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Updated: March 1, 2020
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(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photo by FFBS)

Netherlands ends in 5th place; France first Baseball5 European Champion

VILNIUS (Lithuania) - The Netherlands finished in fifth place of the first-ever Baseball5 European Championship, which was held in Lithuanian capital Vilnius. On Sunday (March 1), the third and final day of the event, the Netherlands won against Belarus to capture fifth place. France became the first European champion in this new baseball/softball-discipline, winning the Final against Lithuania.

After a preliminary round on Friday, the next series of games for the final ranking were played via a best-of-three format. That can be done easily in Baseball5, as it is a quick sport and there are several ways that a batter is eliminated according to the rules. A game consists of five innings, which can be played within 30 minutes.

On Sunday, in the best-of-three for fifth and sixth place, all three games between the Netherlands and Belarus were close. All were exciting and ended with an one-run difference. In the opener, a tie-break was needed to come to a decision. With the score tied at 4-4, extra innings were needed. According to the Baseball5-rules, the sixth inning begins with a runner on first base, the seventh with runners on first and second base and the eighth with the bases loaded. Both teams kept on scoring, but the eighth inning was then decisive. In the top of the eighth, Belarus scored three runs. In the bottom of the eighth, Lucca van der Schouw batted in two runs, then scored the tying run himself on an error. Moments later, the Netherlands won 12-11 on a walk-off hit by Ayla Engels.

Belarus then forced a third game by winning the next game with a 6-5 score. In the third game, another tie-break was needed. The Orange Team, led by Head Coach Berry van Driel, failed to hold onto an early lead and saw Belarus come alongside. In the sixth inning (tie-break), Belarus took a 4-2 lead on an error, but the Netherlands again came back, as it did in the first match-up. After having come alongside, it was Naomi Vossebeld, who batted in the winning run with a walk-off single. With the 5-4 win, the Netherlands finished in fifth place.

On Friday, the Netherlands had a good first day, as it won five of the six games it played in Pool A to advance to the Quarter Finals. The Orange Team won its first five games. In the evening, the team faced Italy which also had won five games. Italy recorded a convincing 12-4 win to become the Pool-winner.

On Saturday, the Netherlands was eliminated in the best-of-three Quarter Finals, losing 10-6 and 6-2 to host Lithuania. With that, the Netherlands was eliminated for the final-four. Later on Saturday, in the Semi-Final for fifth through eighth place, the Netherlands won its best-of-three against Romania. The Netherlands nipped Romania 9-8 in the the opener, then was shutout 9-0 in the second game. In the deciding third game, the Netherlands recorded a convincing 7-1 win.

In the next best-of-three series, Russia swept Italy 2-0 to win the Bronze Medal. In the opener, Russia recorded a big 13-3 win in four innings, then shutout Italy 5-0 in the second game to finish in third place.

...The succesful team of France that captured...
...the first European Baseball5-title...
...Standing at right is Pauline Prade, who in...
...2016 played in the Dutch Golden League...
(© Photo: FFBS)
In the best-of-three Final, France recorded two convincing victories against host Lithuania. On Saturday, Lithuania recorded two wins against Russia in the best-of-three Semi-Final to reach the Final. In its Semi-Final, France faced Italy, which was unbeaten at that moment. But France won the opener with a 7-4 score to hand Italy its first loss. In the next game, Italy won 6-2, but France then won the third game with a 7-3 to advance to the Final.

The first game of the Final initially was very exciting. Lithuania opened the score with two runs in the first inning, but France answered with four runs and added three in the next bat. Trailing 7-2, Lithuania scored three runs in the third. This time, France reacted with two runs in its third at bat. But in the top of the fourth, with France leading 9-5, Lithuania scored five runs to make it a 10-9 score in its favor. The lead was shortlived, as France then rallied for eleven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to turn the game in its favor for good and won 20-10.

In the next game, France set the tone in the top of the second inning by scoring five runs. Lithuania got one run back in the third, but France added seven more runs in the fourth to win 12-1. And with that, the team of Manager Gerardo Leroux captured the first European Baseball5-title. French player Tanguy Meurant was the Best Hitter of the tournament and also scored the most runs.

One of the eight players in the successful French team was Pauline Prade, who has played several years in the National Softball Team of France. In 2016, she played in the Dutch Golden League for Olympia Haarlem.

By reaching the Final, France and Lithuania both qualified for participation in the first WBSC Baseball5 World Cup, which will be held in December in Mexico. Also in December, the first WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup will be organized in Mexico for players born between January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2005.

On January 8 of this year, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved the proposal of the Organizing Committee to add Baseball5 to the Sports Programme of the fourth Summer Youth Olympic Games, which will be held October 22-November 9, 2022 in Dakar (Senegal). Back then Riccardo Fraccari, President of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) said: ,,The inclusion of Baseball5 at the Youth Olympic Games is the goal we had set ourselves since the beginning of the project in 2017. We are proud to have reached it. Our newest discipline has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Its accessibility has increased our ability to grow our sport globally and bring the skills and the values of baseball-softball to young people in under-served communities. Todayís announcement, together with our spectacular Olympic comeback at Tokyo 2020 later this year, will provide our member federations with new opportunities to continue growing our sport globally''.

The first Summer Youth Olympic Games were first held in Singapore in 2010. The next editions of the international multi-sports event in three age groups (14-15 years, 16-17 and 17-18) were organized in 2014 (Nanjing, China) and 2018 (Buenos Aires, Argentina). In 2012, the first Winter Youth Olympic Games was held in Innsbruck (Austria), followed by the second edition in 2016 in Lillehammer (Norway). The third Winter-edition was held in January of this year in Lausanne (Switzerland). The fourth will be organized in 2024 in Gangwon (South Korea).

Final Standings Baseball5 European Championship
1. France, 2. Lithuania, 3. Russia, 4. Italy, 5. Netherlands, 6. Belarus, 7. Israel, 8, Romania, 9. Bulgaria, 10. Estonia, 11. Belgium, 12. Cezch Republic, 13. Moldova, 14. Latvia.

(March 1)

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