Chocen, Czech Republic: 16 June – Great Britain is the first-ever European Men’s Slowpitch Champion -- and deservedly so, as the team went through the tournament undefeated with an 11-0 record and produced a 20-5 mercy rule demolition of Germany in the final.
The Germans, who finished with a record of 6-6, have been the only team to challenge GB’s slowpitch hegemony in Europe over recent years, and last summer Germany became the first team apart from Great Britain ever to win a European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship gold medal.
But the Germans were playing their fourth game of the day in this evening’s final – three of them against GB -- and it may have been a game too far.
GB’s prolific home run duo of Mike MacDowell and Chris Yoxall continued to fire in the final, with another two home runs each and nine RBIs between them, and GB pulled steadily away from Germany as the game wore on. Adam Haywood also contributed a home run to the festivities.
Mike MacDowell finished the tournament with 13 home runs and Chris Yoxall with 12, and the two were potent run producers at the heart of Head Coach Stephen Patterson’s very prolific GB offense.
Three of Germany’s five runs came on solo home runs from Mario Beuchert, Wolfgang Walther and Max Verhusen, but GB’s winning pitcher, Mark Bowman, scattered 13 German hits across six innings, and Germany only scored in three of those innings, and never more than two runs at a time.
By contrast, GB got off to their usual strong start, with seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. It was a demonstration of the GB hitting machine in action – team with intelligent base-hitters and a couple of long-ball specialists -- as the team batted through the order and started the game with seven straight hits.
Robbie Studholme and Matt Tomlin led off with singles, Mike MacDowell and Kelvin Harrison doubled, Joe Grantham singled, Chris Yoxall cleared the fence in left field and Aaron Thomas singled to left field before Mark Bowman brought the merry-go-round to a halt by hitting into a double play. But that was followed by triples from Luis Arrevillagas and Adam Haywood before German pitcher Oliver Stiehl managed to escape the inning.
The rest of the game was pretty much icing on the cake.
GB added four more runs each in the second and third innings and scored in every frame, utilizing 20 hits and two walks.
GB’s final two runs, that brought the game to a mercy rule close in the bottom of the sixth inning, came on a German error, with no one out in the inning. It was a sad way to end the tournament for Germany, but GB’s dominance, in their third win over the Germans on the day, and their fourth over the course of the tournament, was complete.
Oddly, the GB offense was able to hammer almost every team into submission during the tournament except for the Czech Republic. In two games against the Czechs, who could only finish fourth with a 3-7 record, GB had narrow one-run and three-run wins. No one else got closer to the British than 11 runs. Go figure.
There is no question that the ESF’s first European Men’s Slowpitch Championship was a big success, with a number of strong teams competing, a host of exciting games and a feast of hits and runs along with some great defense. And one GB coach called the umpiring at the tournament the best he’d seen.
Significantly, the tournament marked the first time that Europe’s two leading softball nations, the Netherlands and Italy, had played in an official European slowpitch competition. It certainly won’t be the last.
GB Assistant Coach and self-styled “back-up pitcher” said: “Germany tried everything to stem the relentless tide of line drives and more huge home runs from Mike and Chris, but nothing worked. GB had the best hitters, the fastest runners, the best defense, the best pitchers and the best coaches. GB was the best team in the competition by some distance and has set the benchmark for future teams."