Great Britain head into their final game of the First Round of the 2019 European Baseball Championships on Wednesday still in with a shout of making it to the Quarter Finals.
Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to Israel showed once again how small margins can make such a big difference in short-series tournaments.
Great Britain got off to the perfect start in Solingen, Germany, when third baseman Ben Andrews hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning, but Israel had drawn level at 3-3 when he stepped up to the plate to lead-off the bottom of the sixth.
Andrews hit a double into left-field for his third hit of the game, the second being a single in the third inning, and, after Rich Brereton struck out, he advanced to third on a wild pitch. Nate Thomas then walked and stole second base to put runners on second and third, only for Maikel Azcuy (strike-out) and Rich Klijn (pop-up to second base) to leave them stranded.
It felt like a momentum-changing situation and, unfortunately for us, that’s how it proved. Blake Gaillen hit a two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to give Israel a 5-3 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Although Jordan Serena quickly got one of those runs back by singling home Will Savage in the bottom of the frame, Israel scored a run in the top of the eighth before Gaillen struck again in the ninth for his second long-ball of the game and his third of the tournament so far.
A game that Great Britain might have gone on to win, against a very good Israel team, slipped away to a 7-4 defeat, just as a brilliant showing against Germany on Sunday only amounted to a 1-0 loss. Liam Carroll’s team have been close to putting together a hugely impressive First Round and whilst being so close, but so far, is frustrating, it also shows the talent and fight the team has that they put themselves into that position.
They’ll need to draw on those reserves on Wednesday to give themselves a chance of making it to the Quarter-Finals.
How things stand
Let’s deal with the second part of the day first.
Great Britain’s suspended game against the Netherlands will be completed with a ‘first’ pitch set for 17.30 UK time. The Dutch were leading 10-2 after eight innings when bad light meant the final regulation inning could not be played, so whilst we can all cross our fingers for a comeback to end all comebacks, more realistically we should pencil in a loss to GB’s record (and a W for the Dutch).
If we do that, then Pool A will look like this ahead of the three scheduled games to be played in full:
Wednesday’s Pool A fixtures, all being played in Bonn, are as follows:
- Sweden v Great Britain (12:30 BST).
- Israel v Netherlands (14:00)
- Germany v Czech Republic (18:00).
What do we need to happen?
Great Britain’s game is the first one up and, pending a shocking comeback against the Netherlands later on, quite simply is a game they must win to have a chance of finishing the top four.
From there, attention will turn to the game at 18:00 BST between Germany and the Czech Republic. That will determine which of those two teams finishes 3-2 and which finishes 2-3, and that will be hugely important for Great Britain.
CEB tournament rules dictate that the first tie-breaker when two teams finish on the same win-loss record is the head-to-head result between the two teams.
If Germany beat the Czech Republic then Great Britain will finish fourth, qualifying for the quarter-finals, due to our 4-3 win over them on Monday.
If the Czech Republic beat Germany then we will be placed in fifth, with Germany’s 1-0 win on Sunday putting them ahead of us.
A nervous day ahead!
Those small margins will loom large on Wednesday. If Great Britain lose to Sweden not only will that put us into the ‘Classification’ section, rather than the quarter-finals, it would also mean a sixth-placed pool finish (Sweden winning the tie-breaker with us both on 1-4 records). That would be a real shame and not at all representative of how well the team has played.
But let’s not allow such negative thoughts into our heads. Instead, let’s focus on cheering Great Britain to victory over the Swedes and then spending the rest of the afternoon learning the German national anthem!
After the games are complete
I’ve been live-streaming ahead of Great Britain’s games on Periscope/Twitter over the last few days and if you haven’t seen them then you can check them out on the new British Baseball Beat YouTube channel. As noted there, the YouTube channel is going to be developed over the off-season but it seemed a good idea to collate these videos in one place so we’ll call it a soft launch!
Here’s the video recorded prior to Tuesday’s games, as an example:
I’m planning to do a live-stream on Periscope/Twitter after the Germany-Czech Republic game (so, probably about 21:00 BST) to reflect on the day’s events, so keep an eye out for that on my Twitter account: @mattbaseballgb.