GB Slowpitch Men march on in the playoffs

Fri 15 Jun 2018

Chocen, Czech Republic: 15 June – The playoffs began today at the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship, and the GB team didn’t miss a beat, with a tense win over the Czech Republic followed by a mercy rule demolition of the Netherlands.

GB remains unbeaten in the tournament, and with one game left tomorrow morning against Germany in the second-phase round-robin, both the British and the Germans are guaranteed to be the top two seeds when the Page Playoff begins tomorrow afternoon.  The only question – and it’s academic – is which team will be #1 and which #2.

Germany actually had the more impressive day today, scoring 58 runs in two games in downing the Netherlands 32-10 and the Czech Republic by 26-11.  When GB and Germany met in the first round-robin phase and GB won easily, Germany rested some of their best players.  They might even do the same in tomorrow morning’s dead rubber, knowing that the crunch will come when the two teams meet again tomorrow afternoon in the 1 v 2 Page Playoff game.

At that point, both teams will want to win and book their passage straight to the final.  If GB falters at that stage, they could end up having to play four games in a row, with the fourth being the final – a fate they will want to avoid.  And the tens of thousands of GB supporters around the world that have already viewed GB games via webstream will have to spend most of their day online !

GB Assistant Coach David Lee said, “GB have been amazed and overwhelmed by the support via messages and texts throughout the week, and are proud of their efforts to represent the country and the community.  Keep the support coming -- it's very much appreciated!”

The Czech Republic will play the Netherlands in their last round-robin game tomorrow morning, but that game too will be meaningless, as the teams will meet again in the 3 v 4 Page Playoff game in the afternoon.  The loser will be done and will have to settle for fourth place.


GB v Czech Republic

The Czech Republic was the team that gave GB the closest game in the first round-robin, and this contest was more of the same.

The game could have gone either way, and at the end of the third inning, both teams had nine runs and 11 hits on the scoreboard.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, GB pulled away to a 15-11 lead (the big blow was a two-run triple to left field by Mike Macdowell), but in the top of the sixth inning the Czechs tied the score with four runs of their own, including Jakub Prochazka’s second home run of the game.

The turning point came in the bottom of the sixth inning when GB had the bases loaded and two out and hadn’t yet scored.  A third out here would have given the Czechs a huge shot of momentum going into the final inning, and GB Head Coach Stephen Patterson sent Robbie Studholme up to pinch hit.

Robbie responded with a line drive single to right field, scoring two runs, and Matt Tomlin followed with a single to right centre to score a third, and GB had a lead to take into the seventh inning, if not a totally convincing one.

But back-up hurler David Lee came on to pitch the top of the seventh in relief of Mark Bowman, and was able to sandwich three fly ball outs around a single and a walk to set the Czechs down without scoring.

GB committed an uncharacteristic six fielding errors in the game, and without that the win may have been easier.

But GB had a precious first win in the Championship round-robin group, remained undefeated in the tournament, and took a big step towards being ranked first or second in the Page Playoff round that will determine the medals.


GB v Netherlands

For two-and-a-half innings in a much-delayed evening game played under floodlights, this was a close contest.  The Dutch started well, with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning from Arti Bosschaart, scored another two in the top of the second inning, and when they plated two more runs in the top of the third, the Dutch held a 6-3 lead.

But then the GB Men came up with another tour de force batting display in the bottom of the third inning -- 12 runs on nine hits and three Dutch errors-- and after that an under-par Dutch team, possibly suffering from tiredness as well as injuries, offered little resistance.  There were home runs in the inning from Robbie Studholme and Chris Yoxall, and Mike Macdowell had a single and a triple.

Once they get going, this GB team will not stop, and seven more runs came in the bottom of the fourth inning, with yet another round-tripper from Chris Yoxall and one from Mike Macdowell.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, a triple by winning pitcher David Lee, doubles from Robbie Studholme and Adam Haywood and a single by Matt Tomlin brought the score to 25-10 and ended the game on the mercy rule.

On defense, GB’s outfield was superb, with lay-out catches from Robbie Studholme, Adam Haywood, and the rocks in centre field, Mike Macdowell and Kelvin Harrison.

Bring on finals day!

Scores

Scores on Friday from the Championship round-robin, which will conclude on Saturday morning before the top four teams then move to a Page Playoff, were:

Germany 32, Netherlands 10
GB 18, Czech Republic 15
Germany 26, Czech Republic 11
GB 25, Netherlands 10

Since GB and Germany were undefeated today and the Dutch and the Czechs both lost twice, GB and Germany are guaranteed to finish in the top two places in this round-robin group and play the 1 v 2 Page Playoff game, while the Dutch and the Czechs will play the 3 v 4 game.

The importance of seeding in a Page Playoff is that teams ranked first and second can lose once and still remain in the competition, whereas teams ranked third and fourth are out after one loss.

Meanwhile, the bottom three teams from the initial round-robin – Belgium, Italy and Ireland – played a round-robin today among themselves to determine Places 5-7 in the final standings.

Scores were:

Belgium 18, Ireland 2
Italy 9, Belgium 4
Italy 21, Ireland 6

So the final rankings for these teams are:

5 – Italy
6 – Belgium
7 – Ireland

The top four places in the final standings will be decided by Saturday’s Page Playoff.

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