The 2021 European championship continues in earnest today, with the four scheduled quarterfinals announcing the beginning of the knockout rounds. The four group winners — Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, and Spain — all went undefeated in group play, with Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, in particular, qualifying after dominant performances in their respective groups.
At 15:00 (CEST), Croatia, which surprised Germany in group play, winning 8-2 (box score), takes on the hosts, Italy, who cruised through group play with a +34 run differential. Italy is looking to improve on its silver medal at the 2019 tournament. It last won the European title in 2012, the last country to do so before the Netherlands began their run of three consecutive triumphs.
At 15:30 (CEST), Spain takes on Belgium, who qualified out of Group A with just one victory, a 5-4 walk-0ff win (box score) over Greece on the final day of group play. The Belgians scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to advance at Greece’s expense and now face a Spanish squad that wrapped up group play with a combined no-hitter of Croatia and twice scored 15 runs in victories over Ukraine (15-0, box score) and Germany (15-2, box score).
Two quarterfinal contests are scheduled for the evening, with Israel vs. the Czech Republic the highlight of the round. Israel snuck past Russia on Day One of the the tournament thanks to a 10th-inning balk that brought home the deciding run (2-1, box score) and has since been powered by the hot bat of Assaf Lowengart, who leads the competition with three home runs. The Czechs lost to the Netherlands in group play, but have otherwise been dominant in victories over Sweden (6-1, box score) and Slovakia (13-3, box score).
The evening’s second quarterfinal pits the defending champions, the Netherlands, against Great Britain, with Team GB qualifying with only one W, a 7-2 victory (box score) over France on Day One of the competition. A 7-6 loss (box score) at the hands of Russia followed after a late-inning rally came up short, and Israel handily defeated Team GB on the final day of group play, with the aforementioned Lowengart hitting a home run and driving in three runs in an 11-4 Israeli victory (box score). The Dutch, on the other hand, cruised through group play, scoring 37 runs while surrendering just six.
Friday’s semifinals will pit the winner of Croatia vs. Italy against the winner of Czech Republic vs. Israel, with the second semifinal contest matching up the winner of Spain vs. Belgium and winner of Netherlands vs. Great Britain.
The final is scheduled for Sunday, Sept 19, at 20:30 (CEST).
For complete standings and statistics and links to live streams, visit the WBSC Europe competition page.
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