A good debut for the GB U-18 Men in Europe

Wed 16 Oct 2019

Wednesday 16 October – The new Great Britain Under-18 Men’s Fastpitch Team got off to a promising start at the European Softball Federation’s new Under-18 Men’s Qualifier in Israel today, despite losing their first two games.

In their opening game of the tournament this morning, GB took a 6-1 lead after three innings over the host country, Israel, but eventually lost a 7-6 thriller after an Israeli comeback.

This afternoon, GB came up against Denmark, one of the top two countries in European men’s fastpitch, and took the lead in the first inning, though they eventually went down by a score of 16-1.

This tournament, a new event on the ESF calendar designed to qualify two teams to play in next year’s WBSC Under-18 Men’s Fastpitch World Cup, is being contested by just four countries – the Czech Republic, Denmark, Israel and Great Britain.

Denmark and the Czech Republic, the country that usually wins ESF men’s fastpitch tournaments, are the clear favourites to qualify for the World Cup, but they will still have to justify that status on the field of play over the rest of the week.

However, the Czech Republic took a big step towards securing qualification today with a convincing 17-0 win over Denmark in just three innings.

GB v Israel

This was an impressive game for the new GB Under-18 Men’s Team, and a game they may feel they should have won.

After both teams scored a run in the first inning, GB added three more in the bottom of the second inning and another two in the bottom of the third, while GB pitcher Matthew Eder kept Israel off the scoreboard.

GB’s run in the first inning came when Bruce Candlish reached on a one-out infield hit, stole second and scored on a single to centre field by Josh Stanley.

In the second inning, Oliver Thornhill led off the inning with a bunt that Israel couldn’t deal with, and then a single to centre field by Harvey Robinson, a double to right field by Joseph Wright, walks to Daniel Downes and Bruce Candlish, some wild pitches and another single by Josh Stanley produced three more British runs as Israel replaced starting pitcher Nadav Divone with Itai Dabush.

Two more runs followed in the third inning on a solo home run to centre field by Matthew Eder, a hit batsman and infield singles by Harvey Robinson and Dan Downes.

Going into the fourth inning, then, GB had a healthy 6-1 lead -- but then the game turned.

Two GB errors helped Israel score two runs in the top of the fourth inning, and wild pitches from a tiring Matthew Eder were part of a three-run Israeli fifth inning that tied the score at 6-6.

In the top of the sixth inning, Israel scored a run without benefit of a hit to take a 7-6 lead, but GB still had two more at-bats to pull things back.

Daniel Downes singled for GB to open the bottom of the sixth inning and stole second, but was eventually out on a fielder’s choice and the rally came to nothing.

The seventh inning was a wild affair in which both teams left the bases loaded without scoring.

A single and two walks filled the bases for Israel in the top half of the inning, but Matthew Eder summoned his last reserves and struck out Ohad Ban and Adi Aviv to keep GB’s deficit at one.

In the bottom half of the seventh, a walk, an error and an infield grounder on which the Israelis failed to get an out loaded the bases for GB with one out.  But Sam Whatmore was forced at home on a grounder to third by Harvey Robinson and Joseph Wright grounded out to first to end the game.

The GB Team will look back on what might have been – but will also be very proud of their first competitive game.

GB out-hit the Israelis by 10-7, led by Josh Stanley with three hits and Daniel Downes and Joseph Wright with two each, plus Matthew Eder’s home run.

Of the seven runs Israel scored against Matthew Eder, only three were earned, and the GB pitcher struck out seven while walking six in a promising performance.

GB v Denmark

This was a very different game, but some of GB’s momentum from the game against Israel carried over as they took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning against much more experienced rivals.

Josh Stanley led off the game with a walk against Danish starter William Melin, moved up on an infield out, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.

After that, however, it was all Denmark, who scored 16 runs in three innings on just eight hits, and with the benefit of just one GB error. 

Walks and wild pitches were the problem, and Denmark took full advantage.

GB had only one hit, a ground rule double to centre field in the top of the third inning by the irrepressible Josh Stanley against Danish reliever Lucas Mukherjee, but seven of GB’s nine outs came on strikeouts.

Denmark scored eight runs in the bottom of the first inning, five in the second, and a final three in the third inning that brought up the three-inning mercy rule finish.

Looking ahead

Tomorrow (Thursday) will be GB’s toughest day, with another game against Denmark at 10.30 am local time (8.30 am in the UK) and then a meeting with the Czech Republic at 4.30 pm Israeli time.

On Friday, GB will play the Czechs at 10.30 am and finish their round-robin games by playing Israel at 7.00 pm.

After Friday’s games, the team that has finished at the top of the round-robin standings will qualify automatically for next year’s WBSC Under-18 Men’s World Cup.  On Saturday, the teams that finished second, third and fourth in the round-robin will play a modified Page Playoff to determine the second qualification place.

Results and standings

The 2019 Under-18 Men’s Fastpitch Qualifier is being played over four days – 16-19 October -- at Kibbutz Gezer in Israel, with a double round-robin over the first three days followed by playoffs on Saturday.

Wednesday’s results were:

Czech Republic 17, Denmark 0 (3 inns)
Israel 7, GB 6
Denmark 16, GB 1 (3 inns)
Czech Republic 11, Israel 1 (4 inns)

Standings after Wednesday are:

Czech Republic (2-0)
Denmark (1-1)
Israel (1-1)
Great Britain (0-2)

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