GB Slowpitch Men roll on with two more wins

Wed 13 Jun 2018

Chocen, Czech Republic: 13 June -- The GB Men’s Slowpitch Team continued their undefeated run on Day 2 at the European Slowpitch Championship, but it was a close-run thing.

The GB Team had no trouble in their morning game with Italy – at least once they got going.  The score was 6-5 to GB after the second inning, but after that the British team piled on runs and ran out 28-8 winners.

The afternoon game against the Czech Republic, however, was a very different story – a game that was tied 6-6 at the end of the third inning, and after that there was never more than a single run between the teams. 

Going into the seventh inning, GB held a one-run lead, but the Czechs pushed across a run to tie the score in the top of the frame.

But as the home team, GB had the advantage, and Matt Tomlin’s walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh scored George Bartlett from third base and gave GB a 14-13 the win in a game that provided just the kind of test the team needed.

On Thursday, GB might have its toughest day yet as they play Belgium and Germany in the last two games of the tournament’s opening round-robin.

After that, the top four teams in the pool standings will have another round-robin on Friday and Saturday morning to determine seedings for a Page Playoff on Saturday afternoon that will decide the medals.

Meanwhile, the bottom three teams from the initial round-robin will play a round-robin of their own on Friday to determine places 5-7 in the final tournament standings.

GB v Italy

This was GB’s first game as the away team, and getting off to a good start was important, even if the Italians had lost both their games on the tournament’s opening day.

In fact, GB’s first six hitters all scored, and after a lead-off walk to Robbie Studholme, six straight hits followed, including a home run down the right field line by Mike Macdowell and another monster home run from Chris Yoxall.

But Italy responded with five runs of their own in the bottom of the first inning on five singles, a walk and an error, and a close game looked possible, especially after GB went scoreless in the top of the second inning.

However, the Italians also failed to score in their half of the second, and over the next two innings GB turned in a batting and fielding performance that no one else in the tournament, with the possible exception of the Dutch, could have supplied.  By the time the fourth inning was over GB were up by a score of 24-5 and the game was all but done.

Everyone on the roster contributed with sharp line drive hits, there were more huge home runs from Chris Yoxall, Joe Grantham and Luis Arrevillagas, and three missiles from outfielder Mike Macdowell, who had nine RBIs.

There were also some intelligent at-bats, including a key two-out pinch-hit walk from David Grey, who had been suffering with a minor injury since being hit by a powerful line drive in the first game on Tuesday.

Classy baserunning was also a feature as line drives through gaps in the outfield proved very expensive for the Italians.

The game ended on the mercy rule in the fifth inning with GB racking up an impressive 28-8 scoreline.

GB v Czech Republic

The host Czech Republic clearly have a very strong team with a quick and disciplined defense, and following an unexpected loss to the Belgians on Tuesday night they needed to get a win for the big crowd watching this game.

GB were the home team and had David Lee on the mound for the first time to give Mark Bowman a rest.

The top of the first inning was trouble for GB as five Czech batters crossed the plate, three of them on a towering home run by shortstop Jakub Prochazka.

GB went down quickly in the bottom the first inning, with only an infield single by Matt Tomlin, but fortunately the Czechs failed to add to their lead in the top of the second despite a GB error.

In the bottom of the second inning GB got on the board with a walk to Joe Grantham, a double by David Lee and singles from Adam Haywood and Aaron Thomas, good for a pair of runs.

The Czechs scored one in the top of the third inning on an RBI single by DP Jan Hanak to stretch their lead to 6-2, but GB bats finally came alive in the bottom of the inning and four runs tied the score.  Doubles by Mike Macdowell and Joe Grantham were the key hits, and the Czechs contributed their only error of the game.

From that point on, the lead went back and forth, but no team could gain more than a one-run advantage.  GB continued to find it difficult to string hits together, but the Czech offense was also stilted, with bloops and dribble hits just eluding a continuingly frustrated GB defense.

The fourth inning was the last in which the offenses had a say.  The Czechs scored six runs in the top of the fourth, opening the inning with five straight singles and later helped by two GB errors.

But the British responded with a two-out rally that produced five runs in the bottom of the fourth.  After Aaron Thomas and Chris Yoxall were out, a triple by Robbie Studholme and a home run by Matt Tomlin got things started off Czech pitcher Tomas “Wayne” Rambousek.  This was followed by doubles from Mike Macdowell and Kelvin Harrison and singles from Joe Grantham, Luis Arrevillagas and David Lee, and the score was now 12-11 to the Czechs.

After that, however, the big hits dried up for both teams and the game became a pitchers’ duel all the way to the end.

GB grabbed a 13-12 lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on RBIs from Robbie Studholme and Matt Tomlin at the top of the line-up, and neither team scored in the sixth, though the Czechs left two runners on base.

GB almost held the lead and closed out the game in the top of the seventh inning, as the Czechs found themselves with two outs and Petr Rezac, who had singled to open the inning, on third base.  But Marek Fibiger singled to centre field to drive home Rezac and tie the score, and things almost got worse  when Pavel Kozeny singled down the left field line.  But Robbie Studholme cut down Fibiger at third base, and GB just had to score a run in the bottom of the seventh to win the game.

With one out, Chris Yoxall singled and George Bartlett came in as a pinch-runner.  Robbie Studholme hit a screaming line drive to right field that moved George to third.  With Matt Tomlin up to bat, the Czechs moved to a five-man infield and a very shallow outfield.  But Matt’s fly ball to left field was deep enough for George Bartlett to score and GB celebrated a tough 14-13 win.

After the game, Assistant Coach and winning pitcher David Lee said, “A big test was what we needed and that's what we got.  The Czechs will go deep in the tournament, but now we know we can dig out wins from difficult positions -- a valuable tool!”

Scores and Standings

Scores from Day 2 at the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship are:

GB 28, Italy 8
Germany 22, Belgium 7
Netherlands 31, Ireland 11
GB 14, Czech Republic 13
Italy 20, Belgium 12
Netherlands 23, Germany 15
Czech Republic 22, Ireland 2

The standings after Day 2 are:

GB (4-0)
Netherlands (3-1)
Belgium (2-2)
Czech Republic (2-2)
Germany (2-2)
Italy (1-3)
Ireland (0-4)

There are a lot of teams in the tournament that have proved capable of beating each other -- the question will be whether any of them can beat GB.  The rest of the week should be fascinating!

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