The fourth WBSC Slowpitch World Cup came to a premature end on Sunday 22 November in Plant City, Florida, as rain wiped out the final game and probably deprived Germany of the title.
The Grand Final was in the third inning, with Germany leading the Bahamas 12-3, when the rain that had fallen for most of the preceding 18 hours came back for a final time and made the field unplayable. This gave the gold medal to the Bahamas, who had defeated Germany earlier in the day, in the 1 v 2 Trophy Page Playoff game, by a score of 15-10.
Germany finished second, and Canada, who broke open a close 3 v 4 Trophy Page Playoff game to defeat Great Britain 22-7, was third.
Because overnight rain on Saturday night and into Sunday morning had saturated most of the fields at the ISF Headquarters complex, the organisers were forced to cancel the Placing Page Playoffs involving the Turks & Caicos Islands, Curacao, Bulgaria and France, who finished fifth through eighth in that order.
Page Playoff games
After the groundskeepers had recovered one field on Sunday morning, the 1 v 2 game between the Bahamas and Germany was played, so that if the tournament couldn’t be finished, that game would determine the winner.
Germany took an 8-0 lead after two innings, the Bahamas roared back to take a 9-8 lead after four and the game was tied at 10-10 after five. But Germany failed to score over the final two innings, and the Bahamas turned on the home run power in the bottom of the sixth. A monster three-run home run over the right centre field fence by Eugene Bains was followed by a two-run blast to left by Raynaldo Russell, and that made the final score 15-10 for the team from the Caribbean.
So the Bahamas, round-robin winners over the first three days of the tournament, were in the Grand Final.
Great Britain and Canada then played in the 3 v 4 game, with Canada sending GB out of the competition. On Saturday, the Great Britain Team had pulled off a miraculous come-from-behind 18-17 win against Canada in pool play, but on Sunday, in the Page Playoffs, Canada had too much power. After three innings, the game was tied at 6-6, but over the final two innings it was all Canada. The North Americans scored six runs on five hits in the fourth inning and 10 runs on 10 hits in the fifth, while GB could only muster a single run in reply.
So the final score was 22-7 to Canada in a five-inning mercy rule win, which meant that GB finished in fourth place and out of the medals at the 2015 Slowpitch World Cup. It was Great Britain’s lowest-ever finish in an official ISF or ESF slowpitch competition.
That left Canada and Germany to play to determine who would go to the final and who would have to settle for the bronze medal. Canada took an early 7-0 lead and still led by 9-3 after the top of the fifth inning. But Germany finally came to life, scratching out four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to cut the deficit to 9-7. Canada only managed one run in the top of the seventh inning on an inside-the-park home run, and then Germany pulled off a replica of GB’s last-inning comeback against Canada on Saturday. The Germans got a series of clutch singles from the bottom of their order to tie the game with two out, and then Wolfgang Walther punched a single through the right side of the infield to drive in the winning run and send the Germans to the final.
At which point, the rain returned. When it stopped 20 minutes later, the grounds crew did what they could to get the Grand Final started. But the teams were warned that any further rain would make the field unplayable and that the final would be cancelled at that point.
Sadly, with Germany batting in the top of the third inning and leading the Bahamas by 12-3, the rain came back for a final burst, the field turned to mud, and the Bahamas were crowned as champions. It was a massive disappointment for a German team that looked set to take the trophy, but the Germans were extremely gracious about the result in a tournament that was distinguished by friendship and sportsmanship.
With no games to play after the Placing Page Playoff was cancelled, the bottom four teams stayed to cheer and support the teams playing for the title, and for much of the first game between the Bahamas and Germany, the women from the Turks & Caicos Islands team sat in the third base stand and sang – mostly hymns, but also a lovely rendition of Karma Chameleon!
At the rain-soaked end of the day, after the Grand Final had been abandoned, all the players came together under a covered outdoor pavilion for the medal presentations, and the good feeling among the teams was obvious.
If the revival of the WBSC Slowpitch World Cup had got off to a somewhat uncertain start in January 2014, this latest edition suggests a very bright future for the competition. Despite the absence of an American team, the quality of play this time was much higher than in 2014, with many close games and dramatic comeback wins. Six of the eight teams were capable of beating each other, and both Curacao and the Turks & Caicos Islands, who had pledged to send stronger teams this time around, were true to their world.
The intention is to make this an annual event, but alternating between a Cup tournament one year, which means teams can be formed on any basis, and a proper World Championship the next year, which means teams must be composed of passport-holders. The hope is that the first World Championship version can be held in 2016 and in even-numbered years thereafter, so there is no clash with European Co-ed Slowpitch Championships, which are played in odd-numbered years.
Enthusiasm for the event is high among Caribbean teams, and there was talk of countries such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Belize, Aruba and others coming next time, while the Czechs have pledged to come to a World Championship event to augment the European contingent.
Growth in international slowpitch competition looks like it’s finally coming to pass.
Here are the full results from the Trophy Page Playoffs:
1 v 2 Game: Bahamas 15, Germany 10
3 v 4 Game: Canada 22, GB 7
Third Place Game: Germany 11, Canada 10
Final: Abandoned in the third inning with Germany leading 12-3.
1 – Bahamas
2 – Germany
3 – Canada
4 – Great Britain
5 – Curacao
6 – Turks & Caicos Islands
7 – Bulgaria
8 -- France