If the bizarre outcome of the 1st Continental Cup is in fact, the start of a new tradition, as the slogan for this year’s event totes, then we are booking our 2018 room now. We’re also packing a parka!
In a championship game that included a blizzard delay tournament MVP, Ukrainian pitcher Evgeni Zhantalai, was awarded for his actions at the plate, moreso than over them.
The 2017 Continental Cup tournament, hosted by the Continental Baseball Group Europe, took place over Easter Weekend in Minsk, Belarus. Played between the top teams from Russia, Lithuania, The Ukraine and Belarus, all four team rosters featured exclusively homegrown talent.
The weather outside, a crisp 37 degrees (3C) was not exactly the inviting baseball weather the area had seen just weeks prior when, in the middle of February, the thermometer reached a balmy 61 degrees (16C) by comparison. Despite the temperatures and holiday however, there were fans in the stands. Mostly surrounded by friends and family about 50 onlookers were joined by local media to witness the two-day event. It might not come as a surprise that the core of viewers chose to do so from the comforts of home. The finals on Sunday were broadcast online where 650 people representing nine countries livestreamed the event.
Each team played once with the championship being played Sunday afternoon between the Kropyvnytsky BioTecCom-KNTU from The Ukraine and BC Minsk of Belarus. That game was certainly one to watch.
Minsk had a one-run lead heading into an 8th inning snow delay. That was all it took to cool down some of the guys on the field. Early in the game Zhantalai tied the score 1-1 with a solo homerun. Then, down in the 9th, it was his run that tied it up a second time at 3-3. He gave the team new life, forcing extra innings, with his second homerun of the game. In the 10th Minsk was, once again, in the lead 4-3. Bottom of the inning a grand slam by pinch hitter Georgiy Gvritishvilli finished the game with a 7-4 victory, and tournament trophy, for the Ukraine.
BioTexCom-KNTU’s head coach Urii Boiko told Baseball UA, “We won showing the strong character and great baseball skills of our players. Baseball is a game not only of strength and speed but also of brains. It is most important to make the proper decision at the right moment. In extra innings we had to, at least, tie the game. There are several algorithms that players have to do on the field in such cases. Our team knows them in theory, all the time we work on such combinations during training, but it is quite different to do it in the tournament finals. All the players made their algorithms almost perfectly.”
4-0 Kropyvnytsky BioTexCom-KNTU (Ukraine)
2-2 BC Minsk (Belarus)
1-3 Moscow Moskvich (Russia)
1-3 Kaunas Lituanica (Lithuania)
Belarus’ only losses came in their games against the Ukraine’s BioTexCom-KNTU. The “Best Pitcher Award went to MC Minsk’s Yauheni Kurhun and the Best Player Award was received by Nikita Lobanov from Mosckvich, who is an all around utility player listed as a pitcher, OF and IF on the team roster.
Off the field the players bonded in unexpected ways. Minsk played host, welcoming teams to stay in the same hotel located walking distance from the playing complex. During their downtime, players and coaches were treated to a walking tour of historic Minsk. Everyone not only got along perfectly on and off the field but there were late night conversations between countries. Organizers called it a remarkable show of friendship and respect for one another on and off the field. A perfect example set in the month celebrating Peace and Sport.
The tournament was the brainchild of tournament COO Dimitry Sagalchik who started the Belarus baseball program back in 1988.