For the first time in European softball history, Super Cup Junior Women was held. Staff from Arrows Ostrava, Czech Republic organized the first edition of this tournament.
As this was the opening year, the tradition of junior club teams is missing. Therefore, all U19 teams were allowed to enter this competition regardless of their players’ nationality, club origin or player licences. With this being stated, two national selections - Slovakia and Poland, two Czech teams - Arrows and Joudrs, Serbian Arena, Dutch Bird Zoetermeer and Belgian Academy came to Ostrava.
"We, ESF, can loudly say that we had a great junior event in Ostrava. First ever played ESCJW finished in style, with a great game between "Arrows" Ostrava and "Birds" from Holland.
All girls did a great job, but more important thing is that the club’s officials and many parents realize that this competition is the future of our sport. We, ESF, got very good feedback from them and we will try to improve this competition. Never the less, we started a tradition and created a good base to build on in the upcoming years." Dejan Jesic, ESF Vice President, commented on the event, where he was in the role of EC.
Both Czech teams, especially Arrows, included a number of Czech national junior team's players, so the girls completed their preparation for the World Championship in Oklahoma. The tournament was disrupted by a bit of rain in the beginning and some rescheduling had to be done. There were no more complications during the event and the first Junior Cup Winner was determined!
There were three teams that appeared stronger and from the beginning you could guess that these three (Arrows, Birds Zoetermeer and Joudrs) would compete for the title. For the remaining four teams, this event was a great experience as players from countries that are developing their softball program had the chance to play against top European players of their age. (Czech team won last year's European Championship, 10 players of that team took part in ESCJW). In total, 28 games were played, 15 of these ended prematurely on mercy rule.
With 7 teams participating, this was a round-robin tournament. The pool games took three days, playoffs were played on Saturday. First Bird Zoetermeer and second Arrows played for the first spot in the final. Both teams were similarly successful in their offense, however the Czech team didn't manage to support their offense with good defense and after 7 errors in total, Arrows lost 2 to 6. The Birds advanced to the final.
The Czech team Joudrs placed 3rd after the round robin and played team Poland in the quarter-final game. (Team Poland only advanced to the playoffs on runs against rule, where a single run determined that Serbian team placed 5th in the pool – it proved the importance of the loss from night before: Arena 1: Poland 4). In the quarter final, team from Prague gathered 14 successful hits and only allowed a single run to the Polish team, with final score Poland 1: Joudrs 17, Polish team placed fourth overall.
The Czech teams then met in the second semifinal. Both showed solid offense - 10 and 11 hits, both teams made a few mistakes in their defense. However, as Joudrs struggled with their pitching (both pitchers injured) throughout the whole tournament, they were unable to gain the edge and with 9 bases on balls thrown, Arrows won 9:8 and advanced to the final. Joudrs Prague placed 3rd.
Meanwhile, remaining three teams also played for their final position in the scoreboard. Especially the Arena (SRB) vs Academy (BEL) game was very tight. The Belgian team let 6 pitchers take part in this game! Arena clearly had some better hitting (13 hits against 5 Belgian hits) and despite Academy's strong last inning (4 runs), the Serbian squad won the game 9:8 and took the final 5th place.
Final game: Bird Zoetermeer (NED) vs Arrows Ostrava (CZE). The teams had met twice during the tournament, both times the Birds were better. This time, the Arrows were the first team to score, early in the first inning. Since then, the Birds were only trying to tie the score, but they never managed to get the lead. Finally, the Czech team improved their batting and became European Super Cup Junior Women WINNER!
Pavel Krivak, the head coach of the winning team - Arrows Ostrava, shared a few thoughts about the event with us. "It might be better to make this event an U22 tournament, clubs and even national teams in the U19 category are not very strong. It is also important to keep this event's location in those cheaper countries. It would be difficult for clubs to pay for more expensive destination and I'm not sure that the softball level would be worth it, considering the current situation... The team Arrows Ostrava mostly consisted of the last year's Czech junior champion - team Kunovice, but held the name of the organizing club (where four our players are from) and we also invited a few girls from the Junior national team to complete our squad. We knew we wanted to beat the Dutch team only in the final, we were strong enough just for that. To play such a tournament with 12 players only was very demanding. I'm happy with our performance and, of course, with winning the title."
Photo galery: here