Thursday 31 August – Both British teams in the 2023 European Men’s Super Cup – the Stags and the Meteors -- lost on Thursday as the double-elimination playoff phase of the tournament got underway, and the luck of the draw has them scheduled to play each other on Friday, when one British team will send the other home.

Following completion of play in the initial round-robin groups on Wednesday night, the tournament has now divided into the top 12 teams playing to win the Super Cup and the bottom eight teams – including the Stags and Meteors – playing to win the Europe Cup.

Unusually for a WBSC Europe tournament, the format for these playoffs is double elimination, which means that the number of games you play and how far you get depends on whether you can keep winning.  One loss sends you down to the loser’s bracket; two losses sends you home.

On Thursday morning, when play was again delayed by rain at some of the tournament venues, both the Stags and the Meteors suffered losses that put them one game away from elimination.  The Stags lost 8-0 in six innings to the Dutch team DVH Amstelveen, and the Meteors lost 6-3 to the Croatian team MRKI Medvedi.

This means – weather permitting – that the Stags and the Meteors will play each other at 9.00 am on Friday.  One team will survive to play again on Friday afternoon, but the other will be out of the tournament.

Those who want to follow the fortunes of all the teams in the Super Cup and Europe Cup can do so on the WBSC Europe website.  

Here are some details on today’s games.

DVH Amstelveen 8, Stags 0

The lack of offense that has plagued the Stags throughout this tournament surfaced again on Thursday as they managed just two hits off Amstelveen pitchers Kazuki Ishizaki, who threw the first four innings, and Guido Silvert Suslovich, who pitched the final two.

For the Stags, Tomas Pokorny pitched into the fifth inning, and Ieuan Gale threw the last inning and a third.  The Dutch team only had seven hits, but were also the recipient of 11 walks and a hit-by-pitch, which is why they had baserunners in every inning and scored in every inning except the third.

The Dutch team only led by 2-0 after three innings, at which point there was a rain delay.  But three runs in the top of the fourth inning when play resumed began to take the game away from the Stags, and the Dutch added three more runs over the fifth and sixth innings to take the final score to 8-0.

Tom Russell had a two-out double for the Stags in the bottom of the third inning, but was left stranded, and Richard Oplustil opened the bottom of the fourth inning with a single to centre field but didn’t get beyond second base. 

Dutch pitchers struck out 12, while the Stags’ pitchers struck out four.

MRKI Medvedi 6, Meteors 3

The Meteors outhit their Croatian opponents by 6-3 in this game.  Both teams had one unearned run, as the Croatians committed two errors to one for the British team.  British starter Victor Elsner, who pitched the full seven innings, struck out 12; Vit Hlavenka, who pitched the full seven innings for the Croatians, struck out 10. 

So it was a bit of a mystery that MRKI Medvedi won the game by a score of 6-3, but the difference lay in the nine walks the Croatians received compared to four for the Meteors.  Four of the six Croatian runs were scored by players who reached base on a walk, and four of the six runs came in on wild pitches.

MRKI Medvedi took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning without the benefit of a hit, and they made the lead stand up throughout the game, though the Meteors twice came back to keep things close.

In the bottom of the second inning, Matt Tomlin singled, went to second on a groundout, stole third, and scored on an infield hit by Tom Kupczik to cut the Croatians’ lead to 2-1.

The Meteors scored two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to cut their deficit at the time to 5-3.  Vit Oralek walked to open the inning, scored on a Croatian error on Trey Feary’s sacrifice bunt, and Feary scored on another Croatian misplay.

But the Croatians added another run in the top of the sixth, and though the Meteors had baserunners in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings, they couldn’t cash them.  It was a frustrating loss that might have been a win.

Looking ahead

Now the two British teams, who face each other so often in the Great Britain Fastpitch League, will play on Friday morning on foreign soil, and only one of them will be left standing.