by Thommy Brolin
The Swedish Elite League made a sneak start this past weekend as last year’s finalists Karlskoga played hosts to last year’s newcomers and semi-finalists Rättvik. Both Karlskoga and Rättvik are among the favorites for this year’s championship, and, seeing the outcome of this series, maybe Karlskoga more so than Rättvik.
Karlskoga won very convincingly behind Jason Enewold (6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 9 K) 11 – 1 in the first game, and equally convincing behind Kent Karlsson (7 IP, 3 R, 0 ER, 7 K) 11 – 3 in the second game. Karlskoga’s new acquisition from Sundbyberg Michael Andersson closed both games (4 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 K), and looked very comfortable doing so.
Before creating too much fuzz about Rättvik’s lackluster performance, one must note that some of the more important players were missing from their line-up. Adam Sorgi, Rickard Reimer, Mattias Stenis and Fredrik Hansson were all missing in this series, and with their presence the team should be expected to do very well this season. Adam Sorgi is together with P Nicklas Melin the two main additions to Rättvik this season. Adam Sorgi is a Swedish American player that has shown great skills in the Swedish national team, but hasn’t played in the Elite League before this season. Being regarded as one of the absolute top Swedish players, this middle infielder will greatly impact Rättvik’s chances.
Nicklas Melin spent last season in the Dutch Hoofdklasse with MediaMonks RCH, but opted to return to Sweden and Rättvik this season. Nicklas has played for Sundbyberg and Leksand previous seasons in Sweden. His debut with Rättvik was not what he and the team had hoped for, lasting just four innings and giving up eight runs on twelve hits, all runs being earned.
Karlskoga, the Champions from 2007 and last year’s runner up, are expected to continue the season on as high a note as they started. Missing from the 2008 team are last seasons arguably best player overall Dennis Kelly (playing for Montpellier in the French league this year), together with Adam Sowell, Brendan Horne and Sami Säkkinen. New additions this season, filling the spots left open by the departing four, includes Jason Enewold that was very impressive in his first start, Heath Herron, Michael Andersson and Henrik Johansson. Also a big plus for the team is that c/1b Olle Öijen comes back from (early) retirement. And what a comeback he had! He was a combined 6 for 8 with 2 doubles over the two games.
Sundbyberg has also revamped their roster this season. The return of one of the best player that have ever played in Sweden, P/OF Will Rikard (AVG .420, SLG .666, OBP .490 as a hitter, ERA 1.40, OAVG .182 and 151 Ks over 109.2 IP 2006 and 2007) . Will did not play at all last season, but if he can play even remotely close to his 2006 / 2007 level, he will greatly impact Sundbyberg’s strength. In addition P Nick Soubiea will be available all season this year (pitched only 34.2 innings last year due to university studies in USA), and to boot Grant Irving from Australia will top up the upgrade for the Champions of 2003 and 2006.
Reigning Swedish Champions Stockholm has not reported any major moves on their roster for this season. It is not unlikely that an addition might turn up over the next couple of weeks, but even without any upgrade, Stockholm is expected to make the playoff with quality players like Magnus Pilegård, Joakim Claesson and Brothers Peter and Björn Johannesen on their roster.
Leksand and Tranås, who both ended up just outside the playoffs last year, are also without any moves reported to their roster for this season. Expecting some additions to their rosters over the coming weeks, it is still less likely that any of these two teams will finish higher in the standings than last year’s four playoff teams.
Newcomers Goteborg and last year’s seventh placed team Gefle both have new Americans this season, but it would be a big surprise if any of those two teams would make the playoffs.
Past Champions since 2000:
Stockholm wins Swedish Championship after Sweep in Finals