Great Britain qualify for Baseball World Cup second round

Great Britain have just qualified for the second round of the Baseball World Cup in dramatic fashion.  GB’s 4-1 victory over Croatia earlier today ensured that Stephan Rapaglia’s men would finish third in Pool D behind Nicaragua (3-0) and Japan (1-2).  While the top two teams in each of the five pools qualified automatically for the second round, only four of the five third-placed teams progressed with them.

For most of the evening, it looked as though Britain would be the team to miss out.  Tomorrow would be filled with gloom at an early exit. That was before a five-run eighth inning by Venezuela against Germany turned everything on its head.  Now we’re playing Cuba at 19.00 BST in Haarlem, Netherlands.

All five third-placed teams finished with the same 1-2 record, so the tie-breaker rules for the World Cup came into effect.  The first of the tie-breakers is the number of runs conceded and Great Britain’s heavy defeats to Japan (9-4) and Nicaragua (10-0) looked like being their undoing.  This was the picture once Great Britain’s game was over:

Pool 3rd-placed finisher Runs conceded
A Chinese Taipei 16
B Spain 10
C South Korea 19
D Great Britain 20

Basically, we were on our way out. 

Pool C appeared to be the real dream killer. Netherlands Antilles were seemingly the main team who offered us hope at the start of the day as they had conceded twenty-three runs in their first two games, including a 15-0 hammering against Canada.  Had they lost to South Korea today, even in a 1-0 pitching duel, they would have finished third in Pool C having conceded more runs than us. 

As it was, they recovered from an early 2-0 deficit to win 9-5 and finished second in their pool.  That pushed South Korea into third with nineteen runs conceded, one less than Great Britain. 

Our only remaining hope was that the third-placed team in Pool E would finish having conceded twenty-one runs or more.  It didn’t seem likely. Venezuela (eleven runs conceded in first two games) and Germany (ten) were the two teams involved in the second-third placed battle and both were a fair way from the twenty-one runs conceded mark.

Heading into the top of the eighth, Great Britain’s World Cup adventure appeared to be over.  Venezuela looked well set for the victory, but in that event we needed Germany to concede eleven runs and they were only trailing 7-1. 

But then Venezuela started tacking on runs, one at a time. At 8-1 with the bases loaded, the German pitcher Rodney Gessman walked in the ninth run.  Then he hit the next batter to make it 10-1 with the bases still loaded. All Great Britain needed was for Venezuela to score one more run.

When the German third baseman made an error to allow the eleventh and twelfth runs to score, even the most compassionate Brit couldn’t stop themselves from jumping up and down with excitement.  Great Britain would be heading for the Netherlands.  Even if Germany had staged a miraculous comeback and won the game 13-12, Venezuela would have finished third with a worse run conceded total than us.

Here are the final third-placed standings:

Pool 3rd-placed finisher Runs conceded
A Chinese Taipei 16
B Spain 10
C South Korea 19
D Great Britain 20
E Germany 22

The way sport can play havoc with your emotions was fully on display today. Germany entered the day feeling confident that they would qualify for the second round in front of their home fans in Regensburg even if they lost to Venezuela.  Instead, they missed out in heart-breaking fashion.  Meanwhile Great Britain were virtually resigned to an early exit. I had even started drafting an article to pass on the unfortunate news. 

I’ve never been happier to have to quickly re-write something!


4 Responses to Great Britain qualify for Baseball World Cup second round

  1. Matt Smith September 12, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    On a related note, I had intended to spend a bit of this evening writing up my Weekly Hit Ground Ball column. Needless to say, the Germany-Venezuela game and its repercussions scuppered that idea. I’ll aim to publish it by midday (British time) tomorrow.

  2. Joe Cooter September 13, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    Congratulations, on making the next round.

    Cuba is going to be a real challenge for you guys. There history in second to none. Having a history of great players who have come to the States including Louis Tiant, Livan Hernandez and his brother El Duque.

  3. Liam September 13, 2009 at 4:38 am #

    I have never been so locked into Gametracker! Edge of the seat stuff, even with only animation!

  4. Matt Smith September 13, 2009 at 9:09 am #

    It was an incredible way to qualify. I do feel a bit sorry for the Germans as their support at the Regensburg ballpark was excellent by all accounts. Still, they knabbed our Final Olympic Qualifier spot, so I think we’re even!

    Thanks for the congratulations Joe. Make no mistake, these seven games are going to be a monumental challenge for GB and Cuba are about as tough a first opponent was we could get. But what a fantastic experience for our team.

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