(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)
Netherlands third on European Championship Under-18; Czechs win title
PRAGUE (Czech Rep.) -
The Netherlands Under-18 Softball Team finished in third place of the 16th European Under-18 Championship, which closed on Saturday (July 24) in Czech capital Prague.
The Orange Team won 7-3 against Spain in the Bronze Medal-game.
In the evening, host Czech Republic captured the European title by winning 6-3 against defending champion Italy in the Final.
At the last Championship in 2018, Italy won 7-3 in the Final against surprising Ireland, which didn't participate this time.
The Netherlands then finished in fourth place after losing 12-8 against the Czech team.
It marks the second time that the Czech Republic wins the Under-18 European title.
The first time was in 2014 when the event was held in Rosmalen (Netherlands).
Back then, the Czechs also faced Italy in the Final and then won with a 5-3 score.
The last time that the Netherlands celebrated the European title was in 2012 when the tournament also took place is Rosmalen.
The Netherlands opened the the sixteenth European Championship on Monday (July 19) with a 21-0 shutout (3 innings) against Austria and a 22-3 win (4 innings) against Ukraine.
In the first game, there were 13 Orange-basehits.
Sietske Drijvers and Amy Felix batted in four runs.
Drijvers also scored four runs, as did Reganied Franka.
Renske Tellekamp homered.
In the second game, the Netherlands collected 15 basehits, including four by Julia Kwakernaak, one of them a homerun.
She batted in five runs.
Reganied Franka, Sietske Drijvers, Renske Tellekamp (two triples) and Kwakernaak all scored three runs.
On Day 2 of the tournament, the Netherlands also faced Spain and then won 11-4 (4½ inn.) on ten basehits, including six doubles.
Renske Tellekamp batted in four runs.
After three productive games, the Orange Team closed the preliminary round on Wednesday with an 8-0 shutout-loss against the Czech Republic.
Besides not scoring a run, the Netherlands also was kept hitless and made seven defensive errors!
The team got five baserunners (all walks) off of Katerina Kindermannova, who dominated, threw a No-Hitter and struckout 13 batters.
On Thursday, the Netherlands recovered and opened the second round with an 8-1 win against Germany.
This time, there were twelve Orange-basehits, including four by Julia Kwakernaak and a double and triple by Sarah Evers.
On Friday, the team played its final two games in the second round.
In the afternoon, the Netherlands faced Italy and lost 3-2.
Trailing 2-1, the Orange Team got a chance to take the lead in the top of the sixth when it got the bases loaded with no outs.
Sietske Drijvers, Julia Kwakernaak and Amy Felix all singled.
With one out, Drijvers scored the tying run on a force play-grounder, then another grounder ended the at bat.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, it was Italy that got the bases loaded with no outs via a bunt-single, double and intentional walk.
Agnese Giacometti then accounted for the winning run with a walk-off sacrifice fly.
In the evening, the Netherlands closed with a 15-0 shutout against France.
Nazira Charles batted in four runs, including two on a triple.
Renske Tellekamp hit a baseclearing, 3-run triple in the first inning during an 8-run rally.
The Czech Republic remained unbeaten in the second round, while Italy lost once.
With that, these teams ended up in first and second place to qualify for the Final.
The Netherlands was 3-2 and finished in third place to advance to the Bronze Medal-game.
In the Bronze Medal-game on Saturday-afternoon, the Netherlands took an early lead, scoring twice in both the first and second inning.
In the first at bat, lead-off hitter Sanne van der Putten reached second base on an error and she scored on an one-out single by Sietske Drijvers (who also is her teammate with Amsterdam Pirates).
Drijvers advanced to third base on a double by Julia Kwakernaak, then the bases got loaded when Sarah Evers walked.
After an infield-fly accounted for the second out, Drijvers scored when Nazira Charles was hit by a pitch.
The Orange Team added two runs in the bottom of the second inning.
Bente Zwanenburg led off with a ground-rule double and Sanne van der Putten followed with a single.
With one out, both scored on a double by Sietske Drijvers.
The fifth Orange-run was scored in the fourth.
This time, Sanne van der Putten led off with a single, stole second base, advanced on a grounder and scored on a wild pitch.
Lisa Brink started for the Netherlands and had a strong outing.
The righthander struckout ten batters and gave up only five basehits.
In the first four innings, she held Spain scoreless and got only one runner in scoring position.
Brink got her first baseunner with two outs in the top of the first inning when Ari Cerda (the starting pitcher for Spain) singled.
But hereafter, she caught a line drive hit by Emma Del Pino to end the at bat.
In the second inning, Brink gave up a lead-off double to Maria Valls, who moved to third base on a grounder.
This time, Brink closed with two strikeouts.
With one out in the third, Yulan Denia singled for Spain, but she was caught stealing.
After having struckout the side in the fourth and with a 5-0 lead, Yala Zwakman took over the Orange-pitching and gave up two Spanish runs in the top of the fifth, which were both unearned as they were scored on three defensive errors.
Alejandra García and Julia Sebastian, the first two batters, both reached on an infield-error.
When the second error was followed by an outfield-error, García was able to score and Sebastian ended up on third base.
She then scored on a following single by Ainhoa Lardin.
With two outs, Spain got runners on first and second base, but a force out ended the at bat.
The Netherlands got a chance to take more distance in the bottom of the fifth, but left three runners behind.
The team then scored twice with two outs in the bottom of the sixth after Spain had left another runner behind on second base in the top of the sixth.
With one out, Julia Kwakernaak singled and Sarah Evers walked for the Orange Team.
With two outs, the bases got loaded when Nazira Charles walked and Tenley Boersma followed with a 2-run single.
In the top of the seventh, Spain was able to score one more run off of Lisa Brink, who had returned as pitcher in the previous inning.
Ainhoa Lardin led off with a double, moved on a grounder, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Yulan Denia.
Brink then closed the game with a strikeout.
Julia Kwakernaak was the best Orange-hitter in the tournament with a .600 batting average (15-for-25).
She also led the team with 15 basehits and 14 runs batted in.
Sietske Drijvers scored the most runs for the team with 14 and Reganied Franka stole the most bases (7).
The roster of the Netherlands was as follows:
Pitchers: Esmee Ames, Lisa Brink, Lauren Heijnsdijk, Robin Verhagen, Yala Zwakman.
Catchers: Tenley Boersma (+IF), Sietske Drijvers (+OF), Yarah Zuiver (+OF).
Infielders: Else-Fieke de Boer (+OF), Sanne van der Putten, Renske Tellekamp.
Outfielder: Julia Kwakernaak.
Utility Players: Nazira Charles, Sarah Evers, Amy Felix, Reganied Franka, Bente Zwanenburg.
Coaching-staff: Saskia Kosterink (Head Coach), Sandra Catoen (Coach), Judith van den Berg (Pitching Coach).
Supporting staff: Pien Arntz (Physical Therapist), Marcel Benneker (Staff), Tjerk Smeets (Staff, first two days), Sanne Bolhuis (Team Manager).
There were no Umpires from the Netherlands in this tournament.
1. Czech Republic, 2. Italy, 3. Netherlands, 4. Spain, 5. Germany, 6. France, 7. Ukraine, 8. Poland, 9. Croatia, 10. Sweden, 11. Austria.