The GB Women are going back to the Worlds!

Fri 30 Jun 2017

By Bob Fromer

Bollate, Italy: 30 June – In a magnificent nine-inning pitcher’s duel between Veronika Peckova of the Czech Republic and GB’s Georgina Corrick, full of twists, turns and unbearable tension, it was Peckova who finally cracked first and the GB Women who are going to the 2018 World Championship in Japan.

GB’s 4-1 win over the Czechs in the 3 v 4 Page Playoff game at the European Women’s Championship on Friday evening means that Britain is guaranteed at least a bronze medal and a place in the coveted World Championship to be held next year in Chiba, Japan as a dress rehearsal for the 2020 Olympic Games.

And this win tonight was a further step on the road that GB hopes will lead them back to Japan again in 2020.

Meanwhile, GB is still alive in this tournament, and will play Italy at 1.00 pm on Saturday, with a place in the 6.00 pm final at stake.  Italy lost 1-0 to the Netherlands on Friday night in the Page Playoff 1 v 2 game.  This was another great pitching duel between Italy's Greta Cecchetti and Holland's Lindsey Meadows, and Meadows, who will be the pitching coach for the GB Junior Women at the Junior World Championship in Florida at the end of July, no-hit the Italians over seven innings.

Clutch performances​

There were numerous heroes for GB in this game, and not least Georgina Corrick, still only 18 and just graduated from high school, who went toe to toe with one of Europe’s best pitchers and came out on top.

Games like this can be won or lost in a heartbeat, and there were times when the odds seemed heavily on the Czech Republic to make the breakthrough and take the win.  But GB batters, who struck out 17 times against Peckova, got some absolutely crucial hits at the end of the game, hits that first kept GB from losing and then delivered the victory.

The hammer blow that drove a stake into Czech hearts was a long two-out triple to left centre field by Kendyl Scott in the top of the ninth inning with two GB runners on base.  But Kendyl would never have got to the plate without two-out singles by Sarah Craig and Aubrey Peterson that kept GB alive just when it looked like they wouldn’t be able to score their tiebreak runner, which would have been an open invitation for the Czechs to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.

But let’s begin at the beginning.

War of attrition​

The game was scoreless through seven innings, but was certainly not without incident.

Initially, it was Veronika Peckova who looked the more nervous, as she walked Kendyl Scott leading off the game in the top of the first inning, and later in the inning walked Hayley D’Avilar as well.  But in between, Peckova struck out the other three hitters she faced, and that set the pattern for the contest.

GB got two more runners on base in the top of the second inning on a single to left by Steph Pearce and an infield hit by Tori Charters.  But again there were two strikeouts, and as Peckova settled into the game, GB baserunners became fewer and farther between.

Meanwhile, Georgina Corrick set down the Czechs fairly easily over the first three innings, with only a walk to Eliska Mlynkova in the second inning to disturb the peace. 

But as the tension started to mount, it was the Czechs who began creating the better chances, putting runners on first and second with just one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, and again with two out in the bottom of the fifth.  In the sixth inning, the Czechs got a runner as far as third for the first time. 

But on each occasion, Georgina Corrick made the pitches she needed to, and though she only struck out five Czechs, she mixed a curveball, riseball and change-up to good effect, and used both sides of the plate, and the Czechs rarely made solid contact.

Both defenses were excellent, and there wasn’t a single error in the game. 

So when the seven innings had been completed and there was nothing but zeroes on the scoreboard, the crowd, and especially the large GB contingent of friends and family, were finding it increasingly difficult to breathe.

The eighth inning​

As softball fans will know, if a game is tied after seven innings in a European Softball Federation competition, the teams start each subsequent half inning with a runner on second base.  The strategy is to make sure that at least that runner scores.  Anything more is a bonus and failure to score the tiebreak runner usually brings about a quick and painful end.

So GB led off this Russian roulette in the top of the eighth inning with Kendyl Scott on second base as the tiebreak runner, and Sydney Brown carefully and successfully bunted her to third, after which Lauren Evans drove a single to centre field to drive Kendyl in and put GB 1-0 ahead.  Hayley D’Avilar put down another successful sacrifice bunt to put Lauren into scoring position, and a second run would have put GB in the driver’s seat.  But Chiya Louie popped out to the pitcher, and GB had to settle for one.

It didn’t take the Czechs much time to bring in their tiebreak runner, Anetta Prokopenkova, in the bottom of the eighth, as she advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a single to left by Czech second base player Lucie Halakucova to tie the game again at 1-1.  Two groundouts then moved Halakucova to third base, and any kind of hit by Eliska Mlynkova would have won the game. 

And Mlynkova almost did it, with a hard ground ball back through the middle.  But Georgina Corrick knocked it down, picked it up, and threw Mlynkova out at first.

The ninth inning​

And so to the ninth inning, where first it looked like GB might lose the game, just before they won it.

Chiya Louie started as the tiebreak runner on second, and Steph Pearce put down another successful sacrifice bunt to move Chiya to third.  But Georgina Corrick, who had struggled all night against Veronika Peckova, struck out again, and now GB was down to their final out and Chiya was still on third.

But up came Sarah Craig, who had entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and stayed in to play second base, and she looked at ball one, then drove a line drive single to left field to bring in Chiya and save GB’s bacon and the game.  GB led again, by 2-1.

Now Aubrey Peterson, who had also entered the game in the seventh inning, slapped a base hit over third and GB had runners on first and second.  And that brought Kendyl Scott to the plate, who had doubled earlier in the game and generally had the best at-bats of the night against Veronika Peckova.

Kendyl ran the count to 2-and-2, and then got all of the next pitch, sending it soaring over the heads of the Czech left and centre fielders, who turned and started running toward the fence.  Sarah and Aubrey scored, Kendyl wound up on third, the GB contingent went wild and the lead was 4-1.

Sydney Brown struck out to end the inning, Veronika Peckova’s 17th strikeout of a great pitching performance.  But to no avail.

Georgina Corrick was never going to let a 4-1 lead get away, and though the Czechs opened the bottom of the ninth with Eliska Mlynkova as the tiebreak runner, there was now no thought of bunting her to third base.  The Czechs had to try to swing away, and desperately hope they could string some hits together.

But Georgina struck out Adela Weissova with a beautiful curveball on the outside corner on a 3-2 pitch, and Tereza Kubicova popped out to first base.

One more out to go, and Czech shortstop Apolena Viborna, who had had some tremendous battles with Georgina Corrick in last summer’s European Junior Championship, swung at the first pitch and hit a foul fly ball down the left field line.  Hayley D’Avilar sprinted over and took the ball just before it was about to hit the fence, then wheeled and ran towards the infield with her arms in the air.

The GB Women had held their nerve in the best played and tightest game of the tournament and achieved what they came here to do: win a medal and get to Japan.

Whatever happens on Saturday, and whether GB can improve on the bronze medal they already have in hand, Head Coach Rachael Watkeys, the staff and the team can say “Mission Accomplished!”

Photos by Simon Mortimer

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