Great Britain ended a challenging 2016 European Championship by earning back-to-back wins against Croatia and Greece to ensure they will be in the main event again in two years’ time without needing to go through a qualification pool.
It means that they will head on to the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Brooklyn in a positive frame of mind after an event that can be summed up in one word: frustrating.
The opening night loss to a clearly superior Netherlands team was no great shame or surprise. It was the following three losses against the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden that were more difficult to swallow. Great Britain were in with a chance of winning all three and came out of every one with nothing but an L to add to the standings.
The extra-inning loss against Sweden was the most painful as the team had fought brilliantly to recover from a 5-0 deficit and then lost out under the international extra-inning rules (in which runners are placed on first and second base to start the inning), which are a bit of a lottery. The following 11-5 loss to Russia – fairly described as a disaster in the sporting context of the word – was a complete sickener even considering that their opponents had shown their ability by running the Netherlands close earlier in the Pool (a very creditable 3-1 loss).
There were moments when the pitching got away from GB during those games, but the batting lineup only managed four extra-base hits combined in the five Pool games and it’s difficult to win games relying on needing to get every run home in installments.
The stand-out player with the bat for Great Britain was veteran Richard Klijn. This was Klijn’s fourth Euros and by far his best as he started all seven games and led the team with a .364 batting average (12-for-33), particularly doing damage against right-handed pitching (11-for-26, .423). He capped off his strong tournament by hitting his first major international tournament home run in the final game against Greece.
Chris Berset and Nate Thomas also went deep against the Greeks, with Thomas’ team-leading .696 slugging percentage being complemented by the five score-less innings he pitched in his start against Russia.
Pitching performances across a short international tournament are always subject to quite a bit of variation due to the differing levels of competition, and situations, pitchers face. To pick out a few notable performances:
- Daniel Cooper (5IP, 2 R, 0ER) and London Met Conrad Cornell (3IP, 1R) combined for a very well-pitched game against Germany. Cornell also pitched three good innings in the win against Croatia.
- Greg Hendrix kept GB’s hopes alive in the game against the Czech Republic with four score-less innings,
- The Southampton Mustangs’ Rei Martinez held Sweden to one run over his five innings pitched
- Cody Chartrand laid the foundations for GB’s first win of the tournament with his start against Croatia (6IP, 5H, 0R).
A satisfactory tournament
The goal for Great Britain is to be able to go into events like the European Championship and challenge for a medal. The 2016 Euros showed that the team has plenty of development to get to that stage – something that will not come as a surprise nor something that will discourage those involved from continuing to work hard to achieve this ambition in the years ahead.
If we are being realistic in terms of grading Great Britain’s tournament, a medal would have been fantastic, finishing in the top three of their Pool would have been very good, being ‘best-of-the-rest’ and involved in the 7th/8th-placed game would have been good and ensuring EC 2018 qualification would have been satisfactory.
Describing the Euros as a satisfactory event for Great Britain seems fair. The results didn’t go as well as they might have, but the first goal of keeping out of the qualifiers was achieved. That this was done with a roster that included 12 players from British teams (with 2 others who played some games in Britain this season) is encouraging with ‘the GB Way’ initative still in its early years.
The team showed a lot of character in bouncing back from the Russia defeat to gain two important victories. Head Coach Liam Carroll, the coaching staff and players can be proud of that and take that on to Brooklyn next week.
Game reports and additional coverage can be found via the Team GB section on the BBF website.
Stats can be found on the CEB 2016 European Championship website.