VILNIUS, Lithuania – After an exciting first day at the European Baseball5 Championship, Day Two dialled up the emotion and the intensity. By the end of play, history had been made as Lithuania and France qualified for the premier Baseball5 World Cup, each twice defeating an unbeaten team. No team remained undefeated and every nation had won at least two games. With high quality streaming and a clear sense of both pride and enjoyment in the players, we can already rule the first continental championship in baseball5 a success.
The day began with the top eight teams contesting the quarterfinals and the bottom six simultaneously fighting for placement. Every matchup on the day was played as a best-of-three series, offering players additional opportunities for practice. This was particularly important as 9-of-14 countries made their international debut at the Baseball5 Euros.
All four quarterfinals were decided in only two games, though most were quite close. Italy dispatched Israel, with the second game going into extra innings. France held Belarus to single runs in both of its games, while Russia walloped Romania in its two contests. The closest games were between the Netherlands and Lithuania, with both sides receiving plenty of chances to win. In the end, the hosts were victorious.
Meanwhile, Estonia looked as if it would go home without a win, starting the day with its seventh straight loss. However, something clicked from that point and the Baltic nation finished the day with four consecutive wins to propel it from 14th place to the ninth-place game tomorrow. Czech Republic had a similar run, beginning Day Two with a 1-5 record, but claiming four-of-six in the consolation round.
Bulgaria’s enthusiasm for the sport, in which it has hosted two Balkan Baseball5 Opens, looked like it paid off in seeding play. The southeast European nation was unlucky on the first day not to make the finals, failing to make the quarterfinals after Lithuania walked off in the bottom of the fifth. In consolation action, however, it outscored a feisty Belgium team 26-13 to win two-of-three and ensure at least a 10th-place ranking.
The early afternoon saw the quarterfinal losers jockey for ranking position. Belarus andIsrael played a thrilling three-game set, with the northeast European country outscoring Israel 10-9 to take the set. Romania gave European bat-and-ball power the Netherlands a scare in the other pairing, coming up just short in a 9-8 loss and then thrashing the Dutch 9-0. The honkbal5ers buckled down for a 7-1 win to take the series.
The best action was saved for the final games of the day. Russia and Lithuania tangled inthe first semi-final series and featured two different approaches. Russia had used a superb defence to go 6-0 on the first day, allowing only nine runs and scoring 48. Lithuania had succeeded with an offensive strategy, scoring 72 in all games to that point, permitting 44.
The first game was all Lithuania in the end, with the host nation winning 6-1. The next contest was a nail-biting duel worthy of two strong teams and the score was knotted at two apiece heading into the final frame. With a spot in both the European Championship and the World Cup at stake, Lithuania manufactured a single run and walked-off, celebrating with exuberance.
The other spot in the title bout featured two European titans: Italy and France. With Russia losing its first games of the Euros a few minutes before, Italy remained as the sole undefeated team. France set to work, however, and a rollercoaster game saw both side in the lead before Les Bleus were victorious, 7-4. Italy was in total command in a 6-2 game two win, setting up a thriller for the World Cup spot. France scored three in the first and held on for a 7-3 triumph of its traditional baseball and softball nemesis.
Lithuania and France face off for the inaugural European baseball5 title at 10:00 GMT tomorrow. Russia and Italy play for the bronze an hour beforehand. Both of those games and the fifth- and seventh-place contests will be streamed here [link]. The games for the ninth and eleventh spots are also televised [link]. Action recommences at 7 a.m. GMT.
For yesterday’s wrapup, results, and standings see here [link].
Tomorrow’s Schedule (1 March)
8:00 7th Place: Israel – Romania
8:00 9th Place: Bulgaria – Estonia
9:00 5th Place: Belarus –Netherlands
9:00 11th Place: Belgium – Czech Republic
10:00 3rd Place: Russia – Italy
11:00 1st Place: Lithuania – France