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Updated: February 8, 2020
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(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)

New format European Championship; Pool-alignments and hosts announced

VILNIUS (Lithuania) - The European Softball Federation (ESF) announced the pool-alignments for the three European Championships, which are scheduled for this year. The drawings were held on Friday (February 7), the first day of the Congress of the ESF in Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

The European Baseball Confederation (CEB) also held its Congress in Lithuania. It also was the Congress of WBSC Europe, which will become the European body effective next year after the ESF and CEB in 2018 decided to merge into one organization. WBSC Europe was then formed in February 2019 during the Congress in Athens (Greece).

Beside the pool-alignments, a new format for the Women's European Championship was announced. Also, the hosts of two remaining European Cup-tournaments were announced by the ESF after a voting on Friday.

(February 8)

Starting on June 7 and to end with the Final on June 13 in the Friuli Region (italy), the 22nd Women's European Championship takes place. The same Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region also hosted the European Championship in 2011. Back then, a strong and convincing Netherlands Team, led by Head Coach Craig Montvidas, remained unbeaten to win the title. The Final against Italy then ended with a walk-off homerun by Saskia Kosterink. Amongst the cities and places included in this Region in the north-east of the country (near Venice) are Castions di Strada, Cervignano del Friuli, Fogliano Redipuglia, Monfalcone, Ronchi dei Legionari, Staranzano, Trieste and Udine, which all have hosted international softball-games in the past.

The Women's European Championship will have a new format this year. According to their final standing in last years European Championship, the eight best teams from that event have been allocated in the Super Round, which is the second round of the tournament (Pool A and B).

Italy, which dethroned the Netherlands as European Champion last year in Ostrava (Czech Republic), will play in Pool A. The Netherlands is playing in Pool B. The Orange-squad will be led for the first time this year by Head Coach Ferenc Jongejan, who was named in November. In Pool B, the Netherlands will meet France, Great Britain, Greece, Pool D-winner and Pool E-winner. In Pool A, Italy will play against the Czech Republic, Ireland, Spain, Pool C-winner and Pool F-winner.

The rest of the National Team have been drawn into four pools, two of them with four teams, the other two with three teams. The four pool-winners will complete the Super Round. After the draw on Friday, these Pools look as follows:
Pool C - Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Switzerland.
Pool D - Bulgaria, Croatia, Israel, Ukraine.
Pool E - Austria, Lithuania, Poland.
Pool F - Belgium, Denmark, Russia.

In November last year, the ESF already announced that the European Championship also will be a qualifying event for several upcoming tournaments. The winner of the European Champion also will qualify for participation in the World Games, to be held July 15-25, 2021 in Birmingham, Alabama (USA). During that event, softball will return after an 8-year absence and will be one of 33 sports to be played. The World Games is a multi-sport event for sports or disciplines that were not included in the Olympic Games. The Netherlands participated once in the World Games. That was back in 1985 when the event was held in London (Great Britain).

The three best countries will qualify for the WBSC Women's World Cup 2021. The top-six of this years Championship will play in the second edition of the Super6 in 2022.

Last year in Ostrava, the Netherlands remained unbeaten in the European Championship, including winning 6-2 vs. Italy. However, in the all-deciding Final, the 11-game winning streak ended, as the Netherlands lost 3-2 to Italy and was dethroned. A month later, the Netherlands, which then was led by American Head Coach Connie Clark, also was left empty-handed during the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Vleuten (Netherlands). After losing to Great Britain, the Netherlands appeared to back in the race for an Olympic ticket after taking an early 4-0 lead against Italy. But the team was then held scoreless, while Italy not only came alongside, but also turned the game around. Italy won 7-4 and with that, it qualified for this years Olympic Games in Japan, while the The Netherlands was eliminated.

The first-ever U15 Women's European Championship will be organized by Dutch club Tex Town Tigers on its site in Enschede. Ten countries will pariticpate in this first edition. The winner will qualify for the first U15 World Championship to be held in 2021.

The pool-alignments look as follows:
Pool A - Belgium, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine.
Pool B - France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey.

The 15th Men's European Championship will be held June 22-27 in Ledenice (Czech Republic). Twelve countries will participate, divided into two 6-team pools.

The drawings for these pools are:
Pool A - Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden.
Pool B - Croatia, Denmark, Israel, Lithuania, Netherlands, Slovakia.

Also on February 7, the hosts were named for two of this years European Cup-tournaments. At the meeting of the ESF Technical Committee, the National Federations of the participating teams were able to vote.

As a result of the voting, the organization of the 29th European Cup Winners Cup was awarded to Saronno in Italy, while Dupnitsa (Bulgaria) will host the 27th European Cup. Moscow (Russia) also bidded to host one of these events, which take place August 17-22. The European Cup-tournament is a qualifier for the Premiere Cup (former European Cup A-Pool) and is the former European Cup B-Pool.

With this, the European Premiere Cup will be held in Italy for the third year in a row after Forlė (2018) and Bollate (2019). The last time, both the Premiere Cup and Cup Winners Cup were organized in the same country was in 2015 when Prague (Czech Republic) hosted both events.

From the Netherlands, Olympia Haarlem will participate in the Cup Winners Cup-tournament. Roef!, which captured the Dutch Championship-title for the first time in club-history last year, will participate in the 43rd European Premiere Cup to make its European debut. It already had been annnounced earlier that this tournament also will be held in Italy this year. The event will be held August 17-22 in the Friuli Region, which also will host the Women's European Championship in June.

Last year, both tournaments were won by Italian teams. In Bollate, host-team Bollate nipped Specchiasol Bussolengo 4-3 in the Premiere Cup-Final, while Olympia Haarlem finished in third place. In Prague, Terrasvogels reached the Cup Winners Cup-Final and lost 4-2 to Forlė. With its 37th participation in an European Cup-tournament, Terrasvogels extended its own European record.

No organizer has been found yet for the 10th Coed Slowpitch Super Cup, which has a field of participants of 16 teams. The last deadline to bid for organization is February 14. When there is no bid after that date, the tournament will be canceled.

On the other hand, a host for the second edition of the Men's Slowpitch European Championship was found. The event will be organized in Colorno and Parma (Italy).

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