On the first day of the 2021 European Championship, the following games were scheduled: Czech Republic @ Sweden, Germany @ Croatia, Belgium @ Austria, Greece @ Italy, Slovakia @ the Netherlands, Ukraine @ Spain, Russia @ Israel, and France @ Great Britain. And on the very first day, there were a couple of surprising results.
Czech Republic 6 – 1 Sweden
In the opening game of the tournament, Sweden was no match for the Czech Republic. The result wasn’t really a blowout score but the Czech pitching staff limited their opponent to one run on five hits. Until the fourth inning, Sweden could keep pace with the Czechs. Both teams scored a run in the third inning but in the fourth, the Czech Republic took the lead. A double and a wild pitch allowed them to score twice. An RBI-double by Marek Chlup and a two-RBI-single by Matej Hejma gave the Czechs a 6-1 lead.
Boris Bokaj pitched seven innings for the win. He allowed one run on five hits and struck out three. Jakob Syrén, who used to be a reliever but started several games in the Dutch hoofdklasse this season, took the loss. He gave up three runs on six hits and a walk and struck out two.
Marek Chlup was the best hitter for the Czech Republic as he went 3 for 3 with two doubles, an RBI and two runs scored.
Germany 2 – 8 Croatia
The first major upset of the tournament. The team that was demoted to the B-tournament after the 2019 European Championship, but was allowed to return as the CEB decided to expand the number of participants, beat the Germans.
After three scoreless innings, the Croatians took the lead. With runners on first and second, Antonio Horvatic singled home Jose Herrera and thanks to a throwing error by the German center fielder, Andrija Tomic could score Croatia’s second run. This 2-0 lead would stand for the next two-and-a-half innings. In the bottom of the seventh, Croatia extended its lead by two runs on a two-RBI single by Petar Jure Rumora. Jose Herrera drove in another run on a single to center field but the decisive blow was dealt by Philip Smith, who hit a three-run bomb to center field. All Germany could was scoring two runs thanks to two bases loaded walks in the ninth inning.
Jose Diaz earned the win for Croatia. In eight innings, he limited Germany to three hits, walked six and struck out ten. Enorbel Marquez took the loss. In six innings and three batters faced in the seventh, he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and struck out six.
Jose Herrera was the best hitter for Croatia. He went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Belgium 11 – 12 Austria
Greece 3 – 13 Italy
Even with a roster loaded with Americans, Greece was no match for the Italians, who needed only seven innings to finish the job.
Italy took a quick 2-0 lead on a single by Vito Friscia and a a force out at second hit by Alberto Mineo. In the third and the fourth inning, Italy slowly walked away to a 7-0 lead. In the fifth inning, the Italian bats really woke up. Doubles by Leo Ferrini and Alberto Mineo, a single by Vito Friscia, a sac fly by Ernesto Liberatore, and a wild pitch allowed the Azzurri to score six more runs. What could “Greece” do? Not much. In the sixth, Tom Roulis drove in a run on a single to center field and Ari Sechopoulos drove in two on a double down the right field line.
Claudio Scotti earned the win. He lasted five no-hit innings in which he issued a walk and struck out nine. Nick Pantos, who lasted four innings, took the loss. He gave up four runs (two earned) on four hits and struck out two.
Vito Friscia was the best Italian hitter as he went 2 for 2 with three RBI and two runs scored.
Slovakia 0 – 11 Kingdom of the Netherlands
Ukraine 0 – 15 Spain
As expected, an all-Ukrainian team was no match for “Spain.” Where Italy and the Netherlands needed seven innings to seal the fate of their opponents, the Spaniards only needed five frames to end the game.
The foundation of that five-inning victory was laid in the first two innings. A four-run first and a seven-run second put Spain in the driver’s seat.
Not only was Ukraine outscored, the team was also outhit 21-2.
Leslie Nacar earned the win. He replaced Carlos Sierra after three innings. Nacar struggled somewhat in that one inning on the mound as he needed twenty-two pitches to get out of it. He walked one and struck out one. Sergii Shtapura took the loss after one inning and three batters faced in the second. He was tabbed for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits.
Edison Valerio was the best hitter for Spain. He went 3 for 3 with a double, an RBI and three runs scored.
Russia 1 – 2 Israel
Israel had to go deep tonight. The team the country sported two years ago, would have beaten Russia easily. But with less Americans on its roster, the team isn’t all that special anymore. And above all, it was an anticlimactic win as the winning run was scored on a balk.
Anyhow, Russia took the lead in the fourth when Geidys Soler Hinojosa doubled to left field, allowing David Alejandro Castillo Velazquez to score all the way from first base. The Russian lead would last two innings. In the bottom of the sixth, Mitch Glasser laid down a sacrifice bunt that drove in Ty Kelly. Eventually after nine innings, the score was still tied, so extra innings were needed. Thanks to the dreaded tie-breaker rule, Russia put runners on first and second. Apparently, Russia never had to play the tie-breaker rule before. The leadoff hitter, Ian Alekhandro Peres Nunes never intended to bunt both runners over but hit into a double play that killed Russia’s chances for the win. Israel executed like it had to. A bunt resulted in a throwing error by the Russian pitcher. And then, with the bases loaded, the aforementioned balk led to the winning Israeli run.
Charles Rossman earned the win. In 1.2 perfect innings, he struck out one. Adrian Rodriguez Telles took the loss. In 1.1 innings, he gave up one unearned run and struck out three.
Two Israeli hitters batted .500: Ty Kelly went 2 for 4 with a run scored and Mitch Glasser went 1 for 2 with an RBI.
France – Great Britain
The team with the most North Americans on its roster won tonight. In the second inning, Great Britain took a slim 1-0 lead on a force out at second that allowed Alex Crosby to score. In the third inning, the Brits extended their lead by two runs. Owen Ozanich, who didn’t bring his A game today, hit two batters with a pitch and walked one, which resulted in two runs when Grant Kerry singled to center field. In the fifth, France got on the board when Louis Brainville singled home Daniel Patrice. Great Britain would score four more runs, two in the sixth and two in the seventh inning. France only set one meager run against it in the top of the eighth.
Liam Sabiston earned the win. In 2.1 innings in relief, he struck out three and walked one. Owen Ozanich took the loss. In three innings, he gave up three runs on three hits and four walks and struck out five. The best British batter was Grant Kerry who went 2 for 4 with four RBI and a run scored.