After focussing yesterday on teams that received contributions up-and-down the lineup on the way to dramatic results, today we turn to individual players. In a tournament that saw plenty of runs scored, multiple players put on offensive shows at Europe’s Under-23 Championship. Several came from the event’s top teams, including Best Hitter Martin Mužík, while others were more unexpected.
Mužík put on a display that will be remembered by Czech fans for a long time. The catcher, a rising sophomore at Wake Tech Community College in North Carolina, tore the cover off the ball in six games. The catcher-first baseman carried on where he left off in spring, as he hit .406/.482/.744 for the Eagles, including six home runs in seven may games.
Mužík hit safely in almost 60 percent of his at bats (.579), reaching base in more than 70 percent (.704). Particularly memorable was his 4-for-4 with two doubles against Ukraine and his 2-for-2 with a double, a roundtripper, and six RBI against Belgium. Four doubles and a tournament-leading three home runs capped off a 1.263 slugging percentage. He had 13 RBI in only 27 plate appearances. Not far behind was teammate Marek Chlup, who slugged two home runs, the only batter other than Mužík to hit more than one. Chlup hit .391/.464/.696.
It was Poland’s Dominic Golubiewski who had the most impressive day at the Euros, as his one-man wrecking ball of an attack singlehandedly dispatched Slovakia. Golubiewski strode to the dish six times, scoring in each plate appearance. Along the way, he hit a run-scoring double, an RBI-single, and a walkoff grand slam in a 17-4 rout. Poland’s first baseman even stole four bases, while collecting six RBI. Every number was a tournament single-game high, and Golubiewski finished with a .393/.452/.607 mark and the second-most base swipes of any player (5).
Several other players had games of note, including Poland’s Jakub Wojtczak, who finished a triple short of the cycle in a 4-for-5, three RBI day against Austria. A middle infielder, Wojtczak scored four runs and stole two bases, reaching base five times. He led Poland in triple slash categories at .417/.533/.625.
France’s Bastien Dagneau tied Golubiewski’s RBI mark when it counted most, driving in six against Germany in a game that France ultimately lost in the bottom of the ninth. His bases-clearing triple tied the game at three in the sixth in a game Germany would win 9-8. Great Britain’s Conrad Cornell had five ribbies of his own in a 12-4 drubbing of Croatia. The Mercer University player had a three-run double and drove in two on a triple.
Two other game performances deserve mentioning. Austria’s Samuel Häckl was 3-for-3, lacking only a four-bagger for the cycle against Georgia. The young backstop drove in four, scored three, walked, and swiped a bag in a 17-1 win. Finally, Denys Brechko knocked a double for each of his three hits against Poland, while France’s Nolan Soliveres also had three two-baggers against Slovakia.
Other players were solid the entire tournament. Denzel Richardson posted a .448/.467/.655 line for the Netherlands, no doubt hoping to break his way back into affiliated ball after being released by the Rockies. Teammate Kendrick Delima hit .423/.500/.615. Each had three hits, one for extra bases against Great Britain.
Michal Puškar was a bright spot for Slovakia, tying for second at the Euros in hitting (.474), third in slugging percentage (.842), and second OPS (1.387). He did not strike out in 22 appearances, second only to the Netherlands’ Delano Selassa (32 times to the plate). Selassa exhibited excellent contact skills, but struggled to turn batted balls into hits, with the exception of a 2-for-4 day against Croatia in which he collected six RBI and stroked a three-base hit.
Meanwhile, Kostiantyn Chukhas and Heorhii Hvrytishvili were offensive juggernauts for surprising Ukraine. Chukhas had a .440/.500/.800 line, finishing a home run short of the cycle against Russia in a four-hit day. Hvrytishvili, meanwhile, finished first in triples (3), second in slugging (.875), and third in OPS (1.356), while hitting .417. Chukhas was the only other player with multiple three-baggers.
While Great Britain’s bottom of the order struggled to hit safely, the top of the order demonstrated excellent plate discipline. Hayden Platt, a Third Team All-Conference performer for Elon University (N.C.), reached base 63 percent of the time (second among all batters), slugging .688 for good measure (No. 8 in the Euros). Teammates Juan Díaz (.520) and Richard Brereton (.517) also made it to first more than half the time.
Our other reviews will have to acknowledge Georgia’s struggles on the mound, but Giorgi Jalabadze, who was respectable on the hill, had a promising approach at the dish. Amazingly, Jalabadze appeared for the senior team in 2011 and 2016 European qualifiers, going 2-for-25 with five walks. Now 23, he first donned a Georgian jersey at 17.
Playing regularly as the team’s third baseman or shortstop, Jalabadze had the fifth-best slugging percentage among all players at .765, hitting Georgia’s first-ever home run (subject to record availability). With this experience, the young veteran hit .353 with only two strikeouts, topping Georgian hitters. As a team, Georgia was prepared to put the ball in play, striking out a respectable 27 percent of the time against much more experienced players.
In a five-day tournament, no position has more control over his country’s fate than the pitcher. While a player like Golubiewski can propel a team to victory, in other games, it is a pitcher who steps up. Tomorrow we profile several of the Euros’ best young hurlers as our series of reviews return.
Other editions of the U23 Euros review include:
Upsets and Standings (link)
The Best Games of the Tournament (link)
The Top Pitching Performances (Friday)
Flashing Leather: Fielding Notes (Saturday)
A Glance at Team Statistics (Sunday)
Pros and Prospects (Monday)