By Gabriel Fidler
BRASSCHAAT, Belgium — There will be plenty for which to play on the final day of the Federation Cup even after a decisive victory by Valencia sent the Astros to the tournament final. The 2021 Spanish finalists jumped on previously undefeated Wiener Neustadt, which had allowed only two runs in its first two games. Earlier in the day, the London Mets matched Valencia’s cup-leading mark for runs scored in a game, blasting the hapless—but never-say-die—Sofia Blues.
Sofia 3 – London 14
Although the Bulgarian heavyweights concluded their tournament with a third mercy rule defeat, the Blues were very much still in the game entering the bottom of the third. With the score 1-1, a pair of free passes put runners on the corners with one out for Michael Flaherty, who ripped a two-bagger to dead center to give the Mets a 3-1 lead. Three of the next four batters were plunked—with the other walked—the latter two scoring another run apiece. Callum Vinall drove in the inning’s fifth run, and London had a lead it would not relinquish.
Although Sofia plated an unearned run in the fourth, the Metropolitans would quickly erase the marker in the bottom of the frame, as Zach Stroman led off with a triple and scored on another Flaherty double. Jamie Dix and Rory Chandler later followed with RBI-singles.
The exclamation point came in the bottom of the eighth with the current National Baseball League leaders up 11-3. After a Dylan Baxter leadoff single and a double by Chandler, Andy Cosgrove launched a rocket over the left field fence and the Mets poured out of the dugout on the three-run, mercy rule round-tripper.
Pietro Sollecito was effectively wild in the win, going 7.2 innings in his third outing of the tournament and allowing only one earned run and six hits. Chandler was 3-for-4 with three RBI, Vinall went 3-for-5 with two ribbies, and Flaherty was 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBI. Stroman ripped a double and a triple in the game, and Cosgrove made it six Mets with at least two hits.
Valencia 10 – Wiener Neustadt 4
The Diving Ducks’ pitching staff had been incredibly stingy in its first two outings, but the Astros were untroubled by the Austrian offerings in a matchup of the Federation Cup’s two undefeated squads. In the first, the Spaniards scored two runs, with Edison Valerio ripping a double and Eusebio Salas a three-bagger, while Sandel Cuevas plated a run on a sacrifice fly.
Ryan Burnside continued his scorching hot approach in the bottom of the frame, bounding a ball out of the yard on one hop. The ground rule nature of the double prevented a second run from scoring, allowing Valencia to pad its lead in the third via a similar cast of characters. After an error and a freebie put Valerio and Cuevas on base, Salas doubled to left center and Juan Caraballo followed with a run-scoring flyout.
With a 5-1 lead entering the fifth, Cuevas dug in to start the frame, crushing the first pitch he saw over the rightfield wall for the first cuadrangular of the game. Although a Burnside sac fly allowed a second run to score in the bottom half of the fifth, the ‘Stros quickly added to their three-run advantage in the sixth, plating four runs. Édgar Rondón plated the first on a RBI-hit, with Valerio lifting yet another sacrifice fly for another, and Caraballo finishing with a two-run double.
Yulman Ribeiro hung around long enough to get the win (5IP, 6H, 4ER, 3BB, 7K), while Lowuin Sacramento was exceptional out of the ‘pen, entering in a save situation with a 6-3 lead, and permitting just a single hit in the final four frames, resisting the urge to issue any freebies, and sending down four on strikes. As seems to be quite common in European baseball cups, he was not credited with the save.
Four Wiener Neustadt moundsmen surrendered only eight hits combined, all in the first six innings, but Valencia took advantage of 10 base on balls and seven errors in the victory. Rondón and Salas were the only players with multiple hits for the victors, while Burnside was 2-for-3 for the Ducks.
|Wiener Neustadt Diving Ducks||2-1||1||26||12|
Results & Schedule [Box Scores]
June 20: Valencia 14 – Sofia 2
June 20: London 7 – Brasschaat 6
June 21: Wiener Neustadt 7 – London 1
June 21: Brasschaat 4 –Sofia 1
June 22: Sofia 1 – Wiener Neustadt 15 (7)
June 22: Brasschaat 4 – Valencia 8
June 23: Sofia 3 – London 14 (8)
June 23: Valencia 10 – Wiener Neustadt 4
June 24: London – Valencia
June 24: Wiener Neustadt – Brasschaat
Final (June 25): TBD