Prague Softball Summer - a collaboration of three major ESF club tournaments, which took place during two weeks in the capital of the Czech Republic, was concluded by the men's Super Cup.
23 participating teams from 9 countries were divided into 4 pools, of which the top 3 teams (from each group) advanced into the Supercup bracket, whereas the remaining 11 teams took part in the ESF bracket.
Because event of this size requires many games to be played (altogether there were 97), 3 clubs provided their facilities and helped organize the ESCM. All three of the organizing clubs were able to take part in the tournament, the Czechs also had two spots in the Cup like any other country and the U23 Junior Men's team also joined the participants for development purposes, making 6 the total of host country's teams.
A special participant from the country of 6 times world champions - New Zealand - were the Temperzone Junior Black Sox. Their coaches Jarrad Martin and Thomas Makea held two clinics during their stay and the European softball community had a chance to listen to these world champions talk about the way to the top.
Their players, in spite of young age, performed on a great level and by the end of the tournament recorded 3 wins and 4 losses, placing 11th in the Supercup bracket. Captain of the Kiwi youngsters, Jackson Watt, even scored a homerun in the 17:0 win over the French team Cavigal Nice.
Each group had its front-runners and underdogs from early on, as Hurricanes (Denmark), Pro Roma (Italy), Bulls (Denmark) and Braves (Belgium) all went undefeated in the first round-robin, while Cavigal (France), Medvedi, Giants (both Croatia) and Pantheres (France) lost all of their games.
In the ESF bracket, Chicaboo's from Belgium were headed for the top spots from early on, but it was the nerve-wrecking 10-inning battle against BSC Quick (in which Ivan Degroote's 2 RBI single led them ahead), which sent them into the semifinal, where they lost to the Pioneers. In the backdoor semifinal, where they faced the Spanish Magos, they were trailing 5:0 in the 7th, hoping for a last-minute rally to get back into the game, but 3 errors, 5 hits and 6 runs later, they found themselves unable to turn things over and ended up at the bronze spot.
The Dutch team Hoofdoorp Pioneers was a clear favorite and after defeating the Chicaboo's on Friday, they advanced directly into the final with enough time to rest before the second to last game in the tournament. But in the final, the squad - made of many national team's veterans - piled an incredible number of 6 errors, which eventually cost them the game, regardless of the big 5-run fifth inning. In the end, they lost 8:6 and finished at second spot.
The Spanish team Magos Tenerife had an exhausting schedule of 5 games in the last 2 days, inlcuding a Friday midnight battle, which ended at 1am. They fought their way through the backdoor semifinal, beating Cavigal, BSC Quick (2:1 after a solo homerun by Jiri Aubrecht), Pantheres (5:3), Chicaboo's and Pioneers on the way. Led by the effective pitching of Robert Ramos Saravia (who stood on the rubber in all 6 of their ESF bracket games), Magos seized the golden medals.
In the Super Cup bracket, Horsholm Hurricanes became the crowd's favorite, as they continued to surprise their opponents despite a limited number of players. The Terkelsens & co played a very tight backdoor quarterfinal game against the only Czech team left in the hunt for the championship at that point, Hippos - winning an extra-inning battle 5:4 in the 9th after a go-ahead single by none other than Valdemar Terkelsen, who led the Supercup bracket in the number of homeruns, as well as the number of innings pitched. The decimated Hurricanes, despite visible fatigue and injuries, managed to turn the backdoor semifinal into a thrilling and exciting game once again, as they lost to Brasschaat Braves 2:1 after a wild pitch in the bottom of the 7th. The Hurricanes ended up third overall.
The Braves (from Belgium) made their way to the podium thanks to the Argentinian ace in the pitcher's circle, Roman Godoy. They secured a top 3 spot after defeating Stenlose Bulls 1:0 on a bases-loaded walk in the top of the 1st frame, issued by Kim Hansen. The only team they were unable to beat was the Italian Pro Roma, to whom they lost 9:0 in the semifinal. In the final, they couldn't find the right way around Sebastian Gervasutti - another world-class star from Argentina - on the mound, as the Romans continued to crush their opponent and secured a lead early on after a series of miscues in Braves' defense. The gold medal game ended on the run-ahead rule in the 6th after a walkoff 2 RBI inside-the-park homerun by Martin Godoy.
Pro Roma confirmed their dominance in the tournament and remained undefeated. Their win in the men's Super Cup concludes an exceptional year for Italian softball - not only did Italy win the women's and cadet girls European championships, they also took a golden triple at Prague softball summer events, collecting 5 golden medals from the total of 10 official ESF competitions.
For the final 3 days, Playo.tv provided live coverage of the games played at Radotin, the main organizing club. The average viewership of these live streams fluctuated around impressive 1600 views. Despite the occasional power outage, the tournament was a success and a great showcase of top men's softball. It also has a promising future, as rumors about the "Senior" Black Sox coming to Europe next year were confirmed.
Final standings - Supercup: 1. Pro Roma (ITA) 2. Braves (BEL) 3. Hurricanes (DEN) 4. Hippos (CZE) 5. Bulls (DEN) 6. Beavers (CZE) 7. Radotin (CZE) 8. Spectrum (CZE) 9. CZE U23 (CZE) 10. Vikings (DEN) 11. Jr. Black Sox (NZL) 12. Diamonds (NED)
Final standings - ESF: 1. Magos (ESP) 2. Pioneers (NED) 3. Chicaboo's (BEL) 4. Pantheres (FRA) 5. Quick (NED) 6. Giants (CRO) 7. Tempo (CZE) 8. Adegeest (NED) 9. JA Team Enjoy (ITA) 10. Cavigal (FRA) 11. Medvedi (CRO)
For a full list of results and stats, head over to our competition site. For condensed game highlights, check out Czech Softball's YouTube channel. To relive the complete set of recorded streams, check out playo.tv's website. Photogallery to be found on the ESCM Facebook.