VILNIUS, Lithuania — Fourteen nations converged on Lithuania for the first-ever baseball5 championship on any continent. With a mixture of baseball and softball giants like the Netherlands, Italy, and the Czech Republic and minnows Estonia, Latvia, and Moldova, there were plenty of plotlines at the Baseball5 Euros. The final two teams will earn a berth to Mexico in December for the first-ever Baseball5 World Cup. Follow along here at the only site offering live updates.
With group play in the books, Italy and Russia are the only undefeated teams, both at 6-0, while the Netherlands and France are second in each group with identical 5-1 records. Italy has simply dominated competition, averaging almost 12 runs per five-inning game while allowing fewer than two. Russia has relied on a superb defence, putting together runs when it counted. After those powerhouse federations the standings become more unpredictable.
Host nation Lithuania has used a potent offence (56 runs, third in the tournament) to sew up third place in Group B, while Israel qualified for the quarterfinals at 3-3. Belarus and Romania also made the final eight after splitting their six contests with close to equal run differential.
Bulgaria and Belgium were only a tick behind the other teams and both feature strong offences that are capable of huge innings. In fact, Bulgaria nearly knocked off Lithuania to claim a place in the quarterfinals. The score was tied 7-7 after four before Bulgaria scored four in the top of the fifth. Lithuania then tied the game at 11 in the bottom half of the frame. After an injury and an umpire review of a play, the hosts returned to the plate and walked off with the heart-pounding victory.
Only Estonia failed to win a game, while Moldova, Latvia, and Czech Republic all earned their first baseball5 victories in history. Latvia earned its win in breathtaking fashion as it was tied 3-3 through four against Belgium. The Belgians then scored four in the final frame, but Latvia equalled and then surpassed that number to walk-off with the win.
Tomorrow, Feb. 29, will see the top eight teams contest a modified single-elimination playoff system, with the one and four seeds facing off and the second and third nations completing the bracket. The remaining six teams will play for the final standings.
Home team listed first.
Games scheduled for five innings.
Games shortened by mercy rule have the innings played in parentheses.
Sweden and Switzerland withdrew.
9:00 A1: Italy – B4: Israel
10:00 B2: France – A3: Belarus
11:00 B1: Russia – A4: Romania
12:00 A2: Netherlands – B3: Lithuania
9:00 A6: Moldova – B7: Estonia
10:00 B6: Czech Republic – A7: Latvia
11:00 A5: Belgium – B5: Bulgaria
The two finalists from the European Baseball5 Championship will qualify for the Baseball5 World Cup.