By Donald Morris-Vincent
Friday 17 June – Team GB came from behind for a hard-fought win over the Netherlands this morning at the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship in Colorno, Italy, then had an easier win over Ireland this afternoon. As a result, GB will be seeded #1 going into Saturday’s Page Playoff.
GB 21, Netherlands 15
Like Laurel and Hardy on a seesaw, this game teetered back and forth from inning to inning, with a marked rise in standards of play across the board. With Chris Yoxall, Josh Smith, Luis Arrevillagas, Kelvin Harrison and Dan Spinks all batting 1.000, this really was a game of ‘woke’ GB bats.
Nevertheless, GB, who had lost 17-2 to the Netherlands on the opening day of the tournament on Tuesday, found themselves trailing in this game by 15-13 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, and it took a massive eight-run rally in what turned out to be their last at-bat to turn the game in Britain’s favour.
Although the first inning was a quiet and scoreless affair, Bryan Engelhardt changed that quickly as the first batter for The Netherlands in the top of the second inning with a towering home run deep to centre field against GB starter Roger Grooms, who pitched the full game. This was followed by seven singles and a double, good for seven runs, and GB were wondering if this was going to be a re-run of Tuesday.
But a solo home run by Chris Yoxall and a two-run shot by Luis Arrevillagas in the bottom of the second inning, both to left field, put three runs on the board and cut the deficit to 7-3.
The Dutch immediately cancelled this out with three runs of their own in the top of the third.
But GB responded with five runs in the bottom of the frame and the Dutch knew they were in for a game.
There were two out and no one on for GB when Duncan Waugh kept the inning alive by singling to right field. Mike MacDowell’s double to left pushed Duncan to third and Chris Yoxall’s single scored them both. And the two-out rally wasn’t over: Josh Smith tripled down the right field line to score Chris, Tom Russell doubled to left to score Josh, and Luis Arrevillagas, having an excellent morning at the plate, doubled to left field to drive in Tom. It was now Netherlands 10, GB 8.
After that, the game went a bit quiet, with a single Dutch run over the next three half-innings bringing the score to 11-8 in their favour as GB came up in the bottom of the fifth.
Once again, it was Chris Yoxall with a key hit to get the rally started, a double down the left field line. Josh Smith’s hard single to left drove in Aaron Thomas, pinch-running for Chris, and Josh followed on behind after an error in left field.
Tom Russell then reached on a dropped fly ball and scored from second on Luis Arrevillagas’s single to left. Josh Stanley, pinch running for Luis, scored on Kelvin Harrison’s double, and Kelvin came home on an Adam Hugill sacrifice fly.
The damage was five runs, and they put GB ahead for the first time in the game at 13-11.
But the Dutch were certainly not finished. A mess of singles and doubles in the top of the sixth inning brought in four runs to switch the momentum and the lead back to The Netherlands at 15-13.
Games at the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship are timed, and time was beginning to run out as GB came up in the bottom of the sixth inning. So it was probably now or never, and GB made sure it was now with a stunning eight-run outburst that tipped the seesaw one last time.
Mike MacDowell and Aaron Thomas walked to begin the inning – an inauspicious start for the Dutch. And things got worse for them when a triple by Josh Smith score both runners to tie the game.
A single from Tom Russell then scored Josh, and more hits followed from Luis Arrevillagas, Kelvin Harrison, pinch-hitter Dan Spinks, Adam Hugill, Roger Grooms, and Robbie Studholme.
That flurry brought eight runs across the plate and put GB ahead by 21-15. After the next batter, Duncan Waugh, hit a double, no new inning was called and so was the game.
GB had avenged their loss to the Dutch on Tuesday, and if they could beat Ireland a couple of hours later, they would be in pole position for Saturday’s Page Playoff that would determine the Championship and the medals.
GB 20, Ireland 9
This game went six innings, and there was only one half-inning in which a team failed to score. That was Ireland, in the bottom of the fifth inning.
GB tended to score a bit more heavily than the Irish, but at the end of that fifth inning, GB’s lead was still only 14-8 and the game was certainly not done and dusted. However, six GB runs in the top of the sixth inning took the game away, and when Ireland could only respond with a single run in the bottom of the sixth, the game ended with GB ahead by 20-9.
Initially, it looked like this could be a repeat of the first round game between the two teams, in which GB prevailed by just a single run.
This time, GB got on the board quickly, racking up three runs in the top of the first inning. But Ireland came back to score two.
GB managed only one run in the top of the second inning. In the bottom of the frame, GB pitcher Dan Spinks started strongly, striking out Simon Lewis. But two singles and an infield error loaded the bases and an infield single by Colin McDonnell brought one run across for the Irish. However, Dan then engineered two fly ball outs, leaving three runners stranded and GB still ahead 4-3.
The top of the third inning didn’t start much better for GB than the second, with two quick fly ball outs. But consecutive singles put Tom Russell and Dan Spinks on base, Luis Arrevillagas singled to score Tom and Dan Patterson doubled to score Dan Spinks. Luis then scored on an error, and GB had three runs and a 7-3 lead.
However, a double and a rash of singles brought in three runs for Ireland in the bottom of the third and cut GB’s lead to 7-6.
After that, however, GB picked up the pace and the Irish scoring diminished.
A triple by Duncan Waugh, singles by Kelvin Harrison, Joe Grantham and Dan Spinks, a double by Luis Arrevillagas and a final single by Aaron Thomas brought in four GB runs in the top of the fourth inning and began to open a gap.
Ireland could only reply with two in the bottom of the fourth. It could have been more, but veteran Ken McCarthy flew out with the bases loaded and GB now led 11-8.
There were three more GB runs in the top of the fifth inning, with a two-run home run by Mike MacDowell and a ground-rule double by Luis Arrevillagas the key blows, and when Ireland failed to score in the bottom of the inning – the only goose-egg in the game -- the gap widened to 14-8.
GB then put the game away with their six-run outburst in the top of the sixth inning, during which the Irish changed pitchers -- Simon Lewis for Eoin O’Connor – to no avail.
The hits came from Aaron Thomas, Duncan Waugh, Mike MacDowell, Kelvin Harrison, Joe Grantham, Tom Russell and Dan Spinks.
A single run in the bottom of the sixth wasn’t enough for the Irish and the game ended GB 20, Ireland 9.
Ireland then played the Netherlands later in the afternoon and Ireland won the game by 20-11, reversing their group stage loss to the Dutch. But the Dutch will still be seeded #2 in the Page Playoffs based on overall results so far, with Ireland seeded third. This matters, because for the first and second seeds, a Page Playoff is double-elimination, but it’s single-elimination for the third and fourth seeds.
The fourth seed for the Page Playoff is Germany, who split their games today but came through based on their overall record So Belgium and Italy will play off on Saturday for fifth place.
Scores to date from today’s playoff round-robin games, which helped set up the Page Playoff for the top four teams plus the fifth-place game on Saturday, are:
GB 21, The Netherlands 15
Italy 7, Belgium 5
GB 20, Ireland 9
Italy 14, Germany 13
Ireland 20, Netherlands 11
Germany 16, Belgium 14
The final day
Saturday’s schedule will be as follows (all times are Italian time, one hour ahead of GB):
GAME 1 – 9.00 AM
Page Playoff 1 v 2 Game:
GB v Netherlands
GAME 2 – 11.00 AM
Page Playoff 3 v 4 Game:
Germany v Ireland
FIFTH PLACE GAME – 1.00 PM
Italy v Belgium
GAME 3 – 3.00 PM
Page Playoff Semi-Final:
Loser Game 1 v Winner Game 2
Winner Game 1 v Winner Game 3