OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — European baseball’s Champions Cup began in the Czech Republic with eight teams fighting for the continent’s club championship. Ostrava and Frýdek-Místek, both in northeast Czechia, are the host stadia, with roughly two-thirds of games hosted at Arrows Park. On Day One, Curaçao Neptunus and L&D Amsterdam ensured the Hoofdklasse was represented well, with the former blasting France’s lone representative and the squad from Dutch capital surviving a thriller against the hosts in the nightcap. Elsewhere, Fortitudo Bologna and the Bonn Capitals squeaked out one-run wins.
Five nations are represented, with two each from the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, as well as the Czech Republic and France. Group A consists of Bologna, Heidenheim Heideköpfe, Neptunus (Rotterdam), and Rouen Huskies. The second set of four features the Amsterdam, Bonn, SKSB Arrows Ostrava, and 1949 Parma A.S.D. Each club won either it’s country’s national league or cup in the most recent – and interrupted – qualification process.
Rouen 4 – Neptunus 14 (8)
Rouen was faced with a stiff test in the powerhouse Neptunus. The Rotterdam nine scored four in the first and were already ahead 10-0 through five as it waltzed to the mercy rule victory. The main story, however, was Dwayne Kemp, who drilled three home runs. The long-time Netherlands national-teamer drove in five, while John Polonius contributed his own round-tripper.
Heidenheim 3 – Bologna 4
The second game of the day was much closer, with long-time Dutch ace Mike Bolsenbroek and two-time LVBP Pitcher of the Year Raul Rivero facing off in a battle of the German and Italian 2020 champions. The matchup delivered on its promise, as neither side scored until the fourth, when Ernesto Liberatore took Bolsenbroek yard with two outs and a man on first.
In the fifth, Drew Janssen – who had a sensational season on the mound for Frontier Community College (Iowa) – answered for the Heideköpfe, launching a no-doubter over the wall in dead center. Another JuCo star would erase Janssen’s shot, as Daniel Monti – who hit .336 for Odessa College (Texas) – torched a home run to almost the same location.
Heidenheim inched closer on a Ludwig Glaser RBI-single in the sixth. Fellow German national squad-member Shawn Larry delivered his own run-scoring knock in the seventh to tie the game, but former Yankee minor leaguer Ericson Leonora bounced a ball through the left side in the game’s penultimate frame, scoring Raywendley van Gurp for the winning run.
Bolsenbroek whiffed 10 in seven frames, scattering five hits and a single walk in the loss. Rivero registered one fewer K in his six innings, equalling the Dutch right-hander on hits and free passes. Henry Rodríguez struck out two in a scoreless ninth for the save.
Group B (July 13)
Bonn 5 – Parma 4
The German Bundesliga North champions faced off with Italian heavyweights Parma in a nail-biting game worth of Europe’s top club competition. Single runs in the first, third, and sixth gave the Capitals a 3-0 lead, with the third run coming on a Wilson Lee dinger. Parma came storming back in the seventh, stringing together two runs from two hits, a plunking, and a balk.
The final frame, however, was the most dramatic, as a leadoff hit turned into a pair of runs after a bunt resulted in a throwing error and was followed by a hit batter, another error, and a base-loaded walk. Needing three runs, former Oakland farmhand Cesarre Astorri took advantage of back-to-back walks with a base knock to drive in one, and Ricardo Paolini followed with another run-scoring single. Nicholas Miceli would come in to retire the final two batters for the 5-4 decision. Sascha Koch (1-0) gave Bonn 6.1 good innings, punching out six. Julio Vivas (0-1) struck out eight and walked only one in six frames.
Ostrava 6 – Amsterdam 8
It was a rollercoaster ride for the fans in attendance at Arrows Park, as Amsterdam and Ostrava matched up for a slugfest. A total of 10 runs scored via the longball, with long-time Cleveland minor leaguer Sicnarf Loopstok crushing a three-run jack over the centerfielder’s head to get things started in the first.
After an opening run for the Arrows scored on a wild pitch in the second, the Czech hitters put together an incredibly rare feat in the third. Tyler Smith led off, lifting a home run to right center. Once Smith had trotted around, Jakub Malík dug in, and unloaded on the first pitch, taking the bases at a jog himself after the big fly. Evidently seeing no reason to hold back, Brett Holtz did the same, launching a rocket to dead center and out of the park. Faced with quite a precedent, Petr Čech then held back, taking a called strike before working the count to 2-2. The fifth pitch, however, joined Holtz’s home run ball in a hurry, and Ostrava had back-to-back-to-back-to-back dingers.
Amsterdam would go to the bullpen and get out of the inning, recording a single run of its own in the fourth. By the bottom of the seventh, the ball appeared to no longer be carrying, although the Dutch club would tie the game after a pair of singles to start.
In the bottom of the frame, Gilmer Lampe and Kalian Sams said, “Anything you can do, I can do…just as well,” and put on their own home run derby. Lampe’s came with a runner on and two outs, with Sams following for a consecutive out-of-the-parker.
A single unearned run in the ninth for the Arrows would come to nothing, and Amsterdam claimed the victory. Despite the multitude of fence-beaters, Kevin Geestman’s four no-hit, shutout innings were the key for the Dutch squad, with Shairon Martis nailing down the game with eight strikeouts in three innings to earn the win.