2021 Federations Qualifier: Mets’ Perfect Run Secures 2022 Federations Cup Bid; First British Qualification Since 2003
By Gabriel Fidler
BLAGOEVGRAD, Bulgaria — Well aware of the stakes in the Federations Cup Qualifier championship, the London Mets mashed from the first pitch of the game, holding off multiple rallies from RusStar Moscow in a 9-5 victory in the title game. The Mets finished with a perfect record in the CEB tourney, only the second time in British baseball history a team accomplished the feat. The clean sweep earns Britain’s National Baseball League a spot in next summer’s Federations Cup, which will be the country’s debut in the event, and only the fourth time Britain has earned promotion at a CEB event.
Final: Moscow 5 – London 9
The Mets needed exactly two pitches to take a lead in the deciding contest. Drake Yoshioka lined the first to deep center for a triple and, one pitch later, Jordan Edmonds followed with a two-bagger, scoring on a Zachary Stroman single. After Matteo Solecito beat out a base knock, Michael Flaherty launched a three-run tater over the left field wall. A sixth consecutive hit from Michael Banagale followed, but Moscow finally recorded an out and two more quickly followed.
Given the inauspicious start, a lesser team might have folded, but Vladislav Kochetov put the RusStars on the board with a solo homer in the second, though it was erased by a RBI-double from Flaherty. However, Moscow still had plenty of fight, with Valentin Alexandrov ripping a two-bagger down the left line to plate two in the fourth. Alexandrov would score on a base knock and suddenly, the Mets’ margin had been reduced to 6-4.
The bottom of the fourth saw Yoshioka set the tables once more, dropping a single to left, swiping second, and scoring on Sollecito’s single, though a single run was all London could manage against RusStar starter Dmitry Shtyker, who recovered well from the nightmarish first inning.
Brian Lainoff returned the bump after four no-hit innings two days earlier, striking out four across the sixth and seventh. Russia posted a single run against the right-hander, but the top of the Mets’ order came through yet again in the eighth, as Yoshioka went yard with one out before Sollecito doubled to left center to plate Stroman, who had reached on an error. Sollecito finished with a game-high four hits, two of them for two bases.
Freddy Mosier’s second relief inning was a nervy ninth, but a nifty double play by Sam Sproule on a line drive to second kept the frame clean, and the club from Europe’s second-most populous capital claimed the historic win over the continent’s most populated.
Awards and Feats
Yoshioka’s three-hits, eight total bases, three runs, and a stolen base propelled him to Blagoevgrad Pool MVP honors. The shortstop-pitcher hit .429/.538/.714 across the five games, pilfering four bases. Edmonds (.522/.577/.696, 3SB), Stroman (.450/.520/.650), and Sollecito (.400/.423/.600) all had an excellent tournament as well. It was Kochetov, however, that rightly earned the award for Best Batter after a herculean .632/.600/1.105 line.
With the win, a British team—likely either the London Mets or London Capitals—will represent Britain in the 2022 Federations Cup for the first time. Indeed, it will be only the fourth time in British baseball history that a team will play a CEB event above the bottom tier. The Mets’ perfect record is the second-ever in British history (2003 Windsor Bears), its 65 runs scored in the event the fourth-best in 44 CEB tournaments, and its run differential (+40) third all-time.
Leading Batter: Vladislav Kochetov (Moscow)
Pitcher (Best ERA): Petar Petrov (Sofia)
MVP: Drake Yoshioka (London)
Aug. 3: Sofia 4 – London 21 (7)
Aug. 3: Moscow 16 – Sofia 2 (7)
Aug. 4: London 8 – Moscow 4
Aug. 5: Moscow 7 – London 8
Aug. 5: Sofia 3 – Moscow 10
Aug. 6: Sofia 5 – London 19 (7)
Final (Aug. 7): Moscow 5 – London 9