Friday 1 September – The Stags edged the Meteors 3-2 in the all-British clash at the European Men’s Super Cup on Friday morning, putting the Meteors out of the tournament. But the Stags also went out a few hours later when they lost by 7-0 to the Duerne Spartans from Belgium.
For both the Meteors and Stags, today’s losses were their second in the double-elimination playoff round for the eight teams playing in the lower half of the tournament and hoping to win the Europe Cup. The 12 teams in the upper half are also engaged in double-elimination playoffs leading to the Super Cup.
Those who want to follow the fortunes of all the teams remaining in the Super Cup and Europe Cup can do so on the WBSC Europe website.
For the Stags, there will be the satisfaction of beating their rivals from the Great Britain Fastpitch League, staying alive in the Men’s Super Cup for a few hours longer, and recording two wins in the tournament to the Meteors’ one.
Both teams won one of four games in their opening round-robin groups. The Stags beat VSC Sweden by 8-2 on Tuesday and the Meteors came from behind to record a 4-3 win over the Dutch team Vennep Flyers on Wednesday.
Here are the details from today’s games.
Stags 3, Meteors 2
Both teams sent their #1 pitchers out for this do-or-die game, and Leon Kfir for the Stags and Victor Elsner for the Meteors both pitched the full seven innings.
Leon Kfir gave up two runs to the Meteors, both earned, on just three hits, while striking out seven and walking three. Victor Elsner gave up three runs to the Stags, two of them earned, on just four hits, while striking out 14 -- but he also walked seven, hit a batter, and threw five wild pitches.
Victor Elsner obviously has great stuff, and his strikeout totals throughout the tournament have been high – he is currently third on the tournament leaderboard with 50 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. But he also leads the tournament in walks, and in this game walks and wild pitches were the Meteors’ downfall.
The Stags scored all three of their runs in the first two innings, and all three runs scored on wild pitches, two of them by players who had drawn walks.
In the top of the first inning, Tom Russell opened the game for the Stags with a single through the left side but was out at second on a fielder’s choice that put Josh Peat on first base instead. Richard Oplustil then drew a walk, during which Josh stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. The second out came on a strikeout, but then Will Sinclair also drew a walk, during the course of which Josh Peat and Richard Oplustil both scored on wild pitches to give the Stags a 2-0 lead.
In the top of the second inning, George Young walked, Leon Kfir was hit by a pitch, both moved up on an error, and George scored on a wild pitch with Tom Russell at bat. The Stags now led 3-0.
After that, Victor Elsner cut down on the wild pitches, continued to strike out Stags’ hitters at a rate of roughly two per inning, and allowed just three more hits – two of them doubles by Ieuan Gale – and no runs.
The question was: could the Meteors make up that three-run deficit?
The Meteors had had just one baserunner over the first three innings via a single by Tsz Hei Kwok in the bottom of the first. But in the bottom of the fourth inning, they staged a rally.
Tsz Hei Kwok led off the inning with a walk and scored a few moments later on a triple to left centre field by Tarquin Karaitiana. Tarquin scored on a groundout to shortstop by the next batter, Kevin Stockford, and now the Stags led by just 3-2.
And that’s the way things stayed, though the Meteors had baserunners in both the fifth and sixth innings.
Ben Tomlin reached on an infield single in the bottom of the fifth inning and got to second on an error, but no further.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Tarquin Karaitiana walked with two out and took second on a wild pitch, after which Kevin Stockford was walked intentionally. The strategy worked, the next batter popped out to second base to end the inning.
In the last chance for the Meteors, in the bottom of the seventh inning, Leon Kfir retired the side in order on a pop fly to third base and two strikeouts.
The Stags had won the Battle of the Brits. For the Meteors, however, the tournament was over.
Deurne Spartans 7, Stags 0
The Stags had only one hit in this game against Duerne Spartans pitcher Jan Cech – a single by Tom Russell leading off in the bottom of the first inning – and though the game remained close for a while, the Belgian team pulled away to a 7-0 mercy rule win in five innings.
Tomas Pokorny pitched into the fourth inning for the Stags, and Leon Kfir, who had pitched all seven innings in the Stags’ win over the Meteors on Friday morning, came in for the last inning and a third.
The Stags had a baserunner in four of the five innings, but never more than one, and only one of those runners got beyond first base.
Meanwhile, the Belgian team manufactured single runs in the top of the first and third innings. In the first inning, three singles produced the run, and in the third inning, it was a walk, a stolen base, an error, and a sacrifice fly.
It was a three-run rally by the Spartans in the top of the fourth inning that sealed their win, and the runs came quickly, on a walk, a triple, and a two-run home run by Tony Chaibub-Coronel, after which Leon Kfir took over the pitching from Tomas Pokorny.
A final pair of runs for the Belgians in the top of the fifth inning took the score to 7-0, which brought the mercy rule into play. Edan Lord drew a walk for the Stags in the bottom of the fifth inning and got to third with two out, but a strikeout ended the game and the Stags’ participation in the 2023 European Men’s Super Cup.