, with Adam Hugill doubling to score Robbie Studholme and Joe Grantham doubling to score Adam.  That brough the score to 21-2.

With two out in the top of the fifth inning, Robin Daman singled through the right side for Belgium and Gerard Kauwenberghs singled to centre field.  But Belgian pinch-hitter Roel van Mogh flied out to left field to end the inning and the game on the mercy rule.

Netherlands 17, GB 2

On a hot afternoon with hints of a breeze, the first inning and a half were a quiet affair in this game, with only a Chris Yoxall single to attract attention,

That all changed with the bottom of the second inning, however, when the Dutch put up nine runs against GB pitcher Dan Spinks.  After Bas De Jong doubled down the left field line, a towering home run to deep right centre from Bryan Engelhardt scored them both.  From there a series of smartly hit singles and doubles plus a smattering of GB errors gained the Netherlands seven more runs before GB could register the third out.

With GB still to crack the scoreboard after three at-bats against Dutch pitcher James Otmar, the Netherlands scored two more runs in the bottom of the third on a deep home run to left field by Siegert Flaneur, and a double to right centre field by Renzo Van Kranaen, who eventually scored on Wouter Bollebakker’s sacrifice fly.  The Netherlands now led by 11-0.

A two-out inside-the-park home run down the left field line by Matt Tomlin in the top of the fourth inning broke GB’s duck, but though two walks and a single then loaded the bases, a groundout stranded all three runners.

The Netherlands continued to hit, and put the game away with four more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.  A two-out single from Jos De Jong was followed by a massive home run to deep left field from Bas De Jong and two more runs scored on a double, a single and a couple of errors.

A walk put Luis Arrevillagas on base in the top of the fifth inning for GB, with Adam Hugill pinch-running for him, but a 6-4-3 double play killed the rally -- though GB then managed a run on a ground rule double by pinch-hitter Dan Patterson and a single to left by Mike MacDowell.

GB failed to score in the top of the sixth inning and more smart hitting from Netherlands put two more runs on the board in the bottom of the frame.  GB were done and dusted on the mercy rule, with the final score standing at 17-2.

GB Assistant Coach David Lee was still bullish about the second game. “It was a tough loss,” he said, “but that should galvanise the players.  We’ll come back stronger.”

Scores and Standings: Day 1

Scores on Day 1 at the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship suggest that this could be a very competitive tournament:

GB 21, Belgium 2
Germany 18, Italy 16
Netherlands 14, Ireland 10
Netherlands 17, GB 2
Germany 18, Belgium 12
Ireland 18, Italy 15

Standings after Day 1 are:

Germany (2-0)
Netherlands (2-0)
GB (1-1)
Ireland (1-1)
Belgium (0-2)
Italy (0-2)

Today (Wednesday), GB will play Italy in the morning and will have a crunch game with Germany in the afternoon.