It’s Father’s Day in Germany. A recognized public holiday, everyone has the day off. Everyone that is, except for ballplayers. Today the Bundesliga is celebrating with games across the country.
The Bonn Capitals played their first away games of the season traveling just 30 minutes down the road to Cologne for a doubleheader with the Cardinals. In Berlin the Flamingos, new to Bundesliga I for 2018, hosted the Hamburg Stealers. Over in Dohren, the Wild Farmers, last year’s rookies to the league, and Berlin’s fellow newbies for 2018 in the North, the Brenem Dockers, paired up for two of their own. Down in the southern division the Mainz Athletics hosted the Saarlouis Hornets while the Mannheim Tornados stormed into town to take on the reigning champs, Heidenheim Heideköpfe. Southern Division newcomers, the Ulm Falcons, invited the Stuttgart Reds over for the second game of their series that started on Wednesday night with a win for Ulm who were then hosted by the stallions of Stuttgart.
The Capitals, Northern Division champions 3 years running now, have started 2018 undefeated through 16 after today. Their stadium will be renovated later in the summer, to prepare for the 2019 Olympic Qualifiers, so they’ve had the home field advantage throughout their first 14 matchups. Today’s doubleheader against Cologne was the first test of road readiness for the club. It was really not much of a challenge however. The teams’ home fields are less than an hour apart by car and can easily be traveled by local train if someone really wants to rest up for the game. Always confident at home, the Capitals have struggled on the road from time-to-time so this year will certainly test their resolve. With the shift in teams for 2018, both Berlin and Bremen have been added to Hamburg as away destinations. Aside from Hamburg, the furthest they’ve previously had to travel was 3.5 hours to Paderborn. Bremen is the same distance and Berlin is more than double it. In three consecutive weekends in June the Caps play Paderborn, Hamburg and Berlin, in that order, before returning closer to home to face Dohren, a mere 2.5 hours away, to end the regular season round of play in their division.
Capitals v. Cardinals G1
Cardinals starting pitcher Samuel Gorsch went 5.1 innings against Bonn before being replaced giving up 5 runs off 5 hits before it was all over. After holding the undefeated division champions scoreless through 5, it was quickly realized that he should have left well enough alone. The Cardinals entered the inning fresh off a 3-run lead. Gorsch walked the #8 batter, Richardo Migliore, who promptly stole 2nd on a 2-2 count against Jan Jacobs before he went down swinging. That brought the top of the order back to the plate. Eric Brenk singled to drive in Migliore and took over 2nd himself while the Cardinals were busy fielding the ball. Next up, Adrian Stommel knocked one into center field to score Brenk. Player-Coach BJ Roper-Hubbert singled to 3rd, putting runners on 1st and 2nd. Daniel Lamb-Hunt batted in Stommel with a single as Hubbert advanced to 2nd. With two runners he’s responsible for left on base, Maurice Wilhelm stepped into the box as Gorsch handed the ball off to Fabian Roitzsch. Wilhelm was walked but, before he reached base, both men with hyphenated last names, perhaps because they’re used to having two of everything, took 2 bases against left fielder Florian Kawczynski’s error, to score. That error ultimately costs the Cardinals the game as the Cardinals would mount a 5-run comeback, leaving the 9th 1 run behind the Capitals with a final score of 6-5.
Capitals v. Cardinals G2
After a close call in the 1st match-up the Capitals were warmed up and looking to make quick work of the remainder of their day at the office. They jumped to an early lead 3-0 through 2, and never looked back. Markus Solbach and Kevin Van Meensel teamed up for the shutout, and the win, in the Caps pen. Solbach went 6.0 innings giving up just 1 hit while striking out 11. Van Meensel finished the final 3.0 innings giving up a hit of his own and posting goose eggs across the remainder of his line. On offense Brenk continued to earn his spot at the top of the order with 2 hits and 2 runs over 5 at bats. In the 1st, Brenk singled to left then stole 2nd before scoring off a triple hit by Caps 1st baseman Maurice Wilhelm. That hit also scored Daniel Lamb-Hunt who had walked behind Brenk. In the 2nd Christopher Goebel hit a grounder and reached on an error by the second baseman. Clearly upset to find him on the bag, pitcher Jose Alonzo advanced Chris to 2nd himself with an error on the pickoff attempt. When Jan Jacob grounded out to 2nd with no outs, Goebel headed home. In the bottom of the 8th Brenk singled off a grounder down the 3rd baseline. With 1 ball against the next batter, Brenk stole 2nd. After Danny Lankhorst sacrificed to center to advance Eric to 3rd, Lamb-Hunt hit a double, bringing Brenk home with the final run that would seal the Capitals’ 16th victory of the season, 4-0.
Stuttgart Reds v. Ulm Falcons G1
Wednesday’s matchup between the Reds and Falcons ended 2-11 in favor of the visiting Falcons. This was a rough matchup for the bullpens. Between them the teams plowed through 5 relievers after the starters lasted through 5 together with Ulms Antonio Horvatic holding on through 6. 3rd inning score aside, Stuttgart’s starter Ruben Kratky had a solid outing. In the 3rd he got the first batter to ground out before giving up a single to the second. He walked the third man he faced before the fourth one popped out. Another single and, with bases loaded, Efthimios Flüge hit the grand slam to bring ‘em all home. Likewise, for his replacement Matthias Schmitt, the 3 Ulm put up in the 7th had little to do with his pitching. There were 2 fielding errors and a fielder’s choice to help them along. For his part, Schmitt did give up a single and a double. The rest was on his teammates. The same could not be said for their closer Marcel Hering who gave up a double, single and homerun in his only inning of work. The only pitcher on Stuttgarts’ bench to escape the game with his ERA intact was middle reliever Daniel Zeller who through 1.2 innings giving up nothing off a single hit while striking out 3.
Stuttgart Reds v. Ulm Falcons G2
Today the pair met up for the second game of their series. It is amazing what a good night’s rest will do ya for. The offense exploded on both sides of the field. In the 8-6 victory for Stuttgart, the Reds used a single pitcher, Jesus Parra. Through 9 he gave up just 3 earned runs off 10 hits while striking out 7 and walking 3. On Ulms bench duties were split between Jose Pimentel and Duncan Izaaks. Pimentel took the first 5, giving up 6 runs off 8 hits while striking out 2 and, not doing himself any favors, walking another 4. Izaaks finished the final 4.0 innings giving up 2 more runs off 5 hits with 1 walk and 5 strikeouts.
Given how the scoring played out you have to wonder if Stuttgart left Parra in past his fatigue point. In the 1st, after walking the initial batter, the next grounded into a FC. From there, a single was hit leaving runners on 2nd and 3rd when Carlos Figueredo stepped up to blast a triple into right field scoring them both. After the triple Jesus settled in and pitched flawless ball through the 6th. In the 7th a run crossed the plate on nothing short of solid baseball strategy on the bags. Duncan Izaaks started things off with a single then advanced to 3rd on an error by left fielder Ruben Kratky while a foul ball was in play. When the batter lined out to 2nd, Joshua Petersen stepped up and sacrificed his at bat to get Izaaks home. Again, Parra returned to his game in the 8th. Bottom of the 9th is where he nearly lost the game, giving up 3 off small ball plays by the Falcons before it came to a close.
Offensively, the Reds acted more like woodpeckers than stallions. They scored 1 in the 1st, 3 in the 2nd, 2 in the fourth and 2 more in the 9th to make the difference in the final score. They opened their half of the game in nearly identical fashion to Ulm’s 1st offensive appearance with a walk, FC and single ahead of a wild pitch for the score. In the 2nd they capitalized on 2 of the BB Pimentel provided. In the 4th the Reds made a little luck of their own when a triple by Weber scored Zeller, who had singled ahead of him, then a double by Van Bergen scored Hering, who had walked ahead of him. Heading into the 9th the Reds were up by 3 but still they piled on the insurance, and it was a good thing they did! They added 2 in the inning and those runs made the difference in the game as Ulm came back to score 3 of their own in the bottom of the inning trying to tie it up.
Also playing on Wednesday were the Munich Haar Disciples and Regensburg Legionäre. The game was called however due to darkness before it was completed so they’ll finish that game, and play another, on Friday when the pair meet up for game 2 of their series.
Hamburg Stealers v. Berlin Flamingos G1
Today’s first game between the Stealers and Flamingos ended in 7 with a score of 14-2 in favor of the visiting club. The Stealers put 7 on the board in the 1st but Berlin opted out of a new starter. They let Jonathan Mottay work his way out of the first and they were rewarded for their confidence with 3 scoreless innings to follow. His replacement faired no better. Over the last three innings, Kolija Rocek would have to stand back and watch as 7 more crossed the plate. Like his predecessor, he started rocky, giving up 4 in the 5th, before settling in to give up just 2 and 1, respectively, in the innings that followed. It must have felt to the pitching duo, who combined for 11 earned runs, like the thieves were adding insult to injury stealing 3 to push the game into mercy ruling just as each of them had settled in.
On the mound for the Stealers Gianny Fracchiolla pitched a complete game giving up 1 earned run off two hits. Not surprisingly the top of the Stealers’ lineup was responsible for the majority of the damage, with their 2-4 spots doing the heaviest lifting, but there were two guys who stood out in the crowd. Batting 2nd Max Pfeifer had 3 runs off 2 hits with an RBI, a walk and a strikeout in his 3 at bats. Henry Guerra, who batted in the 9 spot through a small part of the game, stepped up to the plate just twice but left with 2 runs off 2 hits and 4 RBI’s.
Hamburg Stealers v. Berlin Flamingos G2
Through two the Stealers showed mercy on the Flamingos. Finishing this game in 6, with a final score of 14-3, no one could say the birds went down without a fight. They scored two in the bottom of the 6th, trying to stay alive but fell just a run short of making it happen. The Flamingos split pitching duties between Trevor Caughey, Kenneth Chiu and returning to Kolja Rocek, who finished with the most work behind him after 3.1 innings on the hill. Caughey gave up 7 runs off 7 hits but just two of those were earned. He struck out 2 but did not walk a soul so the field has much to answer for.
Top of the 2nd, with Hamburg already up 2-0 off a couple of singles and a double in the 1st, the Stealers offense started with a flyout to left. Next up, Callum Murphy hit a double to center. On the next play, a grounder by Henry Guerra, the batter reached base on an error by the 1st baseman, Jimmy Kolawole, that holds Murphy on 2nd. The next batter popped up to center and Murphy advanced to 3rd while Guerra stayed still at 1st. Two down, with runners on the corners, Max Pfiefer singled, bringing Murphy around to score and Guerra moved over to 2nd. Pontus Bystrom at the plate hit a grounder and reached base on an error by 3rd baseman Maikel Azcuy. He then advanced to 2nd on the error bringing around Guerra for the 1st unearned run of the inning, while Pfeifer ran around to 3rd. At this point, everything that scores is now unearned, because of the error on the play, but that wasn’t enough to fire up the Flamingos squad into playing solid routine ball. Behind 4-0, the next batter is Michael Barrientos. He took a long fly ball to center to score Pfierer and put a triple on his own line for the day. Bystrom also crossed the plate. Flamingos, now up by 6, are still not finished with 2 down. While Jakub Cernik is at the plate, he hits a grounder and reaches on another error by Azcuy, his 2nd of the inning. That scores Barrientos before, mercifully, Caughey finally throws one of his two strikeouts in the game and Ben Von der Thüsen goes down swinging.
Kenneth Chiu’s blow up inning in the 4th however, is to his own credit. Over 1.2 innings of work Chiu gave up 6 earned runs off 3 hits while walking 3 and striking out just 2. Kenneth hit his first batter and then gave up two singles before walking the next. With two runs across the plate, he finally got his first K. His next, and last, is thrown to the following batter who, likewise, goes down swinging. After that it is single, walk, double and a score of 13-0 before the #1 batter Jon Pawling flies out to center. You have to wonder if it wasn’t a sacrifice for the sake of fair play.
In the bottom of the 4th, perhaps in an effort to erase the damage he’d done on D, Azcuy hit a solo homer to center. He stepped up again in the 6th, with a man on base by walk, and hit his second dinger in as many chances to the exact same location. With two bombs he negates the earlier damage he created to the bottom line making back the 3 that crossed as a result of his errors. It was not enough to extend the game but it was something all the same.
Mannheim Tornados v. Heidenheim Heideköpfe G1
The Heideköpfe took the first game in 6. While the Tornados were still busying themselves staring at their laces to make sure they’d double knotted their bows, Heidenheim slipped 4 across the plate to end the 1st. From there things settled in for Mannheim’s pen until the 5th where one more was given away. At the end of 6 however, they had 5 more and the win. Starting pitcher Artur Strzalka of Poland, and formerly the NY Yankees MiLB system, lasted through 5.0 giving up a total of 5 runs, 4 earned, off 7 hits. On Heidenheim’s side of the ledger, Clayton Freimuth went 6.0 innings giving up just 2 runs while striking out 8. The game ended mercifully after 6 with a final score of 10-0 in Heidenheim’s favor.
Mannheim Tornados v. Heidenheim Heideköpfe G2
It seems all that practice in game 1 was enough to warm up the bats of Mannheim and, in the 2nd matchup of the game, the pitchers were led to the slaughter on both sides. The Tornados stormed through 4 pitchers. Their starter, Brendan Hornung, lasted 4.2 giving up 9 hits off 10 runs, 6 earned, while striking out 8 but also walking 4. For Heideköpfe, Marcel Giraud and Julius Spann split the duties, practically down the middle, with Giraud giving up 3 earned runs off 8 hits over 5.0 innings of work and Spann lasting the final 4.0 giving up 4 runs off as many hits, but not a one of them was earned. While Marcel struck out 2, Julius took down 7 on his own.
Phillip Schulz, the lead off batter for Heidenheim, had 4 runs off 4 hits over 5 at bats with a walk and an RBI and a big fat zero in the K column. Schulz led off the bottom of the 1st with a double and later came around to score on a single by Glaser. In the bottom of the 2nd, he was walked but was taken out in a fielder’s choice on the next play. In the 4th Phillip doubles again scoring on the next play, another double by teammate Mitch Nilsson. During his next at bat, Schultz managed a single to left before crossing the plate later in the inning off Gary Owens’ homer to center. To kick off the bottom of the 7th, Phillip hit a solo dinger deep to right. Without a bottom of the 9th needed, Schultz finished the day one shy of the cycle as Heidenheim took their 2nd victory on the day 12-7.
Bremen Dockers v. Dohren Wild Farmers G1
In an 8-0 shutout the Wild Farmers’ pitching staff teamed up to keep their line looking pristine. Giving up just 3 hits on the day, Jannis Wedemeyer, Fabrizio Cagliani, Leon Ferdinand Kurz and Thies Brunkhorst, combined for 10Ks while giving up 6 walks. Wedemeyer, who started, lasted 4.2 innings giving up one of those hits and 4 of the walks, while striking out 4 more, before handing the ball down the line to Cagliani.
For Bremen’s part, their staff held their own through most of the game. At the end of 7 they had tossed 4 scoreless innings but it was their inability to take care of the batters themselves that might have done them in. Over 8 innings of work 5 pitchers combined for just 3ks. Still, they only walked 1. There was a single, solo homerun giving up to start the 8th before a pair each of singles and doubles lead to 3 more crossing the plate. They also gave up a triple to start the 1st, and doubles in both the 4th and 5th ultimately lead to scoring opportunities that, in total pushed the Wild Farmers ahead 4-0 heading into the 8th. All the runs were earned so the fielders did their job equally well to the pitchers, who clearly had no problem putting the ball over the heart of the plate. The difference then lies in the single fact that they were not placing the speed or position of the ball just out of reach of the batters. In this matchup, Bremen had their number as quickly as that jersey switched from back to back. For Dohren the big bat on the day belonged to Caleb Fenimore who scored a run off 2 hits while driving in 3 over his 5 at bats.
Bremen Dockers v. Dohren Wild Farmers G2
Dohren finished the day 2-0 after taking the second game 4-1. Amazingly enough, both benches had reserves in their pen to finish out the day. The Wild Farmers sent in Darren Lauer to start the game while the Dockers started Hendrik Freiheit. Lauer lasted 8.0 innings giving up just 1 run of 6 hits while striking out 9. That run he gave up, it was a solo shot to left off a 2-2-2 count to Yannick Bujalla. Taking the hill for Bremen, Freiheit, normally an outfielder, lasted just 2.1 innings of work where he gave up 1 run off 1 hit while striking out 2 but also walking 6. Sidearm Nick Miceli came in to finish out the game going 5.2 innings where he gave up 3 runs, 1 earned, off 5 hits while striking out 10 and walking 2.
In the lineup for Dohren, it was a group effort to post up the 4. A solid game of small ball. Edvardas Matusevicius drove in 2 in the top of the 8th with a homer to center that brought Eric Herman, who had reached base on an error by left fielder Yannick Müller the previous play, back home.
Saarlouis Hornets v. Mainz Athletics G1
This game ended mercifully for the Hornets despite stinging their opponents time and again with their bats across the first 6 innings. With a final score of 14-6 through 7, this game was anything but uneventful. No time for bathroom breaks for the fans, no matter who you were rooting for, to be sure. Saarlouis struck first and wasted no time doing it either. They scored 3 in the 1st, and 1 each in the 3rd, 5th and 6th besides. Mannheim got off to a slower start putting up 1 in the 3rd and 2 in the 5th before posting up 10 in the 6th then dealing the final blow with a single run in the 7th to end it.
Across the field, batters left pitchers in their wake. Between them, the teams ran through 8 pitchers despite their starters going at least 4 innings each. For Mainz the big bats were swung by Shane Salley and Victor Voll. Salley had 2 runs off 2 hits with 3 RBIs over 6 at bats and not a single whiff to his credit. Voll bested him though. Over 3 at bats, including a strikeout, he had 3 runs off 2 hits, a walk and 2 RBIs. In the bottom of the 6th, the Hornets tore through 3 pitchers only handing the ball off the first time after 6 runs had crossed the plate with 2 outs on the board. After Florian Maaß took the ball from Benjamin Klein, he gave up a walk, a single and a double, in order, and the score jumped by 4. That brought in Tomlin Müller who gave up a single to the first batter he faced. Apparently that was enough for the fielders who, on the next play, manage the 3rd out with a fielder’s choice after their pickoff attempt failed to produce the same result. The bottom of the 7th surely must have felt like Groundhog Day when, with 2 out, Florian Maaß, who had been moved to 3rd, commited an error to keep the inning going. Müller then gave up 2 consecutive walks and a single that scored Salley for the final run of the game. The next play, and the final out of the game, was another fielder’s choice to the shortstop Alexander Bach who had, likewise, ended the 6th for the Hornets defense.
Saarlouis Hornets v. Mainz Athletics G2
The 2nd game of the day was an incredibly close nail biter that left fans, on both sides, with both hope and disappointment coursing through their veins. Mainz struck the first blow, scoring a single run in the 1st. In the 3rd, they were back on the board with another. To start the 4th, the Hornets put up two of their own to tie the game. At the top of the 5th and 6th respectively, they added a run for insurance purpose and they would need it. With last ups, the Athletics fought back, putting one more on the board but it was too little too late for the tie to force extra innings. The game ended 4-3 in Saarlouis’ favor.
Pitching the complete game for the Hornets, Kyle Stahl gave up 3 earned runs off 12 hits while walking 5 and striking out 7. One of those runs was a solo homer by Peter Johannessen to kick off the bottom of the 3rd.
For the Athletics, Connor Little and Lennard Stöcklin paired up for Mainz. Little pitched 7.0 innings giving up 4 runs, 3 earned, off 5 hits with 6 strikeouts and a walk. He too gave up a dinger. His, to Jake Levin, scored Croatia’s Andrija Tomic who Little first hit with a pitch to put on base. That gave the Hornets their two at the top of the 4th.
Stöcklin jumped in to close the game giving up just a hit while striking out 2 over 2.0 innings of work. Both bullpens shut the opposition down a total of 6 times meaning there were literally only 3 innings of scoring across the game but, because each team scored in different innings, it felt far more dramatic, especially with those homers!
In the bottom of the 1st Mainz scored their run off a pair of doubles with a guy caught looking between them. At the top of the 5th Saarlouis went ahead 3-2 on an error by shortstop Nicolas Weichert that allowed Tobias Rettel to score. In the 6th it was a pair of doubles that scored their 4th and final run on the day. To end the game Mainz’s catcher, and well-known slugger, Max Boldt, hit a double to center to score Johannessen. Pitching aside, a case can easily be made that Mainz’s defense, courtesy of their errors, were at least equally responsible to Saarlouis’ offense for their victory.
Germany’s Father’s Day takes place each year on the Thursday known as Ascension Day, which is 40 days following Easter. Known as Vatertag – father day, Herrentag - gentlemen day or Männertag – men’s day, this is the ultimate boy’s day out. All businesses are closed except the pubs, which generally open extra early. It’s like Black Friday, pub crawl edition. Best of all, the Friday following, known as a bridge day in Germany – a day that bridges the holiday to a weekend - is also closed for business so there is lots of time for recovery… and more baseball action.