GB Men secure their place in the Page Playoff

Thu 28 Jun 2018

Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic: 28 June – The GB Men split a pair of games today in the playoff round-robin at the European Men’s Fastpitch Championship, and that was enough to guarantee their passage into the Page Playoff, where the medals will be decided.

GB still has a chance of finishing second in this playoff group and getting to the 1 v 2 Page Playoff game, which would mean that a medal and a place in next year’s World Championship would be secure before the Page Playoff even starts.

But for that to happen, GB would have to beat a very tough Danish team tomorrow morning, in a game that will be webstreamed live on BaseballSoftballTV starting at 10.15 am British time.

Today, GB suffered a difficult 2-1 loss to the Netherlands this morning in the first game of the playoff round-robin, then eased their way past Israel this evening by a score of 7-2.

The loss to the Netherland was only GB’s second in the tournament, both by one run and both via late-inning solo home runs – a tough way to lose.  GB had chances against the Dutch during the game, but couldn’t cash them.

Against Israel, GB didn’t score heavily, but they got the job done without too many worries.

Here are reports on the two games:

GB v Israel

Rich Haldane scattered seven hits, walked only one and generally kept the Israel under control, and his defense played errorless softball behind him.  This allowed the GB Men to slowly pull away in a game they expected to win -- but also had to win to stay in contention for a medal.

GB took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a walk to Nopera Stockford, a single by Ryan Martin and a sacrifice fly by Kevin Stockford, and the score stayed that way until the bottom of the third, inducing a few nerves in the GB camp.

At that point, GB put up a four-spot to stretch the lead to 5-0, and that was always likely to be enough.  With one out, four straight hits off Israeli starter Daniel Mayer Winnick – a double by Ryan Martin and singles by Rich Haldane, Kevin Stockford and James Darby – brought in two runs, and two more later scored on a groundout and an infield error.

Both teams scored a run in the fourth inning; GB’s run was another Stockford Brothers production, with Nopera walking and eventually scoring on a double by older brother Kevin.

GB’s last run, in the bottom of the sixth inning, was a home run over the fence in left centre field by Rich Haldane that took the score to 7-1.

In the top of the seventh inning, Israel scored again on a couple of singles sandwiched around Rich Haldane’s only walk, but the result was never in doubt.

Having confirmed their place in the Page Playoff, and with the Czech Republic having beaten Denmark 7-0 this evening, GB’s route to the 1 v 2 game is to beat Denmark tomorrow morning, and then hope the Czechs beat the Netherlands, as expected, in the final Championship round-robin game early in the afternoon.

But GB player-coach Kevin Stockford will also be thinking that the likelier scenario may be a 3 v 4 game against the Netherlands late on Friday afternoon, with a medal and a World Championship place to the winner, and he will need to plan his pitching assignments with that in mind.

GB v Netherlands

Another damp morning welcomed the GB Men to the main field in Havlickuv Brod and a pumped Dutch team.

GB reverted to the line-up that faced had the Czechs on Tuesday night, with Kyle Linton in the circle – a line-up designed to record a win.  The opposing Dutch starter was Niek Nieuwenhuizen.

After a scoreless first inning, the Dutch loaded the bases in the bottom of the second with two out.  The next Dutch batter, Ron Dix, appeared to foul off a rise ball from Kyle Linton, but the umpire indicated hit-by-pitch, and awarded Dix the base, bringing in the first run of the game.

Despite an umpire conference, the decision stood and GB were a run down.

GB’s first real chance to get back in the game came in the top of the fourth inning with two outs.  Rich Haldane walked, and Kevin Stockford hit a moon shot to the fence that was put down by the very casual Dutch centre fielder.  But Haldane was held at third and failed to score.

The Dutch then walked James Darby intentionally to load the bases, and Rich Haldane finally crossed the plate on a wild pitch to tie the game.  This instigated another automatic walk to Luke Peters to load the bases for a second time, but Kyle Linton’s hard ground ball was turned into an unassisted force out at second base by Dutch shortstop Eldrick Dijkhoff.

In the top of the fifth, it felt as if momentum was swinging GB’s way.  Wes Knapp led off by looping a single to left field, Neil Davies came in to run for Knapp, and Josh Peat was safe when the throw to first base on his sacrifice bunt was mishandled.  Runners on first and second, no one out, and lead-off hitter Nopera Stockford at the plate.

Stockford bunted to move the runners up, but a quick-reacting Dutch defense took out the lead runner at third.  The Dutch then changed pitchers, bringing in Jeroen Mulder, and he allowed the runners to move to second and third on a wild pitch.  But Mulder struck out Ryan Martin looking on a change-up and Rich Haldane swinging.

Another missed opportunity by GB!

Kyle Linton had kept the Dutch offense quiet throughout the game, but in the bottom of the sixth inning the dangerous Enrique Javier got hold of one, blasting a solo shot over the fence in centre field, followed by an MLB-style bat flip!

The Dutch had the lead, and when the GB went down in order in the top of the seventh inning, they also had the win.

GB know the solution to their problem.  They have the best pitching staff at the tournament, and they just need to find the runs to back them up.

Scores and standings

Scores from today’s Championship round-robin games were:

Netherlands 2, GB 1
Denmark 15, Belgium 0
Czech Republic 10, Israel 0
Netherlands 11, Belgium 1
Great Britain 7, Israel 2
Czech Republic 7, Denmark 0

Scores from the consolation playoffs are:

Croatia 24, Lithuania 10
Italy 15, Sweden 4
Germany 7, Slovakia 6
Croatia 3, Italy 2
Germany 9, Sweden 1
Slovakia 18, Lithuania 5

Standings in the Championship round-robin, including results carried through from the first round, are:

Czech Republic  (4-0)
Denmark  (3-1)
Netherlands  (3-1)
GB  (2-2)
Belgium  (0-4)
Israel  (0-4)

Consolation round-robin standings are:

Croatia  (4-0)
Germany  (4-0)
Italy  (2-2)
Slovakia  (2-2)
Lithuania  (0-4)
Sweden  (0-4)

Watch GB live!

The key games from the last two days of the European Men's Championship, starting with GB's Championship round-robin game against Denmark at 10.15 am British time on Friday, will be broadcast live on BaseballSoftballTV.

You can access the broadcasts here:

The 3 v 4 and 1 v 2 Page Playoff games will be broadcast at 4.30 and 7.30 pm British time, with the pre-final and final on Saturday scheduled for 2.30 and 5.00 pm in the UK.

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