Saturday 12 August – The British team H20 won the gold medal at the 2023 European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup in Sofia, Bulgaria on Saturday, beating Textown Tigers from the Netherlands in a close final.  But the Travelling Dodgers had to settle for fourth place.

In a low-scoring gold medal game that was well-pitched by Roger Grooms for H20 and Hans Kluck for Textown, H20 slowly built up a 10-5 lead over the first six innings, then had to keep their nerve to withstand a Dutch comeback in the top of the seventh that fell just two runs short at 10-8.

H20 will proudly come back to the UK with a European gold medal to set alongside the one they won in 2016 in Weiner Neustadt, Austria.

Meanwhile, the Travelling Dodgers came into Saturday with a chance to get to the final, but defeat at the hands of the Textown Tigers on Saturday morning sent them instead into the bronze medal game against the German team UCE Travellers. 

The Travellers have had some disappointing offensive games in this tournament, but saved the best for last, scoring 30 runs, while the Dodgers, who started slowly, could only manage half that total and went down by 30-15.

Here are some details from the medal games.

H20 10, Textown Tigers 8

Both teams had just one baserunner in the first inning of the gold medal game, and neither scored, and in the top of the second inning, Textown failed to convert singles by Lizzy Uytendahl and Petra van Heijst into a run.

H20 then broke the deadlock with five runs in the bottom of the second inning.

Joe Grantham led off the inning with a home run over the left field fence.  With one out, Matt Tomlin doubled, and with two out, a single by Roger Grooms, an error, a double by Josh Smith and a single by Kirstie Leach produced four more runs, three of them unearned, and gave H20 a 5-0 lead.

That lead was maintained in the third inning when each team scored three times and the score moved to 8-3.

Three singles, a double and an H20 error produced Textown’s three-spot, while singles by Joe Grantham and Roger Grooms, a double by Matt Tomlin and a Dutch error allowed H20 to counter with three of their own.

The fourth and fifth innings featured minimal offense and some good defense by both teams, and H20’s lead stayed exactly the same.

H20 scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, with Mike MacDowell’s 16th home run of the tournament accounting for one of them.  Textown failed to score in the fourth but managed two runs in the top of the fifth on two hits and two RBI groundouts.

Both teams had two baserunners in the sixth inning but failed to score, so H20 was still clinging to that five-run margin, at 10-5, as the Textown Tigers came to bat in the top of the seventh inning.

Hopes that the Dutch might go down quietly were quickly shattered.

Mike Rietvink led off for Textown with a single, and with one out, Rob Hassink drove Rietvink home and came all the way around to score on an inside-the-park home run to centre field.  It was now 10-7.

Soon, it was soon 10-8, as the next batter, Elisabeth Burggraaf, tripled and scored on a groundout.

But H20 now had that precious second out, and the next -- and last -- batter, Lizzy Uytendahl, went for Roger Grooms’s first pitch and popped out to second baseman Joe Grantham in foul territory behind first base.

H20 were the 2023 European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup champions, making it a memorable 11 months for the team after their first-ever National Championship title last September.

H20 captain Roger Grooms said, "An amazing week, and going undefeated was a special achievement for this team.  We were tested against a good Dutch team in the final, pushing us close, but we deserved the win.  From memory, we scored in all but six innings this week out of around 60 innings, which shows the consistency in this team one through ten in every line-up we put out.  I’m super proud: Nationals last year and now the Europeans. It’s been a super week!"

UCE Travellers 30, Travelling Dodgers 15

The UCE Travellers from Germany came out of the gates flying in the bronze medal game, scoring 13 runs in the first two innings and holding the Travelling Dodgers to just five runs over the first five innings of the contest.

Then, when it looked like there might be a hint of a comeback from the Dodgers, who scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Germans came in and scored 12 runs in the top of the seventh to reach their highest score of the tournament and ensure that there was no way back for the British team.

A final four runs for the Travelling Dodgers in the bottom of the seventh inning only brought the final score to 30-15.  The Dodgers, who had looked so powerful for much of the tournament, ran out of steam on the final day.

Tyler McGoveran and Nick Wingate again led the Dodgers’ offense in this game, with four hits and a home run each, while Macy Cortez added an inside-the-park home run.  But the Dodgers were too slow to get their attack going, and as in this morning’s game against the Textown Tigers, errors didn’t help.  The Dodgers committed seven of them to two for the Germans, and the result was that the Germans were the recipients of five unearned runs to the Dodgers’ one.

For the Germans, Max Zerhusen and his sister Clara both had home runs, and Max led the offense with five hits and six RBIs, while Wolfgang Walther had four hits to go with his well-pitched complete game.

The Travelling Dodgers, despite all their personnel problems leading up to their first appearance in the European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup because of WBSC Europe regulations, made a big impression in the tournament, and their leadoff hitter, Tyler McGoveran, is top of the tournament leaderboard in at-bats, hits, home runs, doubles, slugging percentage and RBIs, and second in batting average. 

Nick Wingate was third in at-bats, home runs, and hits, and second in runs and RBIs.

The Dodgers were just one game away from the final, but in the end can be proud of their fourth-place finish.

Scores and final standings

Scores in the various placing and medal games on the final day at the 2023 European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup were:

11th Place Playoff
Beveren Reapers 21, Berlin Hangarounds 6

9th Place Playoff
BSC Buffaloes 22, Dodder Dynamoes 12

7th Place Playoff
Batpak 11, Poperinge Frontliners 10

5th Place Playoff
Asko Linz Bandits & Witches 16, Waynes Pardubice 8

Bronze Medal Game
UCE Travellers 30, Travelling Dodgers 15

Gold Medal Game
H20 10, Textown Tigers-Eastpro 8

Final standings in the tournament were:

1 – H20 (Great Britain)
2 – Textown Tigers-Eastpro (The Netherlands)
3 – UCE Travellers (Germany)
4 – Travelling Dodgers (Great Britain)
5 – Asko Linz Bandits & Witches (Austria)
6 – Waynes Pardubice (Czechia)
7 – Batpak (Ireland)
8 – Poperinge Frontliners (Belgium)
9 – BSC Buffaloes (Bulgaria)
10 – Dodder Dynamoes (Ireland)
11 – Beveren Reapers (Belgium)
12 – Berlin Hangarounds (Germany)
13 – Akademiks Sofia (Bulgaria)