On the first day of the 2019 European Championship, the following games were scheduled: Spain @ Croatia, Israel @ Czech Republic, Austria @ Belgium, Italy @ France, the Netherlands @ Great Britain and Germany @ Sweden.
On the first day, Pluvius had a negative influence on the games as several of them dealt with rain delays. Because of that, the game between the Netherlands and Great Britain was suspended because it was unsafe to play because darkness fell in Solingen.
Spain 3 – 2 Croatia
It must have been a rude awakening for Spain when Croatia took a bold 2-1 lead in the third inning. But eventually, Spain, which is one of the title candidates, turned the tables and walked off the field as a winner. In the top of the first inning, Spain took an early 1-0 lead when Engel Beltre scored on a throwing error. Croatia tied the game in the bottom of the same inning when Kruno Gojkovic scored all the way from first base on Andrija Tomic’ double down the right field line. For four innings Croatia could hope for a good result but in the eighth inning, back-to-back-to-back singles drove in two runs to hand Spain the win.
Jorge Balboa pitched seven innings for the win. He gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits and struck out nine. Jesus Martinez was the best hitter for Spain with two base hits out of three at-bats, a double and an RBI.
Israel 6 – 1 Czech Republic
With a team with almost all players from the Czech Extra League, the Czech Republic faced an Israel team with mainly players from the US (college and minor leagues). The result can be guessed. Israel clinched an easy victory over the Czechs. The Czech Republic took a 1-0 lead when Jakub Malik hit into a forceout at second base which allowed Martin Schneider to score. In the third inning, Blake Gaillen tied the score with a solo home run.
With a four-run inning, Israel walked away and never looked back.
Zach Weiss earned the win. In 1.1 innings of relief, he didn’t give up a hit or a run but walked three. Blake Gaillen was clearly the best hitter for Israel as he went 4 for 4 with a home run, a double, an RBI and a run scored. Israel may be considered as a dangerous outsider for a medal.
Austria 1 – 5 Belgium
Even though it was not a blowout score, Belgium did not have to go deep vs the debutant in the European A Championship. In the second inning, Belgium took a 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run home run by Axel Poesmans. In the following innings not much happened until Belgium started a rally in the eighth frame. With the bases loaded and no outs, Dennis de Quint grounded into a forceout at second base that drove in Benjamin Goffaux. A single by Steven de Lannoy drove in two more runs to give Belgium a comfortable 5-0 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, Austria did something back when Dominik Talir doubled off Kenny van den Branden, normally a starting pitcher but used as a reliever in this game. On this double, Tobias Schermer scored Austria’s only run. For manager Sven Hendrikx, this was a sign to bring in Thomas de Wolf, who retired the final batter to secure the win.
Cedric Desmedt pitched seven innings for the win as he gave up four hits, walked three and struck out five. According to the box score, Thomas de Wolf earned the save, but it is only a save when the pitcher comes in with a lead of three runs or less.
Best hitter for Belgium was Steven de Lannoy, who went 2 for 4 with two RBI.
Italy 16 – 2 France
For five innings, France could keep pace with Italy but when the Azzuri scored five runs in the sixth inning, the game was played. After two scoreless innings, Italy opened the score in the third inning when a dropped fly ball, an HBP and a single led to the opening run. One inning later the Italians added two more runs to their total but in the bottom of that inning, France bounced back as it scored twice on a solo home run by Andy Paz and a groundout by Jacques Boucheron. After the five-run sixth, Italy added a run in the eighth and six in the ninth to reach the final score of this very lopsided game. The only thing that can be said about Italy is that the team failed to finish the game in less than nine innings.
Michael Johnson earned the win after 2.1 innings in relief. He gave up two hits and struck out four. Best hitter for Italy was Sebastiano Poma, who hit an epic 6 for 6 with a solo home run, a double, five RBI and four runs scored.
The Netherlands – Great Britain
With the Dutch leading Great Britain 10-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the game in Solingen was suspended due to falling darkness. Looking to the schedule, it is not clear yet when the remainder of the game will be played.
Germany 9 – 1 Sweden
With Steve Janssen as their new manager, Germany may be a force to be reckoned with. Sweden wasn’t a real threat to the Germans except for the third inning. With no outs and runners on first and second, the Scandinavians had a golden opportunity to get back in the game but failed to cash in. After the first inning, Germany led by three runs to none. Sweden’s answer came in the bottom of the first inning when Joel Johnsson doubled to right center field and scored when Alex Rubanowitz singled up the middle. In the following two innings, Germany added two runs partially thanks to a solo home run by Pascal Amon in the fifth inning. Until the eighth inning, Germany failed to extend their score but that was also the merit of Swedish relief pitcher Daniel Linder, who limited Germany to one hit and a walk and struck out three in four innings. In the top of the fifth, Linder was replaced by Ben Johnson, who had a rough welcome as he gave up an RBI double to Kevin Kotowski, who drove the ball down the left field line and allowed RBI singles to Donald Lutz and Max Boldt.
Relief pitcher Lucas Steigert was clearly the man of the match for the Germans. The 20-year old pitched 5.1 solid innings in relief and limited Sweden to two hits and struck out three for the win. Kevin Kotowksi was the best German hitter with three hits out of three at-bats with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.