UTENA, Lith. — Romania’s Edy Pirvu struck out 14 batters in his second start in three days in a 6-3 defeat of Poland, while Lithuania survived a breathless finish to defeat Greece, 9-7. Romania finishes third in the group, with Poland in the cellar, while the Greeks will lock horns with the tournament’s host team for the right to contest the 2021 European Championship.
Romania 6 – Poland 3
With Romania already eliminated from Euros consideration, Pirvu took the mound for the second time in the qualifier like an old-fashioned ace. The righty had pitched five solid frames against Lithuania on Day 1, using 86 pitches in allowing only one earned run and recording seven Ks. Unfortunately for Pirvu, Lithuania’s Marius Balandis was busy tossing a no-hitter.
This time, his offense staked him to a one-run lead in the second despite only making contact with two pitches from Radosław Zajda and hitting them foul and for a double play. Instead, the run came from a leadoff walk and, with one out, two more free passes followed by a hit batter.
Poland would immediately equalize, although Romania’s ace stamped out what could have been a bigger rally. Filip Sarota – debuting on the senior national team after cutting his teeth at the Under-18 level – legged out a bouncing ball through the right side to start the frame. A liner over the shortstop by Paweł Sztejka went for two bags. The blow ought to have scored Sarota, but Pirvu had begun the at bat by picking off Poland’s youthful rightfielder. Paweł Zagórski brought home Sztejka, however, and moved to second on a balk. A dropped fly ball put runners on the corners before Pirvu buckled down to end the inning himself, punching out the next two batters.
Likely feeling a heightened sense of responsibility, Pirvu dug into the box with no outs in the third and laced a double down the left field line. A grounder moved him to third, setting him up for a sprint home on a wild pitch by the first of three Polish relievers. Three batters later, having just about caught his breath, Pirvu strode back out to the mound.
A 1-2-3 inning was just what Romania needed and the southeastern European country took advantage of a sloppy inning to add two runs to its advantage. The markers came as a result of back-to-back freebies, a single by Mihai Mihai, another base on balls, and an error, although Romania left the bases loaded.
Sarota would atone for his lapse earlier by manufacturing a run himself. Once leading off the inning, Sarota dropped a one-base hit into left, attentively dove back to first on two pickoff throws as the next batter went down on strikes, and then – after another toss over while the third hitter of the frame dug in – promptly pilfered second. A grounder sent him to third and – clearly distracted by Sarota’s antics – Pirvu balked again, permitting Sarota to trot home and the cut the margin to 4-2.
Dudu Ionescu singled home Alex Bircu in the fifth as the tit-for-tat innings continued, and Pirvu survived two plunkings and an errant pickoff throw to preserve the 5-2 lead. From this point, the game suddenly sped up, with a solo shot by Poland’s Dominick Golubiewski the only hit until the eighth. In the frame, Pirvu once more took Romania on his back, ripping a double to left center and coming around on a Klaus Nicolici single. The run was the only blemish against Maciej Wroblewski, who finished the game with four two-hit innings, striking out four.
Neither club hit safely again and Romania claimed the 6-3 victory. Fittingly, Pirvu and Sarota were the only hitters with more than one knock, with Romania’s right-hander – and No. 3 hitter – delivering a 3-for-4 day with three doubles. His antagonist, meanwhile, was 2-for-4. Pirvu went the distance, whiffing 14 in a 127-pitch effort.
Lithuania 9 – Greece 7
It appeared in the early innings that the home side would easily triumph over a Greek team that had yet to allow a run in the tournament, but momentum switched several times before the final game of pool play finished in Utena.
In the bottom of the opening frame, Lithuania was the first to light up the scoreboard, with five consecutive one-out singles pushing two runs across. A nifty double play from Greece’s shortstop Tom Roulis – who snared a line drive and flipped to second – put an end to the rally. Roulis’ teammates then proved that a walk is, indeed, as good as a run as Ari Sechopoulos led off with a free pass and moved up a base on another base on balls. After an Antonio Torres single, Bill Les punched a fly ball down the left field line that hooked foul. Although a subsequent hit batsman would have allowed Sechopoulos to score anyway, Greece’s first-sacker instead raced home after the foul ball was caught.
Lithuania erased that run in the third before Edvardas Matusevičius added two more in the fourth. The slugging Lithuanian rightfielder followed a Vytas Valinčius single with a rocket well over the wall in left.
To this point, Marijus Dargis had turned in a workmanlike effort for Lithuania, with three hits and a free pass through four. After a popout to start things off, Greece finally solved the southpaw. Alejandro Torres-Skerrett roped a double and a walk brought about a pitching change, which then resulted in another free pass by Greece’s patient batsmen. A balk plated one, while a second run scored on a base-knock from Nick Halamandaris. A wild pitch added another and, with the sacks once more jammed, the bullpen gates swung open once more. This time, it was Matas Sirgedas, and moved paid off perfectly, as a bouncing ball ended the threat. By this time, though, Greece had whittled the margin to one.
Lithuania’s advantage would disappear entirely in the sixth thanks to Roulis, who had two doubles and a single in the game. His two-out double down the right field line would set up Dimitrios Kourtis, who lined a ball into right center to easily score Roulis. Kourtis was not quick enough to take second, though, and the inning ended at 5-5.
Daniel Gosselin took over on the mound for Greece and carved through the heart of the Lithuanian order with ease. Sirgedas escaped the following half-frame without damage as the pair of ‘fives’ on the scoreboard loomed urgently for both squads.
It was the hosts that responded first, with an Audrius Beliauskas leadoff single – one of four on the day for the third baseman – led to a three-run inning. Beliauskas moved over on a walk, and a wild throw by Greece’s moundsman allowed both to race home. Martynas Sadzevičius finished with a run-scoring single.
A fifth Greek error one inning later scored the safely hitting Beliauskas, and the game moved to the ninth with Lithuania ahead 9-5. A punch-out to start had the home side’s confidence up, but Sechopoulos and Halamandaris quickly deflated the feeling with round-trippers over the right field wall on consecutive pitches. Clearly rattled, Lithuania’s fourth reliever hit the next batter and walked the subsequent pair of hitters, and Greece found itself an extra-base hit away from the lead.
The final call to the ‘pen once more delivered results, however, this time from the arm of Vilius Paikovas. The second out of the frame was a strange one, as Paikovas delivered his first pitch as the runner at third faked a run home. With the infield charging, catcher Adomas Aleksandravicius chased the scrambling Greek away from the plate before tossing to first baseman Aivaras Jacyna, who slapped the tag to erase the crucial runner. Three pitches later, Paikovas induced a groundball and the inning was over.
The two teams will have only a few hours to break down the loss, as Lithuania will match up for qualification with the Greeks today. The results were not pretty on paper, with 14 walks – nine by Lithuania, which also hit four batters – and five errors, all by Greece.
June 30: Poland 0 – Greece 7
June 30: Romania 2 – Lithuania 12 (7)
July 1: Greece 14 – Romania 0 (7)
July 1: Lithuania 11 – Poland 3
July 2: Romania 6 – Poland 3
July 2: Greece 7 – Lithuania 9
July 3 (Final): Greece – Lithuania