Several nations recorded impressive results on the mound at the Under-23 European Championship. Some pitchers shone in their debuts on the hill, while others have seen action before. For Great Britain’s Nolan Bond, the performance likely caught the eye of professional scouts. As our series of reviews turns to the mound, several pitching efforts jump to the fore.
On the first day, two squads pitched combined no-hitters, while two others allowed merely one hit. In the opening game of the tournament, Germany blasted Georgia 24-0 in five innings, with the only baserunner reaching on an error. The result technically failed to qualify as a no-no thanks to the innings count.
Later that day, Jonathan Mottay and Esteban Prioul teamed up to one-hit Slovakia as France won 11-0 in seven. Three Czech pitchers finished off a day of strong pitching performances with a 15-0 victory and only one hit against Lithuania, though the game lasted a mere six frames.
The most notable line that day, though, was by Nolan Bond, no stranger to important moments on the international stage. After appearing for the senior national team in Brooklyn in last September’s World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, Bond hurled five perfect innings for Great Britain against Austria before walking the leadoff batter in the sixth.
After a five-run top of the sixth for GB and an 8-0 lead, Bond finished out the inning before yielding to Miguel Rodríguez, who pitched a scoreless seventh after the Brits put two more up to activate the mercy rule. Only 20, Bond struck out nine and needed only 73 pitches to silence Austria, which was expected to challenge for a quarterfinal appearance. After the game, we spoke with Bond and his coaches for GB and the University of Houston (link).
A day later, it was Spain’s Francisco González to stymie Austria, allowing only two hits in 7 2/3, as Spain won 3-0 in a full nine frames. Austria, hosting a pool with Spain, Great Britain, and Poland, lost all three of the games in its bracket. The other matchup in that bracket, a matchup that we highlighted as one of the best at the Euros, saw Poland’s Pawel Sztejka strike out 12 in 7 1/3 one-hit innings, though the southpaw walked six and allowed three earned runs.
Three other games are worth mentioning for their impressive pitching. On the final day of pool play, Belgium’s Robin Roevens pitched a three-hit shutout of Lithuania, striking out eight as the future bronze medallists won 8-0.
A day later, Maksim Makarkin set was is likely to be a long-standing record, striking out 19 Belarussians in eight frames as Russia won 2-1 in 10 innings. The winning run crossed the plate on a wild throw on a sacrifice bunt, overshadowing Makarkin’s amazing work on the hill. Makarkin struck out the first five batters in the game, and later sent down six in-a-row, showing off the best curveball in the tournament, thrown overhand, but with an unusual 1-to-7 break.
One of the most even matchups of the tournament was between Germany and Great Britain in the semi-finals, as Bond squared off with Sascha Koch, who had surrendered only a single hit in four innings against France. Both starters looked unhittable in the first two frames before GB took a 2-0 lead in the third.
Bond was electric into the fourth, and it was not until two outs in the frame he finally allowed his first hit at the Euros, running his streak to 9 2/3 hitless frames. Germany would score two runs in the frame and go on to win 5-3, as Koch whiffed eight in five frames and Daniel Mendelssohn had four of the seven strikeouts recorded by German relivers.
Makarkin, Roevens, Bond, and Koch all featured heavily on the tournament leaderboards. Makarkin led in strikeouts (23), strikeouts per nine innings (18.8), and fewest walks (none). Roevens tossed the most innings (18), all of them without an earned run, as batters hit .121 against him (sixth).
Bond allowed only a .108 average to opposing batters (fourth) and was tied for second in strikeouts (15). Koch hurled only nine innings, but sent 13 batters down on strikes (sixth, third in K/9) and opponents hit just .100 against him, tops in the Euros. Worth mentioning as well is Tomaš Ondra, the Czech Republic’s relief ace, who appeared in four games and struck out 11 in six frames, the second-best rate amongst pitchers (16.50 K/9).
We continue our look at Europe’s Under-23 squads tomorrow with a final glance at team statistics, inspecting which teams excelled on the mound, in the field, and on the bump.
Other editions of the U23 Euros review include:
Upsets and Standings (link)
The Best Games of the Tournament (link)
Outstanding Hitting Performances (link)
Flashing Leather and Swiping Bags (Sunday)
A Glance at Team Statistics (Monday)
Pros and Prospects (Tuesday)