By Gabriel Fidler
BELGRADE, Serbia — With the penultimate day of pool play at the second Federation Cup Qualifier in the books, four teams remain in the hunt for a spot in Sunday’s final. Juraj Bartók tossed a gem for Apollo Bratislava, which claimed the 5-1 victory despite a three-hitter from Wrocƚaw’s Łukasz Krzemienowski. Meanwhile, Vojvodina scored nine runs in its final six frames against Budapest to move into a draw with the Slovakians at the top of the table.
Bratislava will take on hometown Vojvodina on Day 5, with the winner earning a place in the championship game a day later. The fate of the losing side and of Hungary’s Red Wolves will depend on the first game of the day, in which Wrocƚaw and Kaunas will tangle. Should Wrocƚaw win, Budapest would be eliminated and Apollo and Vojvodina would match up again for the final. Were Kaunas victorious, Vojvodina would only progress to the final with a victory against Bratislava, where the Serbian side would face Budapest. If the Lithuanian baseball club won and Bratislava dispatched the hometown team, the Apollos would square off with an opponent determined by further tiebreaker for promotion to the Federation Cup.
Bratislava 5 – Wrocƚaw 1
Game 1 offered fans an entertaining—if unorthodox—pitching duel, with Bratislava clinging to a 2-1 lead through five. Apollo scored its first run without a ball leaving the infield, as Adam Začko walked, move to third on a pair of wild pitches, and scored on a groundball. In the bottom of the frame, a pair of strikeouts was followed by a pair of singles, Wrocƚaw putting two runners in scoring position after the second hit was muffed in right field.
The second featured a hit batter and a rare batter interference call, before both teams scored unearned runs in the third, the Slovakians once more doing so without a hit. Indeed, this pace was maintained for most of the game by Krzemienowski, who still a no-hitter going with one out in the sixth, but had walked five batters and plunked another, punching out four.
In that sixth inning, the Apollos followed a similar recipe as before, putting the leadoff man aboard on a free pass, with a wild pitch moving him over. After a strikeout, Matej Škerlec broke up the no-no, and a grounder would add a third run. In the seventh, another free pass to Začko was immediately followed by a Bartók hit that would score the Slovakian leadoff hitter after the single was booted by the rightfielder. As Yogi Berra once observed, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”. To his credit, Krzemienowski finished strong, striking out five in the eighth and ninth around a walk, a hit batter, and a single.
All the while, the steadying left hand of Bartók guided the Apollos to the victory. The only run against him came in the third, when two errors turned a single into a run. Bartók allowed only one other hit, that coming at the start of the eighth, when a soft-moving grounder advanced merely a few feet from the plate. A free pass and a hit batter loaded the base, but Bartók exited unscathed.
The game featured five hit batters, 12 walks, five errors, but only eight hits in total. Bartók struck out four in his nine frames, scattering five of those hits and four free passes, while Krzemienowski punched out 10, walked eight, and surrendered his three earned runs on three hits. The Barons’ Piotr Płudowski was the only player on either side with more than one safety, rapping three singles. Michal Ešmír accumulated three walks and a hit for Bratislava.
Vojvodina 13 – Budapest 4
Ivan Šijačić doubled to start the nightcap, and Vojvodina did not stop hitting for more than a few batters against the Red Wolves. José Ceballos beat out a nifty bunt single to follow Šijačić, who scored when the ball was thrown away. Another bunt, this time of the sacrificial kind, led to a second run, which scored on a groundball.
Jumpei Yamazaki stayed around the zone in his turn on the slab, giving up plenty of contact, but keeping Budapest off the board until the bottom of the third. With two down, the red-hot César Chacín beat out a bouncer to short and moved to third on a line drive single by young Bálint Piros to the gap in right. Zsolt Győri brought Chacín home with a booming double, but after an intentional pass to slugging Carlos Rubio, Yamazaki induced a grounder to end the bases-loaded threat.
Vojvodina plated four in the fourth, after a trio of free passes jammed the sacks with two down. Siniša Vajdić and Marko Badovinac ripped two-run singles to take advantage of the free baserunners.
After two more runs in the sixth on a hit batter and singles by Leonardo Morillo and Alen Pantelić, the Serbians again added a pair of markers in the seventh, with Morillo driving in Dušan Milovanović and Šijačić for a 10-1 lead.
Budapest put a run in the board in the bottom of the frame after Rubio was struck by the ball, with the catcher swiping second and scoring on an András Csállo bouncer through the right side. An unearned run gave Vojvodina the nine-run advantage back temporarily, before the Red Wolves continued to rally in the latter part of the eighth. Ádám Domsicz and Connor King led off with singles, scoring on a Chacín groundball and a Bálint Piros double. The Hungarians, however, left the bases loaded and the score at 11-4.
Morillo and Badivonac ensured that any further comeback attempts would need to overcome a nine-run deficit once more, as the former plated Ceballos with a double and came around on a Badovinac bingle. Ninić then wrapped up the game for Vojvodina’s second win in three games, with Yamazaki earning the win after hurling 7.1 innings (11H, 4ER, 1BB, 3K).
Morillo had an excellent day at the dish, scoring twice and driving in four, joining Šijačić with 3-for-5 lines that each included a double, a walk, and a stolen base. Badovinac was 2-for-3 with three walks and three RBI. Morillo’s line through three games is an otherworldly .643/.667/.929, while Šijačić checks in at .667/.786/.778 and Badovanic, in two games, at .714/.818/.714.
King was 4-for-5 with a double from the nine-hole and Rubio drew two walks, both intentional, and was hit twice. Győri wrapped up a superb round robin performance with a 3-for-4 day that included two doubles and a ribbie. The two-way prospect went 10-for-16 with four doubles, two walks, and only one punchout across four games. The younger Piros brother, Bálint, hit safely for the fourth game as well, lacing a single and a double to raise his Cup line to .353/.450/.588.
Day 4 Results [Box Scores]
June 24: Bratislava 5 – Wrocƚaw 1
June 24: Vojvodina 13 – Budapest 4
June 25: Wrocƚaw – Kaunas
June 25: Bratislava – Vojvodina
Final (June 26): TBD
Previous Results [Box Scores]
June 21: Kaunas 1 – Budapest 11 (7)
June 21: Wrocƚaw 0 – Vojvodina 10 (7)
June 22: Budapest 12 – Bratislava 10
June 22: Vojvodina 9 – Kaunas 11
June 23: Kaunas 3 – Bratislava 6
June 23: Budapest 6 – Wrocƚaw 9
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