The Netherlands dominated the whole tournament and remained undefeated. Team Russia was the only one, who could challenge them. On the other hand, there were also teams that had just started their softball program a few years ago and they showed their passion for this game.
The Dutch team only played one seven-inning game as all the remaining games finished prematurely on mercy rule.
The Netherlands also won the final game against Russia when Irina Ilyashenko had to pitch her second game of the day and was no longer strong enough to hold the Dutch power-hitters back. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the scoreboard was showing 8 – 0, when the Dutch began their celebrations.
Their only seven-inning game at the EChU22W was the semifinal game against Russia the night before. It was also the highest-level game (and arguably the most exciting one) of the tournament.
The Russians got an early lead on a wild pitch in the first inning. The Dutch tied the game in the third thanks to Remmers, Jansen and Weijgertse (who maintained the highest batting average throughout the Championship). In spite of this, Irina Ilyashenko showed one of the best pitching performances of the tournament when she kept the Dutch power-hitters away from scoring any more runs. She was also one of the key players of Russian offense. Team Russia managed to strike again in the fourth inning and added another run in top of the seventh to make the score 3 – 1.
Coming into the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing by 2 runs, the orange team never gave up and the Dutch batters accomplished what they were supposed to: Remmers singled, then the Russian defense made an error, therefore they allowed another batter to have a chance to score. Strong Ilyashenko gave up two bases on balls, which resulted in a second run for the Dutch. Next up was Laura Wissink, who started her at bat with bases loaded and hit a hard groundball through the infield and brought the deciding runs in.
It is necessary to also mention Lisa Hop, the Dutch pitcher, who struck out nine Russian players and who also was the winning pitcher of the final game.
The semifinal game was tied when it comes to hits; the two Russian errors and the Dutch hitting ability in the right moment were the deciding moments of this game.
You can watch this game here.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia also played two incredible games with each other – both had to be decided in an extra inning. Their first clash was won by Slovakia, which was the most surprising upset of the whole tournament. With this win the Slovaks secured their third place after the round robins.
The key player of the Slovakian team was Dominika Rampackova, who was not only their best pitcher, but also one of the top five batters of the tournament (according to the official stats).
The Czechs and the Slovaks met again later in another (more important) game – the bronze medal game. The Czech Republic seemed confident having scored six runs in the first half of the game, but a few mistakes later in the game cost the Czech players not only their confidence, but also the lead. Nobody can imagine what was going on in the Slovakian dugout when the tying run was scored! Despite the few errors the Slovaks made in the extra inning, and their eventual loss in this game, Andre van Overbeek (ESF president) took a moment during the EChU22W closing ceremony to compliment this team on the efforts and their whole-hearted performance.
So that makes the top four – Gold: The Netherlands, Silver: Russia, Bronze: Czech Republic, fourth place: Slovakia.
Greece and Poland played for the fifth place. In this game, the Greeks executed a number of outstanding defensive plays. But it was the Polish team who won the game thanks to a series of successful hits. Despite this loss, Loren-Kathy Stavrou, the Greek pitcher, was one of the top pitchers of the event with an ERA of 1.30.
Seventh-place game was won by the Ukraine, and Lithuania took the last – eighth place in the tournament. The country of Ukraine is currently going through tough times and the players were mainly happy that they were able to come and represent their country at international level.
The Lithuanian team consisted of very young players – the oldest ones being 18 years old. Almost all of the players will be allowed to attend this competition in 2018 and in 2020 as well! Softball program in Lithuania has only started about three year ago, so any tournament is just a next step in development of the players and Lithuanian softball overall.
Organizers of this event – Pasos Pardubice – did a great job taking care of everything that was needed for a smooth running of such event. Lis Castro, the TC at the tournament, especially complimented the grounds crew, as well as all the volunteers.