Week 4 of the German Ben’s Bundesliga was without a doubt the most dramatic of the season. The weekend began as expected, with a Regensburg victory in its match-up against the guests from Munich on Friday evening, but Saturday afternoon was full of drama as the three undefeated clubs faced their toughest tests of the 2021 campaign. The action was wildest in Heidenheim, where the defending champion twice needed extra innings – and heroics – to avoid defeat at the hands of Mannheim. Stuttgart and Regensburg, on the other hand, both tasted defeat for the first time, while at the other end of the standings, Tübingen and Ulm were each after their first victory of the 2021 season. The Hawks, buoyed by player-manager Joshua Wyant finally stepping on to the field for the club, celebrated a road sweep.
Mannheim Tornados at Heidenheim Heideköpfe (8-9, 9-10)
Heidenheim remains the Bundesliga’s lone undefeated club, but it needed extra innings – and in Game One, four runs in the bottom of the eleventh inning – to make that possible against a Mannheim club that for the second week in a row has shown that it should not be underestimated.
In Game One, Mannheim took a 5-4 lead after scoring three runs in the seventh inning, but a bases load walk of Simon Gühring in the bottom of the eighth tied the score at five apiece. A double play got Mannheim out of the dangerous situation and a scoreless ninth and tenth then set the stage for a wild eleventh inning.
Mannheim’s leadoff hitter Juan Martin got the drama started with a solo home run, and Andrija Tomic followed suit with a two-run blast of his own later in the inning. With a three-run lead and needing just three outs, the Tornados seemed certain to be the first club to notch a victory against the defending champion, but Gühring singled, Gary Owens walked, and then Shawn Larry did the rest. The Week 1 Bundesliga Player of the Week drove a 3-2 pitch over the fence for his fifth homer of the season. A walk and two wild pitches later, Ludwig Glaser was standing on third, and a Yannic Walther single set off the celebrations.
Game Two was no less dramatic, with Heidenheim taking a 8-4 lead in the seventh after scoring five runs thanks to three doubles and a Larry single. The visiting Tornados responded with two runs in the eighth and three more in the ninth to take a one-run lead.
With heroics needed, none other than Larry led off the Heidenheim ninth. A single put him on first, with an error allowing him to advance to second. Samuel Tsopatalo was hit by a pitch, and Larry stole third, giving Heidenheim the tying run just 90 feet from home and the winning run, pinch runner Elian Gentner, on first. Two strikeouts followed, however, and then a Sascha Lutz walk loaded the bases for the German legend Gühring. Two outs, bottom of the ninth, his team down by one, Gühring singled on a 1-2 pitch to bring home the tying run. The runners were stranded a batter later, but the momentum was on Heidenheim’s side, and in the bottom of the tenth, Larry — again with one swing — decided the game, taking the first pitch he saw over the fence for his sixth long ball of the season.
Larry went a combined 7-for-11 with two big flies and six RBI.
Eight of Mannheim’s 17 runs on Saturday were driven in by Andrija Tomic. The Croatian national teamer went a combined 8-for-12 with two homers, including a 6-for-6 performance in Game Two.
Guggenberger Regensburg Legionäre vs. Munich-Haar Disciples (10-0, 5-6)
The weekend began as expected on Friday night in Regensburg, with the home team cruising to a 10-0 win in the first leg of the Bavarian derby. The star of the night was Regensburg starter Christian Pedrol, who delivered one of the most dominant pitching performances of the Bundesliga season, striking out 12 and allowing just one hit and one walk in six innings. On offense, Eric Harms went 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBI, with the three-run homer coming in the first inning to help give the hosts an early cushion they would extend to 7-0 after three. And so it would remain until the seventh inning, when a Harms double brought home the eighth run, with Harms later coming around for the tenth and final run of the evening.
On paper, Saturday afternoon’s match-up in Munich promised more of the same, especially with Kaleb Bowman pitching for Regensburg. The American entered the game having allowed just seven hits and one run in 17 innings of work on the season, with 28 punch outs to his name. The Disciples succeeded where previous clubs had struggled, however, and put two runs on the scoreboard in the first, adding another in the fifth on a dinger from Great Britain’s Nateshon Thomas and one more in the sixth.
For the Disciples, new addition Zac Treese was tasked with keeping the powerful Regensburg offense at bay, and he succeeded, collecting five strikeouts and limiting the guests to just one run through six innings. Regensburg came alive in the seventh however. Treese began the inning in continued control, with his sixth strike out and a ground out, but a Devon Ramirez walk triggered a two-run rally that ended three runs and four hits later with the score all knotted at four.
Bowman was replaced to begin the eighth and the Disciples put together three singles, the third a bunt down the third base line, to load the bases against lefty reliever Mitchell Hillert. A Klaus Nicolici fielder’s choice brought home the fifth run. Thomas, who had homered in the fifth, then had a chance to pad the Disciples lead, but Hillert struck him out to end the threat.
In the ninth, an Alexander Schmidt one-out double put the tying run in scoring position for Regensburg, but Disciples reliever Sean Cowan elicited a comebacker for out two and struck out Matt Vance to end the game and Regensburg’s undefeated start to the season.
Mainz Athletics at Stuttgart Reds (3-1, 8-10)
The Athletics and Reds split their Saturday doubleheader, with the Athletics’ victory in Game One ending Stuttgart’s undefeated start to the season. The pitching duel between Tim Stahlmann and Marcel Giraud kept the opener scoreless until the sixth, when Mainz scored twice and Stuttgart got one back on William Germaine’s fourth long ball of the season. Player-manager’s Nicolas Weichert’s sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh made it 3-1 for Mainz and Stahlmann finished off the Reds, pitching a complete game three-hitter. He needed 113 pitches to close out the game, striking out six to collect his second victory of the season.
Game Two saw Stuttgart enjoy a 7-2 lead after four, and while Mainz made it interesting by scoring three runs in the sixth, Stuttgart was in control throughout, with starter Dustin Ward (5IP, 2R, 2H, 7K) collecting his fourth win of the season.
In a losing cause for Mainz, Max Boldt hit his fourth homer of the season and drove in five runs.
Tübingen Hawks at ITsure Falcons Ulm (16-15, 12-9)
Hawks coach Joshua Wyant made his return to Tübingen felt immediately as he helped guide his squad to a sweep of the ITsure Falcons and the Hawks’ first two wins of the season. The 28-year-old American had been unable to travel due to visa complications, which weakened the club not just in its weekly preparations but also on the mound as Wyant had been slated to pitch in Game Two, when Bundesliga clubs can have import pitchers toe the rubber.
In Game One, however, Wyant made his contribution with that bat, going 2-for-2, reaching base another three times via walk, and driving in three runs. Hagen Rätz added five RBI in a back-and-forth 16-15 slugfest that was decided in the top of the ninth.
Tübingen jumped out to an early 6-0 lead after two turns at bat only for Ulm to put seven on the board in the bottom of the second, three of those runs coming on a Lukas Antoniuk homer. Ulm would extend the lead to 10-6 in the third, before Tübingen scored five in the fourth, only for Ulm to respond with another four runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning. Ulm led 14-11 after five innings, but Tübingen whittled away at the lead and the score was tied at 15 in the ninth, when a hit batsman and outfield error allowed the Hawks to bring home the deciding run.
The two teams combined for 29 hits, with Ulm bashing five home runs: two by Antoniuk, who also walked three times, twice intentionally; two by Efthimios Flüge, who walked twice himself and drove in four runs; and one by Thomas Geiger.
Game Two was relatively tame in comparison, with Tübingen jumping out to a 9-2 lead after five innings. Ulm scored five runs in the home half of the seventh to narrow the gap, but the Hawks added three insurance runs in the ninth and celebrated their second victory of the day and the season.
Wyant started and pitched four solid innings (4H, 1R, 4K). Kamil Pejchal picked up the win. Flüge, in a losing effort, hit his third home run of the afternoon off Wyant in the second inning.
Due to pandemic restrictions, the Bundesliga North clubs start play on the weekend of May 8/9.
Standings — Ben’s Bundesliga South
|2.||Guggenberger Regensburg Legionäre||7||1||.875||1|
|8.||ITsure Falcons Ulm||0||8||.000||8|