SÉNART, France — Draci Brno and Astros Valencia, the two favorites for the Confederation of European Baseball Cup, both pulled out narrow wins on the first full day of play in the town southeast of Paris. Minsk came up just short against the long-time Czech heavyweights, while the Dornbirn Indians took their second loss. Sénart had the day off and the forfeit win from the Therwil Flyers.
Minsk 5 – Brno 6 (10)
Fresh off the Opening Night win, Minsk faced off against Brno’s Dragons in what turned out to be a thriller. Two infield hits in the top of the first turned into a 1-0 lead for Minsk, which suited Ilya Sladzinski just fine. Neither side threatened until the third, when the Belarussians poked two singles off Ondřej Furko without scoring. In the bottom half, though, Eugene Helder and Pabel Manzanero ensured the same would not happen to them, hitting back-to-back jacks with two out.
Although each side had plenty of scoring opportunities in the middle innings, a single and a Siarhei Sokal double in the seventh led to an intentional walk of Sladzinski. With two outs and the bases loaded, Kiryl Kazlouski then watched four balls go by and the game was tied.
After escaping the jam, Sladzinski went 1-2-3 through the Brno lineup and Anton Pryputnevich then started another Minsk rally with a lead-off double. Yauheni Karalevich gave Minsk the lead with his third hit of the game, and the Belarussians tacked on two more in the frame.
Pavel Budský made it 5-3 with a double in the bottom of the frame, and the game rocked into the ninth. After nothing doing for Minsk, Sladzinski retired the first two Brno hitters before losing his 0-1 count on the Aruban Helder, issuing four consecutive pitches outside the zone. Manzanero made the right-hander pay, taking his next pitch and depositing it over the fence in left for a game-tying homer.
Mergans, who had entered to stamp out the fire in the seventh, sent down each of three Minsk hitters to face him in the tenth and it was Brno’s turn to try and take advantage of the tiebreaker rules. With Sladzinski finally exiting after 127 pitches, former Wake Tech stud Martin Červinka dropped a great bunt down the third base line that led to a miscue. With the bases loaded, Martin Kalábek then lofted a fly ball to left for the game-winning sacrifice fly.
Furko was solid in the start, working around nine hits and two walks in 6.1 frames, allowing only two runs. Sladzinski gave up five in nine frames, recording six walks and six strikeouts. Mergans earned the win with three innings of two-hit ball, surrendering only two unearned runs.
Valencia 5 – Dornbirn 4
The middle game turned into a nail-biter as well. The Astros scored two unearned runs in the first and turned a leadoff walk and singles by Blake Ochoa and Roibert Decena into a 3-0 lead. Dornbirn finally solved Yulman Ribeiro in the fourth as Dominick Golubiewski, Michael Salzmann, and Chris Squires started the frame with consecutive base-hits, the latter scoring the Indians’ first run. A two-out knock by Marcel Theiner narrowed the margin to 3-2.
The same trio struck an inning later for a double, a walk, and another RBI-single from Squires. This time it was Joachim Frick delivering a second run with a single, knocking Ribeiro out of the game and giving the Austrian club the lead.
Golubiewski moved to the mound for the sixth and matched zeroes with new Spanish hurler Ricardo Hernández for the next two frames. An unearned run off Squires in the eight drew the game even at four. The bottom of the ninth started with a base on balls to Sandel Cuevas, who moved up on an Ochoa single. With two down, Squires uncorked a wild pitch and the subsequent throw from the catcher to third also missed its target and Cuevas scampered home with what would be the winning run.
Hernández earned the win with four superb relief innings in which he punched out six and allowed only two hits. Ochoa and Decena were both 3-for-5 for the victors.
Therwil 1 – Sénart 14 (later changed to a 9-0 forfeit to Sénart)
The home club gave fans plenty to cheer about in the nightcap, with runs scored in all but one inning in a game shortened by mercy rule. The Templiers had a 7-1 lead through three and shortened the game with a six-run sixth. Four hitters collected a pair of safeties in the game, with Alex Perdomo and Jimmy Mapakou roping a single and a double apiece and the latter driving in four. Felix Brown tripled and walked, scoring twice. Tanguy Meurant labored through four innings, but allowed only one run on two hits, and Clifford Heberden and José Paula finished off the game with three solid frames.
The game was changed to a 9-0 forfeit on the final day of the CEB Cup after it was determined Therwil used an ineligible player.