Pioneers win 2018 Slowpitch Super Cup title

Sun 5 Aug 2018

By Ben Taylor

Riccione, Italy: 4 August – The three British teams in the 2018 European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup made a clean sweep of the medals here today, but it is Pioneers that will be coming home with the cherished gold medal, their first in European competition.

In a day full of crunch matches, it was Pioneers and the defending Super Cup champions, H2O, who made it to the final, and Pioneers who came out on top in a relatively close and low-scoring game.

Chromies, who have won what started as the European Slopwpitch Cup and then became the Super Cup three times, struggled to make it to the bronze medal game after two losses on Friday.  But once there, they made no mistake.

We’ll get to the medal games later.  Before they took place on Saturday afternoon and early evening, the three British team had to play one final game each in the Championship playoff round to ensure they would be in a position to play for a medal.

UCE Travellers v Pioneers

This morning’s game against UCE Travellers would dictate whether Pioneers would play in the final or if they would have to wait on other results.  For former Super Cup winners UCE Travellers, the game was even more important: they would have no chance of playing in the final if they lost.

UCE Travellers had already beaten H2O the previous day, and had also produced a huge comeback against Mannheim Tornados, scoring nine runs in the final inning to win a 12-11 game.  So they were not an opponent to be regarded with any degree of complacency.

It looked like a nervous start for both teams, as they only managed one hit each in the first inning.

Both teams appeared to relax in the second inning, however, with Pioneers scoring three runs and Travellers scoring two.

Pioneers will have been disappointed in their third inning, as they had bases loaded with no one out but could not capitalise on the situation, scoring just one run.

Travellers exploited this opportunity and took the lead with a string of base hits including a clutch double by Player/Manager Wolfgang Walther, good for two RBIs.  Travellers now led 6-4 after the bottom of the third inning.

Pioneers knew the importance of putting up a big inning and how that could change the momentum of the game.  They did just that in the top of both the fourth and the fifth.  In both innings, Dan Spinks came up clutch, producing four RBIs on two two-out hits.  Natasha Humphris and Vicky Chapman also came up big, Vicky with a huge hit to left centre field that one-hopped the 300-foot fence.  In total, Pioneers scored eight runs and Travellers were now behind 12-6 at the end of five innings.

With Pioneers hitting so well, Travellers would have to find some of the energy they had displayed on Friday when they produced that fantastic comeback against Mannheim.  But it was not to be.

Pioneers finished 12-6 winners, and were in the final, with the loss to H2O on Tuesday afternoon a distant memory. 

Chromies v TNT

Chromies and TNT were both coming into this game on the back of disappointing previous days.  For Chromies, though their hopes of playing in the final had gone, they at least had a chance of earning a medal by getting to the third-place game, though it would depend on the outcome of other games and they would have to beat TNT.

Pioneers had already done Chromies a massive favour by beating UCE Travellers in the earlier game, so Chromies were looking for a quick start.  They got just that, batting around the order and scoring 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning after TNT had scored just one in the top of the frame.

Though the Irish team did narrow the gap with four runs in the top of the second inning, it didn’t feel like a game that Chromies would let out of their grasp.

Each time TNT tried to get back in the contest, Chromies answered with a rally of their own.

Danny Gunn and Moera Flett went 4-for-4 and 3-for-3 respectively, and Mike MacDowell contributed with three RBIs.  The game finished 17-8 to Chromies.

H2O v Bandits Witches Linz

This game would decide who would join Pioneers in the final, as both teams had records of 4-2 in the Championship playoff group.

Bandits had been strong all week.  They had lost a slug-fest to Chromies in the first game of the tournament and had also lost on Friday to Pioneers, but apart from that had won every other game.  H2O had had disappointing losses to both German teams, Mannheim  Tornados and UCE Travellers, but had pulled themselves out of any slump they were in by crushing Chromies 22-8 late on Friday.

Neither team started well, although H2O managed to score a run in the first inning.

In the second inning, H2O opened up and scored seven runs.  Kelvin Harrison hit a three-run monster to centre field, which he complemented nicely with a cheeky little bat flip.

Although Bandits could only respond with one run in the bottom of the second inning, they held H2O scoreless in the top of third inning and then started hitting themselves.  They batted around the order in the bottom of the third, scoring six runs to narrow their deficit to just 8-7.

The fourth inning was a close affair, with H2O only adding one run and Bandits failing to add to their tally.  The score was now 9-7 to H2O.

But H2O took the opportunity to extend their lead with a big inning in the top of the fifth, scoring eight runs.  Amy Wells came in to pinch-run for Kirstie Leach, and when Brian Connolly positioned the ball nicely to right field, she sped around the bases, ending with a stunning head-first slide into home plate.  Kelvin Harrison again contributed with his second home run of the game and another two RBIs.

Bandits failed to score in both the fifth and sixth innings, going up and down in order each time.

The score was now 18-7 to H2O and there appeared to be little need to play out the last inning, as H2O were dominating the game.

However, play it out they did, and Bandits will have wished they hadn’t.  H2O tacked on another eight runs to take the score to 26-7, and with Bandits failing to score for the fourth straight inning in the bottom of the seventh, that’s how the game finished.

Bronze Medal Game: Chromies v Bandits Witches Linz

With Bandits losing to H2O, Travellers losing to Pioneers and Chromies beating TNT earlier in the day, it meant the bronze medal game would be played between Chromies and Bandits.

Speaking to a few of the Chromies players before the game, they were of course disappointed not to be in the final but were determined leave Riccione with a medal.

They started the better of the two teams in the bottom of the first inning after Danny Gunn led off with a double to right field and scored on a deep fly ball hit by Mike MacDowell.

In the top of the second inning, though, Bandits put together five hits and scored three runs to take the lead.  With Chromies going down in order in the bottom of the second inning, what happened in the third inning would be important.

Bandits could not replicate their previous inning and seemed to be struggling with Matt Tomlin’s pitching.  Two pop-ups and a ground out to second base produced another scoreless inning.

Chromies wouldn’t miss this opportunity, and put on a strong hitting display in the bottom of the third inning, scoring nine runs.  The highlight was Danny Gunn’s grand slam inside-the-park home run.  The score was now 10-3 to Chromies, but there was still a lot of game left for the Austrians to come back.

However, the Bandits could not get going, and sent only four batters to the plate in the top of the fourth.  Matt Tomlin’s pitching continued to cause problems for them, as the Bandits continued to hit fly balls for easy outs.

In the bottom of the inning, Chromies added two more runs thanks to Manny Estevez’s high home run that just cleared the fence.

In the top of the fifth inning Bandits clawed two runs back thanks to a long drive over the left field fence by Leomar Rubio.  Amber Schisler followed with a huge hit which caught the bottom of the fence but was only good for one base.  But the next batter, shortstop Jorge Hernandez, made an out and the Austrians lost their chance to add more runs.

Chromies, on the other hand, added another four runs in the bottom of the fifth, and it would have been more if not for a jumping grab by Bandits’ third base player Martina Lackner to rob Hannah Pitman of extra bases.  Lackner then fired over to first for a double play as the runner was caught off base.

Despite showing some good fielding and batting, Bandits were not a match for Chromies, who comfortably won the game 17-6 to take home the bronze medal.

The Final: Pioneers v H2O

H2O started the final as visitors, as they had finished second behind Pioneers in the Championship playoff group, and they couldn’t quite find their bats in the top of the first inning.  Solange Starrenburg drove a nice hit to left centre field, but that would be all H2O could muster.

Pioneers took advantage by scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning, and it would have been more but for a diving, over-the-fence grab by Solange Starrenburg to rob Dan Spinks of a home run.

As the Pioneers’ pitcher, however, Dan Spinks appeared to be hitting the spots he was aiming for in the strike zone and causing H2O problems, but an error in the field allowed H2O to score one run in the top of the second inning.  Pioneers, on the other hand, went down in order in the bottom of the frame.

There was little chance that H2O wouldn’t jump on this, and despite the first two batters making outs, they batted around the order to score five runs.  We had seen this before with H2O during the week. They were not nervous in the batter’s box and were hitting the ball well, trusting the next batter to push them around the bases.

Knowing they had to keep the game close, Pioneers produced an important inning of their own in the bottom of the third, scoring six.  It was a team hitting display which was cut short thanks to a smart H2O double play to end the inning.

However, H2O failed to score in the top of both the fourth and fifth innings and were running out of time to come back into a game in which they currently trailed.

Pioneers, meanwhile, had added to their score with two runs in the bottom of the fourth when Steve Hazard, with Natasha Humphris on base, hit the ball over the left field fence.  However, they failed to score in the fifth inning, leaving the door open for H2O to get back in the game.

The score was 11-6 to Pioneers at that point and there was tension was in the air.  Could H2O somehow raise themselves to avoid a disappointing loss?

With neither team scoring in the sixth inning, the game came down to the final frame.  H2O needed five runs to extend the game to at least to the bottom of the seventh inning.

But they could only add one to their score, and when Ruth Macintosh caught the last fly ball of the game, Pioneers threw their gloves in the air.  They were the 2018 European Super Cup Champions.


Below are scores from the final playoff round games today involving British teams, and then the bronze and gold medal games.

Championship Playoff Games
Pioneers 12, UCE Travellers 6
Chromies 17, TNT 8
H2O 26, Bandits Witches Linz 7

Bronze Medal Game
Chromies 17, Bandits Witches Linz 8

Gold Medal Game
Pioneers 11, H2O 7

All the scores from the tournament can be found here.  

Final standings

The final standings in the 2018 European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup are:

1 – Pioneers (GB)
2 – H2O (GB)
3 – Chromies (GB)
4 – Bandits Witches Linz (Austria)
5 – UCE Travellers (Germany)
6 – TNT (ireland)
7 – Mannheim Tornados (Germany)
8 – Sparks Mlade Buky (Czech Republic)
9 – Waynes Pardubice (Czech Republic)
10 – Akademics Sofia (Bulgaria)
11 – Dodder Dynamoes (Ireland)
12 – Afterburners (Belgium)
13 – Mortsel Skywalkers (Belgium)
14 – Delfini Riccione (Italy)
15 – Brevannes (France)
16 – Valmarrechia (Italy)

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Dinah Taylor 13:32

I have very much enjoyed following the competition through this website. The commentary brought the action alive. Well done G.B.!

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