GB U-19 Men show their mettle at the Euros

Thu 27 Jul 2017

By Ian Tomlin

Prague, Czech Republic: 26 July – On Day Three at the European Junior Men’s Championship, the GB Under-19 Men’s Team showed that they are capable of competing with the best.

Today the team came out fighting and had both Denmark and Israel concerned about the outcome.

GB batters put the ball in play and fielders did their jobs well.  There appeared to be an air of confidence in the side and a weight seemed to have lifted from the players’ shoulders.

For a while all seemed well as the team tried to move up to fourth place in the group standings and reach the playoffs scheduled for the latter stages of the tournament.

But as hard as they tried and as well as they played, wins were not forthcoming, and playoff qualification cannot now be achieved.

In the end, GB lost by 13-6 to Denmark this morning and by 16-7 to Israel this afternoon, and their tournament will finish after final pool games against Croatia and the defending champions Czech Republic on Thursday.

GB v Denmark​

Head Coach Chris Yoxall made changes to the side for this game, bringing in a very young infield which Included 16-year-old pitcher Oliver Howley as well as Jonathan and Daniel Downes and Max Fagan.  But the gamble seemed to pay off as GB limited the Danes to one run in the top of the first inning.

The GB response was immediate.  Eight players went to the plate in the bottom of the first and two runs were scored, the first on a line drive RBI single to right field by Tom Russell to drive in George Young, and then Tom scored after three successive walks to give GB a 2-1 lead.

The top of the second inning brought controversy.  A double play turned by the GB infield appeared to confuse the umpires, leading to a single out being given when two runners had clearly been tagged while off base.  Following the incident, Denmark’s Oscar Anderson hit a sweet line drive to left field, scoring Asgar Palm to tie the game.

But in the bottom of the second inning, the momentum swung back to GB – for the last time.  A single by shortstop Max Fagan was followed by a sacrifice bunt from Kai Benaim and consecutive singles by George Young and Tom Russell to bring in Max and give GB a 3-2 lead.

However, spirits were soon dented in the top of the third inning as Emil Luthje hit a three-run home run over the left field fence after a walk and a double, putting the Danes in the lead for good at 5-3.

GB went up and down in order in the bottom of the third inning, and in the top of the fourth the Danes appeared to get the measure of pitcher Oliver Howley.  Hits by Oliver Summer, Alexander Lorentzen, Asger Palm, Oscar Sanderson and Oscar Anderson brought in six more Danish runs.

A further two runs in the top of the fifth inning took the Danes out to a 13-3 lead, and all seemed lost.  But the determined GB players fought back with three runs in the bottom of the inning, scored by Daniel Downes, Mason Brockway and Ben Tomlin.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite enough to avert the mercy rule, and the game ended with the score standing at 13-6.  But the GB Team was applauded from the diamond following a spirited performance.

GB v Israel​

After the defeat by Denmark, GB was hoping to achieve their first win of the tournament against Israel.  But things went wrong early on as two walks and a hit batter in the top of the first inning loaded the bases and then Israel went to work, scoring five runs to take a commanding lead.

Israel scored a single run in the top of the second inning, and GB failed to respond until the bottom of the third, when third baseman Jonathan Downes singled and stole second and third before a single by Max Fagan brought him home.

When Great Britain came to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning, Denmark held an 8-1 lead.  But suddenly the GB bats started to connect and a lead-off inside-the-park home run by Jonathan Downes led the way.  Hits by George Young and Tom Russell, a walk to Kai Benaim, and a double from Daniel Downes bought three more runners home, and by the time the inning ended, GB had cut the Israeli lead to 8-6.

But after all the excitement, Israel released the big guns in the top of the sixth inning, and their batters started to hit against Oliver Howley, who had replaced starter Sam Grafton in the fifth.

Israel batted through their order and scored eight runs to settle the game.  GB couldn't respond and the game finished 16-7.

Looking ahead

Today saw the young GB side at its best and it was a pleasure to watch them go head-to-head with two talented teams.

But while the day produced an improved performance from the GB Under-19 Men, their efforts did not bear the fruit they sought and they remain without a point at the bottom of the table.

Tomorrow the Croatians and the Czechs await, and the last chance for the team to achieve a win.

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