ZÜRICH – With a spot in the championship game potentially up for grabs, Bulgaria’s Eugenii Chernozemsky came up with a huge RBI-single in the eighth inning, and Bulgaria squeaked out a 3-2 nailbiter against the host nation. Switzerland’s disappointing run in the B-Level European Championships continued, as it dropped to 1-3.
Both sides received strong performances on the mound, with Alexander Blagoev pitching eight strong innings for the victors, and Hide Oshima and Tobias Siegrist splitting nine frames for the Swiss. Neither nation could get the bats going, but each club struck early in the contest.
Bulgaria got on the board first, as Martin Andonov led off the second with a double. Chernozemsky followed with the first of his two hits, putting runners on the corners, but Oshima limited the damage by getting the next three batters. One run scored on a sacrifice fly by Antonio Karaganov.
The home side answered in the bottom of the frame, with Andreas Rueesch drawing a leadoff walk and Stefan Koller replacing him at first base on a fielder’s choice. With two out, Koller stole second and came home on a one-base hit by Saentis Zeller.
The white, green, and red immediately answered, once again starting off a frame with a double, this time by Alexander Nassapov. After a walk to Petar Petrov, Nassapov scored on an unusual left field-to-second base force out off the bat of Krum Temelkov. Bulgaria would leave runners on second and third to end the inning, as Oshima once more worked his way out of the jam.
Blagoev kept the Swiss off the board until the fourth, when Koller ripped a two-base hit into the right field corner with no outs. Two consecutive flyouts plated Switzerland’s leftfielder, with the RBI going to Zeller.
Siegrist took over in the fifth from Oshima, and had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. The two sides combined for one hit between the fifth and seventh frames, and with both hurlers sailing through the middle innings, it became clear that the next team to score would win.
In the eighth, the home crowd watched with growing tension as Bulgaria refused to give up. With two outs, Andonov reached second on a throw that the third baseman Rodríguez tossed beyond the reach of Coma at first, and Bulgaria had its first runner in scoring position since the third. Chernozemsky laced a bouncer up-the-middle, and the visitors took a 3-2 lead.
Blagoev worked around a hit in the eighth, but Switzerland could not equalise. After another scoreless frame by Siegrist, Chernozemsky came in to close the game for Bulgaria, striking out one in the ninth for the save.
Chernozemsky and Nassapov each had a pair of hits for the victors, who were out-hit nine to six. Koller and Sebastian Zwyer were the only Swiss batters with a hitting brace, while Byrne had a hit, a walk, and two stolen bases. Blagoev earned the win while scattering eight hits and two walks, striking out two in his eight innings. Oshima went four frames, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks. Siegrist took a tough loss despite surrendering only an unearned run on two hits and a walk. In five innings, he struck out four.
Bulgaria came into the tournament ranked one place behind Switzerland in the European (Nos. 16 and 17) and World Rankings (Nos. 53 and 54), but have made a case for a rise in the charts after a 3-1 start to the B-Level Championships.
The white, green, and red will look for an upset against No. 5/21 Great Britain in the final day of pool play. The game will commence at 13:30 GMT on 26 July. A victory would ensure them a spot against the British in the championship game, though a loss would still leave them in contention, pending the results of the Poland-Ukraine contest on day five of the tourney.
Switzerland will look to finish its first notable international tournament with a victory over winless Slovenia, but will need to get the bats going against a Slovene side that has scored more runs than the Swiss in the championships. Game time for the final game of pool play is 17:30 GMT on 26 July.
Stay tuned to Extra Innings for the exciting finish in Zürich.