The opening weekend of the 2021 Ben’s Bundesliga delivered plenty of offense, strong pitching, and four sweeps, among other highlights. Among those who stood out were the Netherlands’ national team veteran Mike Bolsenbroek, German squad members Max Boldt, Pascal Amon, and Alex Schmidt, and 2021 U.S. signings Ross Vance and Kaleb Bowman.
München-Haar Disciples vs. Heidenheim Heideköpfe
In Heidenheim, the defending champion Heidenheim Heideköpfe got the 2021 campaign off to the expected start with a 13-3 victory over München-Haar on Saturday (box score) and a 12-4 win on Easter Sunday (box score). Dutch ace Mike Bolsenbroek kept the Disciples in check on opening day, striking out seven and allowing just three hits and no runs over five innings. Shawn Larry provided the offense, driving in seven runs and belting his first home run of the season.
On Sunday, the Disciples kept it close until the bottom of the sixth. Leading 5-3 heading into the bottom half of the frame, Heidenheim scored four runs, two of them coming on a Shawn Larry single, to take a 9-3 lead. Heidenheim never looked back and secured U.S. import Ross Vance (5 IP, 2 ER, 6 K) his first Bundesliga win.
Mannheim Tornados vs. Mainz Athletics
In Mainz, the Athletics picked up a sweep of their own at home on Saturday against the Mannheim Tornados, including a walk-off victory in the second game of their afternoon doubleheader.
In Game One, the Athletics never looked back after scoring three runs in the first inning. On the back of a solid pitching outing by Tim Stahlmann, who allowed just four hits and one walk in his seven innings of work, they led 9-2 after seven innings and cruised to a 9-4 victory. Max Boldt contributed a home run and four RBI.
The second game was a more compelling contest, with the Tornados responding to an early deficit to set the stage for Caelan Sullivan’s ninth-inning heroics. Mainz had a comfortable 7-0 lead after four innings, but Mannheim strung together five hits and four walks over the next three innings to cut the once comfortable lead to 9-7. A Bendlin Merlin RBI single in the eighth cut the lead to one, and a wild pitch allowed the tying run to score in the top half of the ninth. Mainz’s Sullivan responded with a two-out single that brought home Nicolas Weichert to secure the 10-9 victory (box score) for the Athletics.
Guggenberger Legionäre Regensburg vs. Tübingen Hawks
In Tübingen, Regensburg was too strong for the Hawks in game one, a 15-8 victory (box score), and then outclassed the home team 18-0 (box score) in the second leg of the Saturday doubleheader.
In Game One, leadoff hitter Alex Schmidt drove a 1-0 pitch over the fence, setting the tone for a seven-run first inning. He would homer again in the fifth inning, and outfielder Paul Wittmann, who recently signed a letter of intent to play at NCAA Division II West Texas A&M University, added four RBI on three hits, one of them a double.
Wittman bashed a home run in game two, as did former Dodgers’ farmhand Pascal Amon, two parts of an offensive explosion by Regensburg. The game was called after just four innings (mercy rule), a bitter pill for a Hawks team that has had to prepare for the season without player-manager Joshua Wyant, who is awaiting his visa.
Regensburg’s starter Kaleb Bowman needed just 42 pitches to get through his first outing of the season, striking out six and allowing just one hit in his four innings of work.
Stuttgart Reds vs. ITsure Falcons
The Stuttgart Reds overpowered the ITsure Falcons in similar fashion in their opening series. The two clubs got play in the Ben’s Bundesliga underway under the lights on Thursday night, a decisive 22-1 victory for the Reds. On Saturday, the Reds again put 22 runs on the scoreboard (box score), with William Germaine knocking a three-run home run and Xavier Garcia Artega contributing a bases-clearing triple in the 11-run sixth inning that capped off the victory for Stuttgart.
In contrast to Thursday’s contest, Ulm took the lead early against Stuttgart youngster Yannick Witt (5 H, 3 R, 1 ER), driving him from the mound after just two innings of work. Dustin Ward was brought out of the Reds bullpen and calmed the ship, however, allowing just one hit over the next three innings.
The Reds offense got to work at the same time, scoring five runs in the fourth inning, four runs in the fifth inning and the aforementioned 11 runs in the sixth inning. The Falcons managed to score once in the bottom of the sixth on a Markus Melendez double, but it was not enough to forestall the mercy rule.
Reds shortstop Xavier Gonzalez Artega followed up his five-RBI performance on Thursday with a 4-for-5 showing at the plate on Saturday. DH Elias Macias collected three hits in as many at-bats, one of them a triple, and drove home six runs.
In the second weekend of the Ben’s Bundesliga, the Mainz-Heidenheim match-up promises the best baseball, while Stuttgart will look to continue its hot start against the Munich-Haar Disciples. Mannheim will look to rebound from a tough defeat at the hands of Mainz with a series against Tübingen, and Regensburg will look to fill the scoreboard again, this time against the IT Sure Falcons.
Due to pandemic restrictions, the Bundesliga North clubs start play on the weekend of May 8-9.