GB Softball Teams set off for Europe

Fri 4 Jul 2014

It's July, and the season of European and World Softball Championships is upon us.  Four GB Softball teams will be heading to Europe over the next six weeks or so with a range of hopes and expectations.

Last year, all seven GB softball teams were playing in European or World Championships – the first time that had ever happened.  In 2014, the schedule is a little less intense, with only five teams in action. 

One GB Team has already played.  In January this year, the GB Slowpitch Team travelled to Florida for the third ISF Slowpitch World Cup and the first held since 2005, and came back with a silver medal.  The tournament was so successful that the ISF plans to make it an annual event, though the next edition won't happen until the autumn of 2015.

Meanwhile, between mid-July and mid-August this summer, four GB fastpitch teams – our two senior teams plus two youth teams – will cross the Channel to do battle.

 

GB MEN

Great Britain Men's Fastpitch Softball GBThe GB Men's Fastpitch Team will be the first to head out, to European Men's Championships in Havlickuv Brod and Pardubice in the Czech Republic from July 14-19.  This event is a qualifier for next year's ISF Men's World Championships in Saskatoon, Canada, and to qualify for a fourth straight World Championship appearance, the GB Men will have to finish in the top three.

After the 2015 World Championships, this tournament, like other ISF World Championships, will become open entry, so this is the last time that qualification will be required.

And qualification shouldn't be beyond the GB Men, as they have finished third in the last three European Championships.  An even better portent is that GB has beaten both of Europe's strongest men's fastpitch teams – the Czechs and the Danes – for the very first time over the past two years, so in theory anything is possible.

Seven teams will contest the tournament.  In order of seeding, they will be the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, GB, Denmark, Croatia, Belgium and Israel.  The teams will play a full round-robin, followed by a Page Playoff for the top four teams to determine medals and a round-robin for the bottom three teams to determine placings.

GB will kick off their tournament on Monday 14 July with a game against Croatia at 16.00.  The playoff rounds will begin on Friday 18 July with the final games on Saturday.
 

Changes

The GB Men's Team has changed a bit from the squad that went to World Championships in New Zealand last year.  Some players have retired (such as long-time GB stalwart James Chalmers), and others have been sidelined by personal commitments (shortstop Steve Hazard is missing due to studies and recently having twins).

But the core of the team is still there, especially James Darby as the #1 pitcher and Kevin Stockford as the catcher and team leader.  And new players have been added, including pitcher Kyle Linton, who recently pitched a perfect game in his home league in Ontario, Canada. 

Other players have returned to the team who missed the 2013 World Championships.  They include Neil Davies, who played at the 2008 Euros and 2009 Worlds and Robbie Robison, who is a a steadying influence on the team defensively and who also brings a solid bat to the line-up.
 

Home-based talent

GB Men's Team Manager Steve Fullan said: “My goal from Day 1, as GB Manager, was to include more local talent in the squad and I think to some extent we have achieved this.  When I started as a GB player we had only one home-based player.  Now we have GB-born players like Michael Lee, Josh Peat, Ben Easdown, Curt Taylor and Neil Davies, who have been with the team for several years now.

“Michael Lee was the top batter (.438) for the London Meteors club team at the recent Zeist Tournament in Holland,” Steve added, “against some of the national teams that we will play at the Europeans.  So I think this bodes well for the future especially as Josh Peat and Neil Davies, who are young, have already experienced trips to the Euros and Worlds.

“In addition, we have several players who have lived in the UK for many years, including Steve Rice, Kenny Pregnell, Ryan Martin, Darryl Herrmann and Robbie Robsion.  Stan Doney has been working real hard to keep the Great Britain Fastpitch League growing, and we have seen several Under-19 and Under-16 players come through the system to play with senior teams in the league.”

And what of the goals for the tournament?  Steve Fullan said: “Our hopes are to finish first and we expect to at least be in the top three in order to qualify for our fourth straight World Championships.  The main goal we have set is to win the tournament, as many of our players are getting a bit tired of bronze!”
 

New coach

The GB Men have a new Head Coach this year in Norman Ames, a former Assistant Coach to Russ Snow, who retired in January.  Norman wrote:

“First of all it feels great to be back again!

“The 2014 GB Men's Team looks stronger then the 2012 European Championship team.  We've been able to add a new face to our pitching staff, Kyle Linton, and I truly believe that with Kyle and James Darby we do have the best pitching staff in Europe.  At the recent Zeister Slot Tournament, the London Meteors scored runs against the Netherlands and Denmark, which showed us that we are able to score runs against any team.

“Although this is my first year as GB's Head Coach, I have followed GB over the years.  The programme is definitely moving forward.  There are more local guys interested in fastpitch and willing to travel to see better pitching.  This has definitely been a key to the success of the last few years.

“With the quality GB has, we are able to win it all though all of the top four teams – the Czechs, GB, the Danes, the Dutch -- can beat each other.  But it's not about one game.  It's about playing your best games in the final two days.  It's not about the best average or the lowest ERA – it's about stepping up at the right moment.  That one play, that one hit, that one game-winning run.  And when we believe in that, we can win it all.

“With every top tournament we will gain experience.  But along with that I expect a fair bit of advocacy.  We do have a lot of ambassadors, and with all the positive stories they will tell back home, the interest in GB Men's Fastpitch will grow.”

 

GB UNDER-19 WOMEN

Great Britain U19 Fastpitch Softball GB WomenThe GB Junior (Under-19) Women's Team players will assemble in the UK on 16 July for a short training camp at Farnham Park and will fly to the Netherlands on 20 July for the European Junior Championships, to be played from 21-26 July in Rosmalen, near S'Hertegenbosch in Southern Holland.

This tournament was held in the same location two years ago, and the GB Juniors achieved a highest-ever sixth-place finish.  But the team struggled with injuries and the placing had more to do with the schedule than GB's performance.

A very different GB Junior Team was born last summer under the leadership of new Head Coach Rachael Watkeys, and finished a very creditable ninth at their first-ever World Championship in Canada, earning the respect of every team they played.

A majority of the players from that team will be back this summer, plus some new talent, and the team will head for Rosmalen looking for GB's first-ever Under-19 medal in Europe.

GB fastpitch teams are often thin in the pitching department, but that certainly isn't true of this year's squad, which will bring back Emma Bridge, Keeli Waugh and Amie Hutchison from last summer's World Championship team, but will add American-based pitchers Georgina Corrick and Niamh Walker.  A staff of five pitchers will be an unheard-of luxury for Rachael Watkeys and her staff, and should provide a solid platform for success.

Twenty teams have entered the competition, and the GB Juniors will start out in a first-round group that also contains Germany, Belgium and Serbia.  The GB Team will have high hopes of advancing to the playoffs from that group, but to advance in first place would give them slightly easier second round opponents and a better chance to advance to the Page Playoffs.

 

GB WOMEN

Great Britain Women's Fastpitch Softball GBThe GB Women's Team failed to qualify for this year's World Championships by the agonising margin of two runs conceded at last summer's European Championships, but were granted a wild card entry by the ISF when one of the 16 qualifiers dropped out.  So the GB Women will be going to their fourth straight World Championship, two through qualification and two by wild card.

And this time, the tournament is being played in Europe for the very first time – in Haarlem in the Netherlands from 15-24 August.

A number of veteran GB Women players retired after the team finished 11th at World Championships in Canada in 2012, but a number of younger players joined last year and made it a vibrant team with more offensive punch than the GB Women have enjoyed in the past.  New players Chiya Louie, Alicja Wolny, Sarah Craig and Kori Waugh all added offense, along with returning players Amy Moore, Laura Thompson and Karlene Headley-Cooper.  Meanwhile, younger players who had been previously been reserves came into their own, including catcher Steph Pearce, who took over the starting role behind the plate, and pitcher Carling Hare.

All those players are back this year, along with BSUK Summer Coach Tahli Moore and Chloe Wigington, who have moved up from last year's Under-19 Team.

But GB (as usual) are in the tougher of the two eight-team groups that will play out an initial round-robin, with the top four teams from each group advancing to a double Page Playoff.  This year, for the first time, there will also be a Consolation double Page Playoff for the bottom eight teams.

GB's pool includes the USA, Australia, the Netherlands, Chinese Taipei, Italy, Botswana and the Dominican Republic, and GB will open the tournament on Friday 15 August with a game against Botswana at 2.00 pm.

When GB met Chinese Taipei in the 2012 World Championships, GB secured a  1-0 win when pitcher Stacie Townsend threw a no-hitter and outfielder Laura Thompson drove in the winning run. The last time GB played the Netherlands, in the 2010 World Championships in Venezuela, GB led 4-1 but suffered an agonising loss as the Dutch came back for a 5-4 last inning win.

The only opponent that GB has never faced before will be the Dominican Republic.

 

GB UNDER-13 GIRLS

Great Britain U13 Fastpitch SoftballThree years ago, the European Softball Federation decided to get rid of the under-attended bi-annual European Minime (Under-13) Championships and put in its place the annual Massimo Romeo Youth Cup, a tournament open to both national and club teams.  The idea was to encourage more entries and more play at Under-13 level, and the idea has worked, with around twice as many teams entering this competition as entered the last Under-13 European Championships.

The GB Under-13 programme sent two teams to the tournament in both 2012 and 2013, the GB Under-13 Team and a development team, the London Cubs.  But splitting the strength of the programme has led to the GB teams finishing in the bottom two places on both occasions.

This year, under new Head Coach Beth Perkins, GB will send only one team, to be called the GB Cubs, to the Massimo Romeo Cup, which will be played once again in Collechio, Italy from 13-16 August.  But it should be a stronger squad than the teams we have sent over the past two years, especially as the GB Under-13 programme has now cemented a productive relationship with LondonSports and is gaining new recruits as a result.

There will be seven teams in the competition.  Apart from the GB Cubs, there will be two teams from Italy, two from Russia and one each from Slovakia and Ukraine.  The teams will play a full round-robin, with the top four going forward to Page Playoffs while the bottom three teams will play a round-robin to determine places.

Th GB Cubs will play Slovakia at 11.15 and the Ukranian team, Junior Nika, at 19.30 on the opening day of the tournament on Wednesday 13 August.

Back to news listing


Comments

05
Aug

steve 05:14

whos the photo of under GB men, never seen him before

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

BSF development grants available, apply