Thursday 31 August – An exciting come-from-behind 4-3 win by the London Meteors over the Dutch team Vennep Flyers in the last game of the day was the highlight for the British teams at the European Men’s Super Cup in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the Meteors, playing in Group A, had lost to the Danish Team Stenlose Bulls and the Stags had dropped both their games in Group C against teams from Croatia and Czechia.

Rain in the morning delayed the start of play, and with a full slate of games to get through on all four fields in Haarlem, Nieuw Vennep and Amstelveen if the round-robin phase of the tournament was to finish on time, the WBSC Europe organisers introduced a time limit to some games.

The Stags were the first British team to take the field after the rain delay, and they failed to get a hit in losing by 4-0 in five innings to the Croatian team Span.

Next up were Meteors, taking on the unbeaten Stenlose Bulls from Denmark, and the Bulls scored eight runs in the second inning on the way to a 10-3 five-inning win.

The Stags’ second game was against the Czech team Locos Breclav, and again the British team failed to record a hit, going down 10-0 in four innings.

Finally, the Meteors played the Dutch team Vennep Flyers in a game that ended after midnight local time, and after trailing for most of the way, came up with a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning to grab a 4-3 win.

Following the completion of the opening round-robin, the top three teams from each group have gone forward to the Super Cup playoffs, while the bottom two teams from each group – including the Stags and the Meteors -- will play for the second level Europe Cup. 

The format for both competitions will be double elimination, running from Thursday through Saturday.

Below are some details from Wednesday’s games.

Span 4, Stags 0

The Stags were the victims of a no-hit pitching performance by Span starter Kristijan Belas and went down 4-0 to the Croatian team in a game that was time-limited to five innings because of rain that had delayed the start of play on Wednesday morning.

Leon Kfir pitched all five innings for the Stags, striking out nine Croatians, and kept the game tight over the first four innings, giving up just a single run in the bottom of the third on a double and a single in an inning where he otherwise struck out the side.

But with time running out, the Croatians put up three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, two of them unearned, to stretch their lead to 4-0.  The key blow was a two-run home run over the fence in centre field by Span second baseman Adrelito dos Passos, and time was called before the Stags could bat in the top of the sixth.

Kristijan Belas hit Leon Kfir with a pitch in the top of the second inning and walked George Young in the top of the fifth, and those were the only two baserunners the Stags could manage.  Belas only had six strikeouts, but induced a series of ground balls that were dealt with by the Croatian infield.

With their second game of the day scheduled against the Czech team Locos Breclav, this was probably the game that the Stags had hoped to win to get them to the top 12 and the Super Cup playoffs.  Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan.

Stenlose Bulls 10, Meteors 3

The undefeated Stenlose Bulls from Denmark scored eight runs in the bottom of the second inning against the Meteors, and that pretty much decided the game, though the Meteors staged a spirited and immediate comeback and scored three runs of their own in the top of the third inning.

Three home runs – two by Nicholai Andersen and one by Alexander Lorentsen – off Meteors starter Vit Oralek, who pitched a complete five-inning game, accounted for most of the Bulls’ runs in their eight-run outburst.

For the Meteors in the top of the third inning, singles by Luka Rilovic and Tarquin Karaitiana, walks to Darryl Herrman and Matt Tomlin, and two Danish errors allowed the British team to compile their three runs.

But two more runs for the Bulls in the bottom of the fourth inning, both driven in on a double by Anders Jorgensen, moved the score to 10-3, which was mercy rule territory with the fifth inning looming.

A walk and a Danish error gave the Meteors two baserunners in the top of the fifth inning, but neither was able to score before the third out brought the inning and the game to an end. 

Luka Rilovic had two hits for the Meteors from the leadoff position, but the team could only manage one other hit to go with five walks surrendered by two Danish pitchers, Mikkel Neilsen and Alexander Lorentsen, who had five strikeouts each.

Locos Breclav 10, Stags 0

For the second time on Wednesday, the Stags failed to record a hit, this time against the pitching of Luis Colombo-Perez for the Czech team Locos Breclav.  Colonbo-Perez  struck out nine and walked none in a four-inning mercy rule game.

Ieuan Gale was hit by a pitch leading off the bottom of the second inning, and Tom Russell reached on an error by the Czech shortstop with two out in the bottom of the third inning, and that was the sum total of the Stags’ baserunners.

Meanwhile, Locos Breclav scored four runs in the top of the first inning, four more in the second and two in the third against Stags starter Tomas Pokorny, though they failed to score against reliever Josh Peat in the top of the fourth inning, thanks to a well-executed 6-4-3 double play.

Meteors 4, Vennep Flyers 3

For five innings, this game was a pitcher’s duel between Victor Elsner for the Meteors and Wolfgang Walther for the Vennep Flyers, and at the end of five innings, the Dutch team held a 3-1 lead.

The Flyers had scored a run in the top of the first inning on a single by Myron Juaquin and a double by Glennsig Polonius.  They added two more runs in the top of the second inning when Victor Elsner lost the strike zone, walking four batters to force in a run, and then allowing a second run to score on a wild pitch.

After that, Elsner settled down, and the Meteors pulled a run back in the bottom of the fourth inning when Tarquin Karaitiana singled, stole second base, and came home on a clutch two-out single up the middle by Darryl Herrmann.

That’s how things remained until the Meteors staged their game-winning rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, not against Wolfgang Walther but relief pitcher Fransel Meyers.

Tsz Hei Kwok opened the inning for the Meteors by drawing a walk, and then stole second.  Tarquin Karaitiana struck out, but a single to left centre field by Kevin Stockford put runners on first and third.

Matt Tomlin then hit a bouncer to the left side of the infield and the throw home was just too late to get Tsz Hei Kwok, while Victor Elsner, running for Kevin Stockford, took third and Matt Tomlin made it to second while the Flyers were arguing the call at the plate.

Now the Meteors had the tying and winning runs in scoring position, but there they remained while a strikeout notched up the second out.

However, Tom Kupczik lined the first pitch he saw to right field to drive in both runners and give the Meteors a 4-3 lead.

The Flyers managed one baserunner in the top of the seventh inning when Brian Rapp reached on an infield hit with two out.  But left fielder Coenraad Forstine struck out swinging on three pitchers and the Meteors had their first win in the tournament, matching what the Stags had achieved on Tuesday.

Scores and standings

Scores from the final round-robin games played on Wednesday at the European Men’s Super Cup were:

Stenlose Bulls (Denmark) 6, Czechia Under-23s 2
Stenlose Bulls (Denmark) 10, Meteors (Great Britain) 3
Montpellier Barracudas (France) 4, Czechia Under-23s 3
Meteors (Great Britain) 4, Vennep Flyers (Netherlands) 3

Hurricanes (Denmark) 3, Magos Tenerife (Spain) 0
Hurricanes (Denmark) 9, Spectrum Prague (Czechia) 2
Magos Tenerife (Spain) 12, Hoboken Pioneers (Belgium) 3
Spectrum Prague (Czechia) 10, DVH Amstelveen (Netherlands) 1

Chicaboos (Belgium) 3, VSC Sweden 1
Span (Croatia) 4, Stags (Great Britain) 0
Locos Breclav (Czechia) 7, VSC Sweden 0
Span (Croatia) 5, Chicaboos (Belgium) 1
Locos Breclav (Czechia) 10, Stags (Great Britain) 0

Duerne Spartans (Belgium) 5, MRKI Medvedi (Croatia) 3
Painbusters Most (Czechia) 7, Rabbits (France) 1
MRKI Medvedi (Croatia) 5, Olympia Haarlem (Netherlands) 4
Painbusters Most (Czechia) 11, Duerne Spartans (Belgium) 9
Olympia Haarlem (Netherlands), 4 Rabbits (France) 0

Final round-robin standings following games played on Wednesday are:

Stenlose Bulls (4-0)
Montpellier Barracudas (3-1)
Czechia Under-23s (2-2)
Meteors (1-3)
Vennep Flyers (0-4)

Hurricanes (4-0)
Magos Tenerife (3-1)
Hoboken Pioneers (2-2)
Spectrum Prague (1-3)
DVH Amstelveen (0-4)

Locos Breclav (4-0)
Chicaboos (2-2)
Span (2-2)
Stags (1-3)
VSC Sweden (1-3)

Olympia Haarlem (3-1)
Painbusters Most (3-1)
Rabbits (2-2)
Duerne Spartans (1-3)
MRKI Medvedi (1-3)

Following the opening round-robin that was completed on Wednesday, the top three teams from each group have gone forward to the Super Cup while the bottom two teams from each group will play in the Europe Cup. 

The format for both competitions will be double elimination running from Thursday through Saturday.

Looking ahead

On Thursday, the Meteors will play MRKI Medvedi from Croatia, who finished last in Group D, at 9.00 am Dutch time, while the Stags will take on DVH Amstelveen from the Netherlands, who finished last in Group B, at the same time.

Who and when the British teams will play after that will depend on the results of those games.