Aged To Perfection
The first week of June kicked off a month of tournament play for the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB). In Regensburg, Germany last week eight of Europe’s best teams competed in the European Champions Cup.
Coming into EuroCup 2017 the three top ranked teams, according to the Europa-rankings, were Amsterdam (#1), Bologna (#2) and Rotterdam (#3). Leaving the tournament, the names remained the same but the numbers shook out a bit differently.
Rotterdam took the Cup with Bologna staying right in line with their ranking while Amsterdam dropped into the 4th place spot behind San Marino of Italy.
Rounding out this year’s Cup were the German teams from Mainz and Regensburg who placed 7th and 8th respectively. In the middle of the pack were Italy’s Rimini who finished 5th and the sole French team, Ruoen, who finished 6th.
Though the team walked away from the tournament in 2nd Bologna took home just as many trophies as Rotterdam. Their DH, Paolino Ambrosino did his job and was rewarded with the Best Hitter Award, while teammate Matteo Bocchi took home the Best Pitcher Award. The tournament MVP was Rotterdam’s catcher Gianison Boekhoudt.
Bologna’s outfielder Paulino Ambrosino hit .615 in 13 plate appearances including 5 runs off 8 hits and 7 RBIs. Teammate Alex Sambucci was right behind him at .583 scoring 5 runs off 7 hits in 12 at bats. He had a double to add to the homerun each man produced and, like his teammate, he was responsible for driving in 7 of Bologna’s runs.
In fact, Bologna players lead the tournament in batting average (Ambrosino), on-base percentage (Sambucci), total walks (Sambucci), hits (Robei Garcia), runs scored (Francesco Fuzzi), total bases (Garcia), stolen bases (Fuzzi) and runs batted in (Garcia). The only offensive slot they lost to Rotterdam was slugging percentage where Sambucci came in a short second to Gabriel Fromenthal.
Neither team lead in extra base hits but Rotterdam did lead in sacrifices. Both teams took the right chances on the bags as well with each team having players appear on the leader board for stolen bases (Fuzzi) and caught stealing. In fact the top three guys caught off the bags were Christian Diaz (ROT), Dwayne Kemp (ROT) and Marco Sabbatani (BOL).
On defense it was Rotterdam that took the lead. 1st baseman Gregory Muller had 40 putouts and no errors making him tops in the tournament. Three of the top 10 defensive players throughout the event came from the Neptunus bench. 2nd baseman Benjamin Dille lead the tournament in assists.
On the hill it was Diegomar Markwell who had the most impressive outings. He pitched 11 innings for Neptunus, the most in the tournament, with a total 1.64 ERA. He held the opposition to a .268 average striking out 8 and picking off a runner. He did not give up an extra base hit the entire tournament and walked just two batters.
The total attendance for the weekend was 2,972. The hometown crowd came in support of their players with each of their games boosting the average attendance three fold or more. It was the championship game that had the largest turnout however with over 1,200 fans in the stands.
The Mainz Athletics’ only win of the tournament came against the Championship team on the 2nd day of play. In a 7-6 victory over Neptunus, Mainz scored 5 of their runs in the 2nd inning and were shutout the remainder of the game. It was no doubt a tough loss for Misja Harcksen who pitched just 1 inning of ball giving up 7 runs (5 earned) off 5 hits and walking 4 while striking out just one of the 9 batters he faced. Meanwhile Rotterdam slowly chipped away at the early lead, adding 1 in the 2nd, 4th and 5th before scoring 3 in the 8th but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the early deficit. It would be the only loss of the tournament for the champions.
Germany lost a slot in the next Cup and it was due, in large part, to age. The Buchbinder Legionäres struggled but managed to hold their own against much older opponents. They did not win a single game but only two of their matchups were blowouts. Their games against Rimini and Amsterdam, were 3 and 4 run losses and they were within 1 run of Mainz. Only 4 of the guys on their roster are over the age of 26 with an average bench age of just 19 years old. Compare that to the oldest bench in the tournament, San Marino – who’s average age was closer to 31 and you can see that this was literally a men vs the boys situation. The older the bench they faced, the greater the leads they suffered as well.
Perhaps that is why Mainz, the 2nd youngest team, came in 7th place while the most equally distributed team, in terms of age, came in tops in the tournament. 12 of the 22 guys on the Neptunus bench were born after 1990 and the other half had an average age of 29.
On the second day of tournament play the injury reports began. First up was Regensburg pitcher Jonathan Eisenhuth. He was hit by a ball on the head and taken to the hospital for evaluation but was cleared to play in the final game of the tournament.
On Saturday afternoon Rouen Huskies’ 3rd baseman, Rene Leveret suffered a small injury during a play for a fast hopper off the bat. He was attended to by the team trainers and continued to play.
During the evening game on Saturday Curacao’s catcher Gianison Boekhoudt took a shot to the hand that looked like it was going to result in some broken bones. The swelling was so immediate you can see it on the broadcast directly following their replay of the play. He stayed in the game, getting taped up and returning to play in the finals on Sunday.
L&D Amsterdam catcher Rashid Gerard took a ball to the throat on Sunday but refused to leave the game against the strong advice from medical personnel. Coach let him stay in to finish up the half inning and then pulled him himself to the relief of all those in attendance.
Tempers flared between Italian rivals Rimini and San Marino on the third night of play. After a tough collision at the plate, the players involved had made peace. Unfortunately, their benches were two busy rushing the field to notice. Sadly the instigator of the brawl was a coach from San Marino’s bench. Their team came away with three black eyes from the matchup. Licking their wounds was less painful after walking away with the W. Remarkably, just one player was ejected as a result. Juan Carlos Infante, the runner at the plate, was sent packing for throwing the first punch because all three umpires had their backs to the blow by the coach. In fairness, Infante was a bit over-the-top with his push into the plate, raising his elbows up and under the catcher’s chin, but that situation had been recognized by both players as part of the excitement of the moment. Given his drive to the plate however, and having been caught throwing the first punch, officials had to chalk it up to his action that was responsible for the overall situation.
The best game for the fans had to be Saturday night’s matchup between 2nd place Bologna and 4th place L&D Amsterdam. The game looked like a blowout early on. Italy’s shortstop Robel Garcia had a grand slam homerun in the 3rd followed by a 3-run shot in the 5th by rightfielder Eladio Russo. Amsterdam scored one of their own in the bottom of the inning making the score 7-1. In the 6th they added four more to bring the score within reach at 7-5.
Italy was quick to answer with two solo dingers by DH Paolino Ambrosino in the top of the 7th, and another by catcher Osman Marval in the 8th. As they did all tournament however L&D Amsterdam, quietly, practically unnoticed, brought the score back to within 1 in the bottom of the 8th. After four hours of play, it was the bottom of the 9th with two away and Amsterdam had a runner in scoring position.
The final day of play sifted out to more natural matchups making it an exciting day of action for fans. The two youngest teams, Mainz and Regensburg, started the day. L&D Amsterdam and San Marino, each with fairly aged benches, were up next. The final game came down to the two teams whose averaged bench age was prime for playing.
One takeaway from this year’s tournament is that the rankings going into the competition cannot be considered when looking at the rosters. That is, in large part, because the teams that make the tournament are assigned based on their league finishes the previous season.
Many factors go into a roster selection each year. The team that plays in the tournament may not have a single player from the season when the spot was earned. That means those playing in the tournament may not be the ones who earned the spot.
This can lead to some surprising results if you’re depending on the rankings to tell you what to watch. If you’re looking to predict next season’s winner, wait to see the rosters then do some math based on birthdates. It seems like it might be your best bet unless Cinderella decides to show up to the ball.
We've got a postgame interview with Dwayne Kemp as well as game highlights up on YouTube. More to come, along with our regular weekly game highlights, so keep checking back for content.
Next up on the CEB tour it’s the Federations Cup. Action in the main competition begins today while teams across Europe began their qualifying play yesterday. For all the standings related to official tournaments and regular league play make sure to check stats.