GB Slowpitch start Euros with two strong wins

Tue 16 Jul 2019

By Bob Fromer

Budapest, Hungary: 16 July – It was an excellent first day at the 2019 European Slowpitch Championship for the GB Slowpitch Team, who took the lead in Pool A with a pair of mercy rule wins over Serbia by 24-2 and Austria by 20-3.

Both games were put to bed in the very first inning, as GB scored 22 runs in the top of the first against Serbia and 15 runs in the bottom of the first against Austria.  Despite both games being played on the very small Budapest Field, with fences at 220 feet and a three home-run limit, GB adjusted to and took full advantage of the conditions, and that’s what the GB coaching staff found most encouraging.

But Head Coach Stephen Patterson is aware that despite a convincing start, pitfalls may lie ahead.  GB has not yet faced any of the stronger teams in the tournament, and “in any slowpitch game,” Stephen said, “anything can happen.”

The lesson of two years ago, when GB had a series of largely easy wins and then lost to Germany in the final, has not been forgotten.

The story on the game against Serbia has been on the website since this morning and can be found below.  Here is how things went against Austria.


GB v Austria

After Dan Spinks set the Austrians down quickly in the top of the first inning, giving up just a harmless single, GB came out firing in the bottom of the inning – but it has to be admitted that they had a lot of help from the Austrian pitching staff, three of whom appeared during the inning, with two of them having serious trouble throwing strikes.

Christian Scherz started for Austria, gave up a lead-off single to Robbie Studholme, who went 6-for-7 over the two games plus two walks, and then Scherz proceeded to walk Jenny Ball, Steve Hazard and Kim Hendry without throwing a single strike.  That meant one run in, bases loaded and Dan Spinks coming to the plate – the perfect set-up for GB to hit one of their three allowed over-the-fence home runs.

Dan took a ball, and then Christian Scherz finally managed a pitch over the plate.  An instant later, the ball was soaring over the left field fence, Dan Spinks had a grand slam, and GB had a 5-0 lead.


Bad to worse

After Christian Scherz followed with a walk to Amy Rice, Bernhard Siegler replaced him in the circle, but fared little better, walking five of the first eight batters he faced while giving up base hits by Jenny Ball and Steve Hazard.  And so it came about that with GB now leading 10-0 and the bases loaded, Dan Spinks again stepped to the plate, looking for a pitch to hit.

He never got it, as the Austrians preferred to give up two runs on a four-pitch walk rather than four.

“I really wanted a strike, but I never got anything close,” Dan said.  And the last pitch was behind me – there was nothing I could do with that!”

That walk brought Gregor Mitzoch in to pitch, and he finally closed out at the inning at the cost of only three more runs, two of them on a home run by Aaron Thomas that probably wasn’t intended.

And it was Mitzoch who almost contained GB in the bottom of the second inning.  The bases were loaded with no runs in and two out when Amy Rice came to the plate.  But she sliced a line drive into right centre field that cleared the fence for four more runs, and the rest was academic.


Adaptation

Whereas GB managed 10 runs from their three home runs, the Austrians were profligate with theirs.  All three of their runs were on solo home runs, the ultimate waste in these conditions – two by Joan Reynoso-Capellan and one by Bernhard Siegler.

“We were very disciplined,” Stephen Patterson said after the game.  “We wanted to play an aggressive game, but to do that successfully, the discipline had to be outstanding.  Then, when we got our chances with Dan and Amy, we took them.

“Everyone played some productive innings over the two games,” Stephen added, “and the defense was outstanding.”


GB v Serbia

The GB Slowpitch Team had no problem playing their first game at the 2019 European Slowpitch Championship on a tiny field with a home run limit (see http://www.britishsoftball.org/news/view/reclaim-the-title-is-gb-slowpitch-mission) as they overwhelmed Serbia by 24-2 in four innings.

With a line-up designed to hit singles and doubles rather than home runs, GB opened the game at the unusual time of 8.25 am by scoring a staggering 22 runs in the top of the first inning off Serbian starter Milan Dordevic, on 20 hits and a bunch of Serbian errors.

Robbie Studholme, Kirstie Leach and Mike MacDowell each had three hits in the first inning, good for 15 RBIs, as GB sent 26 batters to the plate and used up all three of their allowed over-the-fence home runs, with two hit by Mike MacDowell and one by Chiya Louie. 

Mike’s first blast, with two runners on base, was intended, but the second, with just one runner aboard, was an accident, something that can easily happen when the fences are only 220’ away.


Apres le deluge

Serbia tried to mount a response in the bottom of the first inning, loading the bases with no outs against GB starter Duncan Waugh on a hit, an error and a walk.  But the Serbians could only cash one run in that situation, on an RBI fielder’s choice hit by Ninad Milankov, and after that both teams more or less played out the game until the mercy rule came into effect after four innings of play.

After their first-inning outburst, GB managed just a single run in the second inning, driven in by Robbie Studholme via a walk, and one more in the third, with the RBI going to Megan Beard on a fielder’s choice.

In the top of the fourth inning, Matt Tomlin (of all people!) and Vicky Chapman were out for hitting the ball over the fence, and in the bottom of the fourth Serbia scored their second run of the game on a home run by Ninad Milankov off GB’s second pitcher, Matt Tomlin.

“There wasn’t anything I could do,” Vicky Chapman said afterwards. “I had two strikes, and it was an outside pitch, and well, I just hit it.  I’d rather be out that way than chopping some little ground ball, but I guess it wasn’t very useful!”

GB Head Coach Stephen Patterson was happy with the game and the result, if not the field.

“First of all, it’s great to see Serbia here,” Stephen said, “and to see that the tournament is expanding.  We made a phenomenal start on a ridiculous field, and all the players adjusted to the conditions in exactly the way we wanted them to, so we’re really pleased.

“But the ESF needs to recognise what slowpitch is about,” Stephen added, “and let us play the game the right way.”


Looking ahead

GB will get to play on a properly-sized diamond tomorrow (Wednesday), when they take on the Czech Republic and Hungary on the larger Antonia Morua Field, where the fences are at 300 feet.

But it will be back to the small Budapest Field on Thursday morning when GB will play the Netherlands in their last pool game before playoffs begin on Thursday afternoon.


Scores and standings

Below are the scores and standings so far on Day 1 of the European Slowpitch Championship, with an update to come later this evening:

POOL A SCORES
GB 24, Serbia 2
Czech Republic 18, Austria 4
Netherlands 13, Hungary 8
GB 20, Austria 3
Serbia 22, Hungary 19
Czech Republic 17, Netherlands 11

POOL A STANDINGS
GB (2-0)
Czech Republic (2-0)
Netherlands (1-1)
Serbia (1-1)
Austria (0-2)
Hungary (0-2)

POOL B SCORES
Belgium 8, Bulgaria 5
Germany 13, Italy 4
Ireland 11, Belgium 7
Bulgaria 11, Italy 7
Ireland 11, Germany 8

POOL B STANDINGS
Ireland (2-0)
Germany (1-1)
Belgium (1-1)
Bulgaria (1-1)
Italy (0-2)

There were some very exciting games at the end of the day.

Bulgaria inflicted a surprising second defeat on Italy by 11-7, Serbia outlasted Hungary 22-19 in extra innings, the Irish were thrilled with their 11-8 win over Germany ("Ireland is back!") and in the final game, with the sun setting, the Czech Republic held out for a 17-11 win over the Netherlands in a game that was closer than the final score would suggest.

GB and the Czechs are now tied at the top of Pool A with 2-0 records, and their meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) morning will be a significant game.

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