ZÜRICH – Spencer Kreisberg allowed only a single run through eight dominant frames and Sam Wiley had two key RBIs as the Lions squeaked by upset-minded Ukraine. Artem Lopata kept the British off balance through six innings, but Kreisberg and Daniel Cooper prevented a late rally from spoiling Great Britain’s fourth straight win in the 2013 B-Level European Championships.
Britain struck in the first inning as Matt Roxburgh singled through the left side with one out. With two down, Roxburgh swiped second and scored on Wiley’s single. The RBI was the leftfielder’s seventh in four games.
Both sides were quiet until the fourth, when the Lions plated another run. Mitch Evans reached on an error and went to second after Brett Rosen was plunked. Ian Young then stroked a one-base hit to right to load the bases. Rosen was picked off second, but Lopata once more jammed the sacks after a walk to Maikel Azcuy.
Ryan Trask then plated Evans with a two-out safety to give Great Britain a 2-0 lead. It appeared that the Lions would add to the margin when Chris Sims ripped a ball off Lopata, but the second baseman, Oleksandr Mamontov, gathered in the ball and flipped to first for the third out.
Kreisberg finally surrendered a run in the sixth. Artem Borshch led off with a single to centre and moved over one base on a safety by Andriy Kubalskyi. The runners advanced to scoring position with a ground ball, and Mykhai Nakonechnnyi bounced a ball to Sims at second that narrowed Ukraine’s margin to 2-1. Kreisberg bore down to get Sergii Tykhonets looking for the third out and preserve the lead.
After the Lions stranded two runners in the bottom of the sixth, Kreisberg continued to hold the blue-and-yellow in check, striking out the side on 13 pitches. The British would then give him some breathing room in the seventh.
Zack Wiley reached on a walk to lead off the frame, and Roxburgh laid down a bunt to move him over, but surprised Ukraine’s defence when he reached first safely. Oleh Bovko, Ukraine’s skipper, brought in Sergeii Maksymov to stifle the threat, and he quickly got the first out on a popup by Evans.
Sam Wiley singled to centre, giving Britain a 3-1 lead, and Rosen followed with a sacrifice fly to right for a three-run advantage. The four runs were all Great Britain would manage, despite averaging 13 runs in three Euro games prior.
Neither side threatened in the eighth, and Head Coach Sam Dexter brought in Cooper to close things out. Ukraine’s hitters immediately set to work, as Ruslan Deikun ripped a double to right on Cooper’s first pitch. With one out, Denys Brechko pinch hit for Tykhonets and reached on a throwing error by Cooper.
Cooper then struck out another pinch hitter, but gave up a single down the right field line to Enver Lyumanov, which plated Deikun. With runners on the corners, Cooper got Ivan Cherepanov swinging and Britain escaped with the 4-2 final.
Kreisberg struck out eight and gave up the single run on five hits and a walk in eight frames, needing only 91 pitches to earn his first win in the B-Level Championships. Cooper earned the save despite giving up an unearned run, whiffing a pair. Great Britain’s pitching staff has struck out 43 and given up only three walks in 32 frames to go with a 1.69 ERA.
Lopata took the loss after giving up three earned runs on seven hits and three base on balls. He did not strike out a batter and threw 113 pitches. Maksymov pitched the final two frames, giving up a hit and striking out one.
Roxburgh, Sam Wiley, and Trask all had a hitting brace for the Lions, while Azcuy drew two walks to tie him for the team lead with Zach Wiley at six. Roxbugh and Sam Wiley lead the team in hitting at .500. Britain has now drawn 23 walks and struck out only 11 times in four games.
Borshch, Kubalskyi, and Lyumanov each had a pair of hits for the losers, who had seven hits, but struck out 10 times against Britain’s hurlers. The four-threw-seven hitters were only 1-for-16 and Mamontov, who came in leading Ukraine in average, was 0-for-3.
Britain’s defence, which had struggled in the first three games, had only Cooper’s blemish to prevent them from a clean game. Zack Wiley led the fielders with six flawless chances, while Kreisberg got four of his outs on grounders to the mound. Ukraine also committed a single error.
Ukraine dropped to 2-2, but could still advance to the championship game with a win over Poland (also 2-2) in the 9:30 a.m. GMT game on 26 July. Great Britain, ranked No. 21 in the world and fifth in Europe, has all but officially secured its spot in the championship, with a showdown against second-place Bulgaria at 13:30 on Friday. Bulgaria came into the tournament ranked only 54th (No. 17 in Europe), but have beaten Switzerland (No. 53/16), Poland (No.56/19), and Slovenia (No. 58/21