And Then There Were Two
Austria and Lithuania emerge from the B-Pool tournament in position for a spot in the Olympic qualifiers.
The tournament was played by 12 teams in two countries. In Serbia teams from Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Israel and Switzerland took on the host team. Over in Poland it was Belarus, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia and the Ukraine.
On Serbia’s fields Austria topped the tournament. Their record heading into the championship game mirrored Russia’s at 4-1, while their opponent, Israel, held the same record as Lithuania, 3-2.
Their pool opponents were a bit more equally matched however with Switzerland also coming away at 3-2 and both Bulgaria and Serbia finishing at 2-3. Only Greece finishing at 1-4. Over in Poland It was Russia and Lithuania on top with every other team battling it out for the bottom finishing at 2-3.
Serbia topped the team batting charts with a combined average of .333 with Austria, the only other team to break .300, finishing with a .315 average.
In pitching it was Israel who took the lead with a 1.83 ERA over 5 games. Though Switzerland and Austria came in 2nd and 3rd, their ERAs were not where you would hope for them to be at this level of play. Switzerland finished with a 5.31 average while Austria’s pen combined for a 5.54 ERA.
On the field Austria led the tournament with a .968 fielding percentage yet committed one more error than Israel for a team total of 6 in 5 games.
Austria had just two players on the top 10 batting list. Dominik Loffler and Dominik Talir took the 3 and 4 spots with a .538 and .529 average respectively. Still, they had two players on the list. Israel had just one batter break the top 15. Assaf Lowengart hit .417 for the tournament. A testament to the equal distribution of competition in this side of the pool is the fact that the bottom average of the top 20 bats was .375.
With averages that high you might expect to have seen large ERAs but the top 5 pitchers all finished with an ERA well below 2.0 and each pitched at least 8.0 innings. Israel’s Alon Leichman topped that list. Over 3 games he pitched 9.1 innings giving up 7 hits and walking 2 while striking out 10 for a 0.00 ERA. Ryan Rupp from Austria rounded out the top 5 with a 1.12 ERA over 8.0 innings giving up 2 runs, 1 earned, on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. Between them were pitchers from Switzerland and Greece. Daniel Supple from Israel (2.25) and Austria’s Matthias Scheicher (2.35) took the 6 and 7 spots on that list of top 10.
Though Thierry Burkhardt walked away with the batting title he did not make a strong showing on the leader board. In fact, he did not have the highest average of the tournament. Over 13 appearances he had 5 runs and 7 hits including a double and 3 homeruns while walking twice. Even with 3 dingers he was still beat out for tops on that chart by teammate Harry Wischnewski and Austria’s Samuel Hackl who each had 4 over the week. He landed 4th in total bases for the tournament. Those would be the only two individual batting charts Burkhardt would land on.
As we mentioned, Thierry Burkhardt from Switzerland walked away with the batting title in Serbia. His average was .538 for the tournament. In Poland, it was Denis Leonov from Russia with an average of .600.
The Top Pitcher awards went to Christian Tomsich of Austria and Andrei Lobanov of Russia.
Tournament MVP Awards were given to Lithuania’s Marijus Balandis and Samuel Hackl of Austria.
Austria and Russia both had 4-1 records heading into the final games but it was Lithuania that came away with the biggest win. In Poland Russia and Lithuania played the final game. Lithuania walked away with the W and a huge upset.
Throughout the week Russia led well, basically everything. In addition to taking home two of the three available individual awards, the team itself topped all the leader boards. Russia’s team batting average of .344 was tops. Their team ERA of 2.25, also #1. Team fielding percentage of .973, the best of the tournament.
In a field of 6, Lithuania was 5th in team batting with a .273 average. They ranked 4th in pitching with a 5.68 team ERA. On the field they were 4th in defense, committing 9 errors for a .946 fielding percentage. They did have 3 of the top 10 bats in the tournament however.
Tops on that list was Edvarda Matusevicius who hit .500 over 5 games. With 16 plate appearances he had 5 runs, 8 hits, 7 RBIs a double and 3 homeruns. Teammate Aivaras Jacyna also hit .500 over 10 appearances with 2 runs off 5 hits. Andrius Politaitis hit .462 in 13 at bats getting 6 hits, including a homerun, and scoring 4 runs as well as posting 4 RBIs.
Lithuania had one pitcher who broke the top 10 of the tournament. Landing in the 10 spot was Eimantas Zickus who threw 7.2 innings over 2 games coming away with 2 wins. He posted a markedly higher ERA however. Giving up 10 hits and 8 runs, 6 earned, while walking 3 and striking out 9, his tournament ERA was 7.04. The guy in the 9 spot pitched a 3.94 ERA for the tournament.
The top batter of the tournament was Russia’s Denis Leonov who hit .600 in 4 games over 15 plate appearances. He had 7 runs, 9 hits, including 3 homeruns, and 2 walks. He tied for most hits with 9. He placed 2nd in runs scored with 7. Leonov lead the RBI chart with 9 and tied for tops in homeruns and total bases. He was in the company of teammates on many of these charts. Russia had four of the top 10 bats in their tournament.
The top pitcher for the event was Andrei Lobanov, also from Russia. He pitched 15 innings over 2 games recording wins in both. Lobanov gave up just 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 13. He gave away no earned runs leaving the tournament with a 0.00 ERA.
Not far behind him teammate Denis Leonov, who lead the event in batting, pitched 11 innings in 2 games recording 2 wins. He gave up 7 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 8 for a .82 ERA.
In 2018 Austria and Lithuania will have everything on the line as they face off. Because of the 2020 Olympic Games, the European Baseball Championship for 2018 has been postponed until 2019. It will instead become a pre-qualifier round for the Games.
As of now, the pool for that qualifying round has been solidified, sans one spot. The teams already qualified for the 2019 Euro Baseball event are Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
The open spot will go to the winner of the game between Austria and Lithuania with the loser receiving an automatic spot in the 2019 B-Pool Championship game.
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