Everything to play for in the Slowpitch Cup

Fri 3 Aug 2018

By Ben Taylor

Riccione, Italy: 2 August – The final games of the round-robin were completed today in the European Slowpitch Super Cup as well as the first playoff games, with the game of the day set to be the late playoff clash between Chromies and Pioneers.

A win for Chromies would have been a huge step towards reaching the final and would have left Pioneers all but out of contention.

In the event, Pioneers beat Chromies 16-9, and earlier in the day, H2O suffered an agonizing one-run defeat to the Mannheim Tornados. 

So all three British teams now have a loss that counts in the playoff standings, and the question of who will reach the final is anyone’s guess.

Round-robin games

All three British teams had one game left to play today from the initial round-robin, and one of them produced a surprise result.

H2O v Mannheim Tornados

Coming into this game, H2O had already qualified in top spot in Pool B, having beaten Pioneers on Tuesday.

As for their opponents, the Mannheim Tornados, they had also qualified for the Championship playoffs, though a loss would have moved them into fourth place rather than third.

The Tornados made the better start, scoring five runs in the first inning, which included a two-run, two-out home run from Gaeten Gregarek.  H2O struggled to find a rhythm in the bottom of the first, sending six batters to the plate but only scoring one run.

Tornados came out strong again in the top of the second inning and scored another three runs on a lead-off home run from Josh Peat and a two-run home run from Marco Beuchert.  H2O, still struggling to find their form, could only score one run in response.

The Tornados were starting to extend their lead now, and were putting on a display of power, using the tried and tested formula of hitting singles and then driving the ball deep over the fence, scoring multiple runs.  In the third and fourth innings they scored a further five runs, taking their lead to 13-5.

H2O finally started to open up in the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring five runs which included a huge three-run home run from Kelvin Harrison.  They followed this with another big inning in the bottom of the fifth, scoring four more runs and taking the lead.  Chris Yoxall was responsible for a big two-run home run, and then up stepped Annie Dubovec to smash a home run to left centre field, putting H2O ahead by 14-13.

There were also outstanding defensive plays in the fifth inning by both sides.

In the top of the fifth, Marco Beuchert hit a ground ball through to right centre field and went for extra bases.  Solange Starrenburg picked up the ball and gunned it into second to cut him down.  In the bottom of the inning, as Amy Wells turned third base to try to score on a base hit, shortstop Thomas Rubin received the ball on a relay and fired home, where catcher Silvia Schlepper made a great tag to end the inning.

Both teams scored a run in the sixth inning and so the game went to the last inning with only one run still separating them.

Tornados did not get the start they wanted in the top of the seventh, as two of the first three batters made outs.  But then, with two runners on, Thomas Rubin tagged one over the fence in left centre field, his third home run of the day, for three RBIs.  The Tornados managed another run before the inning ended, which meant H2O needed three runs to tie and four to win.

When Natalie Moir hit a laser to left centre field for a double and then Annie Dubovec hit a moon shot out of the park to score two runs with only one out, it looked likely that H2O were going to get the runs they needed to win the game.  And when Brian Connolly got hold of the ball with a runner on base, it appeared the game was over.

But the ball hit the very top of the 28-foot high fence, which meant he only got a double from a great hit.  When the next batter made an out, the rally was over and Tornados had won a very important and exciting game by a score of 18-17.

Chromies v Afterburners

Chromies’ last game in the first round-robin was against the Belgium side Afterburners.

Chromies had wrapped up top spot in Pool A, and as Afterburners would not be going through to the Championship playoff, the result here was redundant.  However, that did not stop Chromies dominating the game. 

Matt Tomlin pitched the full game, allowing only one run, which came in the first inning.  After that he shut the Afterburners down with only one more hit.

Offensively, Chromies bullied the game as well.  They scored five runs in the first inning and then had a break-out inning in the fourth, scoring 11 runs.  Both Moe Flett and Natalie Bailey-Clouston had stand-out performances, each going 3-for-3 with five RBIs between them.

The game finished in the bottom of the fifth inning on the mercy rule with the score 18-1.

Pioneers v Waynes Pardubice

With Pioneers already having qualified in second place in Pool B and Waynes Pardubice unable to qualify for the Championship playoff, this game would have no effect on the standings.  However, neither team wanted to lose another game.

Waynes started the top of the first with two straight outs and then a home run from Jakub Prochazka to score one for the inning.  But Dan Bello led off for Pioneers in the bottom of the frame with a home run of his own, and Steve Hazard followed suit in an inning where Pioneers scored four.

Neither team could score in the second inning, so it remained 4-1 to Pioneers.

However, with two runners on in the top of the third, Jakub Prochazka tied the game with a hard-hit ball over the fence.  Pioneers answered with a rally of their own in the bottom of the frame, and after Dan Bello and then Ruth Macintosh got on base, Steve Hazard hit one of his trademark bombs to dead centre field for a three-run home run.  Dan Spinks, not to be outdone, followed with a two-run moon shot of his own.  The inning finished with Pioneers ahead 8-4.

Waynes failed to score in the fourth inning while Pioneers extended their lead by adding two more runs.

Jakub Prochazka made it a hat-trick of home runs in the fifth inning, but no one else on the Czech team was able to contribute.  Prochazka had scored all of Waynes’ runs up to that point, which is admirable, but you are not going to win a softball game like that.  The team as a whole needs to perform.

Pioneers proved this in the bottom of the fifth inning when they sent 18 batters to the plate, scoring 11 runs in the process, including home runs from Gary Hoxby and Dan Bello.  The final score was 21-5 and the game ended on the mercy rule.

Championship playoff games

All three British teams also played once today as the Championship playoff round got under way.

H2O v Sparks Mlade Buky

The business side of the tournament began on Thursday afternoon with the Championship and Consolation playoff rounds, and H2O, who had finished top of Pool B, began against Sparks Mlade Buky, who had finished fourth in Pool A.

Sparks started well in the top of the first inning, scoring three runs courtesy of Bartolomej Rizek’s three-run opposite field home run, and H2O would want to ensure they responded in kind as this was a game they could ill-afford to lose.

They did just that, thanks to a clutch two-out double from Solange Starrenburg which sailed over the right centre fielder’s head and was good for two RBIs.  H2O scored five in total and took a 5-3 lead.

Sparks could only add one run in the second inning after a hard shot from Michael Vojacek to right field scored Radek Janovsky.

Sensing an opportunity to put the game beyond Sparks, H2O looked to get their bats going in the bottom of the second inning, and they were helped by three Sparks errors.  This allowed H2O to bat around the order, scoring 12 runs and effectively killing off the Czech challenge.

Sparks only recorded another three runs on five hits over the rest of the game, while H2O added six more runs in another impressive base-hitting display which saw them run out 23-7 winners.

Given that H2O had played the weekend before the tournament in Diamond 3, it was logical to think they might be a bit tired and leggy by this stage, especially with the heat.  However, they look organised and confident, and are arguably the team to beat at this stage of the tournament.

Chromies v Pioneers

This was potentially a very important game with regard to who would make the final in this tournament.  A loss for Pioneers would mean they would be reliant on other teams rather than having their destiny in their own hands.

Pioneers started well in the top of the first inning.  Dan Bello and Steve Hazard both got on base with hits and Dan Spinks scored them with a ground ball up the middle.

Chromies responded with a lead-off double from Mike MacDowell.  Eric Kelly scored MacDowell with a single to the left side of the field and then David Lee then scored Kelly with a hard-hit shot up the middle.

Honours even at the end of the first inning.

In the top of the second inning, Pioneers started strongly again, and sent nine batters to the plate, recording six hits and four runs.  So far, this was looking like a solid team performance, with all players contributing.

Chromies could not respond and the score was 6-2 for Pioneers after two.

The third inning was an entertaining affair, with 13 runs scored between the teams.

Pioneers turned the screw with another team batting performance in the top of the inning, and Chromies didn’t help themselves with two fielding errors.  Those mistakes came back to haunt them when, with the bases loaded, Steve Hazard stepped up and bombed one to centre field as Pioneers scored a total of nine runs in the inning.

Chromies are too good a team to take this lying down, and they responded with a rally of their own, scoring four runs.  Mike MacDowell led off with another double, his second of the game, and base hits from David Lee, Katherine Golik and Hannah Pitman brought Chromies back into the contest.

Pioneers added one more in the fourth inning to take their total to 16, but with time running out, could Chromies get the runs they needed to catch the Pioneers?

The answer would be no, as they could only add another three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning in what was a timed game.  If the game had gone a full seven innings, you wouldn’t bet against it being much closer than the 16-9 score to Pioneers with which it finished.

This result has now left the competition wide open, and it will be exciting to see how the next two days progress, as none of the three British teams can afford another loss if they hope to reach the final.

Scores and standings

Here are scores from the final games played on Thursday in the first round-robin involving British teams:

Chromies 18, Afterburners 1
Mannheim Tornadoes 18, H2O 17
Pioneers 22, Waynes Pardubice 5

Below are the final first round pool standings in the European Slowpitch Super Cup, with the top four teams in each pool going forward to Championship playoffs, while the bottom four teams in each pool go to consolation playoffs.

Pool A
Chromies (7-0)
Bandits Witches Linz (6-1)
UCE Travellers (5-2)
Sparks Mlade Buky (4-3)
Dodder Dynamoes (3-4)
Afterburners (2-5)
Brevannes (1-6)
Valmarecchia (0-7)

Pool B
H2O (6-1)
Pioneers (6-1)
Mannheim Tornadoes (5-2)
TNT (4-3)
Waynes Pardubice (3-4)
Akademics Sofia (3-4)
Mortsel Skywalkers (1-6)
Delfini Riccione (0-7)

Here are the playoff scores from this afternoon from games involving British teams:

H2O 23, Sparks Mlade Buky 8
Pioneers 16, Chromies 9

A full list of scores in the tournament so far can be found here.  

How the playoffs work

The eight teams that have gone forward to the Championship playoff are now in an eight-team pool, Pool C, where results against teams in the pool that you already played in the first round are carried forward.

Each team will play four games in this round, against the teams that made the playoffs from the other first-round pool.

Finally, on Saturday, the teams that finish third and fourth in this pool will play the bronze medal game and the teams that finish first and second will play the final.

The remaining teams will be ranked 5-8 based on how they finish in this pool.

Meanwhile, the teams that finished 5-8 in Pools A and B in the first round will play a parallel schedule in Pool D, except that places 9-16 will be determined purely on how these teams finish in Pool D.

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