Once again, dramatic matches were seen in Week 5 of the Czech Extraliga, with several exceptional individual performances both on the mound and at the plate. Only two teams were successful in their bids for three wins, with Ostrava’s sweep enabling the Arrows to remain atop the table. Hluboká moved one-half game ahead of Eagles Praha with its three wins, but only 2.5 games separate the top six sides in the Extraliga dogfight.
Olympia Blansko vs. Sokol Hluboká (0-1, 5-8, 2-12)
Luis Rengel and Jan Novák did not disappoint fans expecting a marquis pitching matchup in Game One of the series. Rengel had struck out 25 in 10.2 innings the previous weekend, while Novák had already set an Extraliga record for double-digit strikeout games to start a season. Each sailed along smoothly through four, with Blansko hardly able to touch the ball with former Baltimore Oriole Novák dealing. In the top of the fifth, Stanislav Hejný walked and scored what would turn out to be the winning run, almost unbelievably, when Rengel balked. Although Rengel walked six in seven frames, he surrendered only three hits and struck out nine.
The story of the game, however, was Novák, who set an all-time record for Czech pitchers with 17 strikeouts, needing only eight innings to accomplish the feet. That mark is third all-time in the Extraliga and tied for second-most in Europe in 2021. Novák permitted only one hit and has allowed a single earned run all season, accumulating 52 strikouts in only 31 innings. Wesley Roemer came on for the ninth, adding two more punchouts for an incredible total of 31 Ks between the two squads.
The strikeouts kept coming in Game Two, with William Parsons whiffing 10 in eight innings for Hluboká, and Štěpán Havlíček striking out nine for Blansko (plus another K by the relievers). They were not the central feature of the contest, though, which was the big inning. All runs were scored in multiples, with two for the visitors in the third and three for Olympia in the fourth. With Parsons and Havlíček duelling through seven, Blansko still held the 3-2 lead, but Sokol erupted for six in the eighth and survived an error-ridden ninth for the 8-5 win. Martin Mužík had three hits for the victors, a feat equalled by Martin Pernička on the other side. Parsons improved to 3-0.
The final game of the series was an easy one for Hluboká, which pounded out 16 hits—with six players collecting two hits—and drew six walks. New Zealand’s Jimmy Boyce (3-0) looked comfortable with a quickly increasing lead, striking out six in five frames, allowing only three hits and a walk. Mužík was 6-for-12 with two doubles, three walks, and four stolen bases in the series.
Draci Brno vs. Tempo Praha (2-6, 1-3, 5-2)
On Friday at the MBS, Tempo’s pitcher Marek Minařík was in control against host Brno, throwing a complete game with nine strikeouts. He supported his performance with his teammates at bat and the Prague team earned a 6-2 win. For the next two matches, the series moved to Prague. On Saturday, Tempo ended up on top again, with the winning runs coming round on defensive miscues in a hard-fought 3-1 decision. Joey Wagman (3-1) earned the win, punching out six in five shutout frames as Team Israel’s ace lowered his ERA to 1.24. In Game 3, 18-year-old Milan Prokop, who returned from the USA a few days ago, launched two home runs for the Draci (“Dragons”) in a 3-for-4 performance. Prokop was 6-for-10 in the series. Michal Zelenka, all of 17 years of age, went yard for Praha.
Eagles Praha vs. Kotlářka Praha (11-7, 3-0, 7-10)
The Prague derby between the Eagles and Kotlářka turned out better for the green-and-whites, who earned the series win in the first two games. Friday evening’s match started better for guests from Kotlářka, when a two-run longball by Adam Matuška gave the visitors a 2-0 lead. The Eagles were able to react quickly, scoring a pair in the bottom half of the frame. Kotlářka was primed to erase those runs in the next half inning on a long drive by Daniel Rieger, but Michal Anton robbed the visitors’ leadoff hitter at the fence. Michal Zýma ensured there would be a home run in the third, but it came for the Eagles as part of a three-run inning. The result was decided by the sixth, in which the home side broke through with five runs once the bullpen took over. In the end, the guests slightly corrected the final result, but the Eagles claimed an 11-7 decision.
Game Two was a cleaner affair from the offset, with starting pitchers Jiri Vavruša and Carson Goldsmith keeping clean sheets until the fourth. Andrew Cosgrove broke the deadlock with a solo shot for the Eagles, who would add two more in the frame. That was it for both clubs, with Goldsmith (3-1) whiffing eight around only four hits and a walk in six frames while running his scoreless innings streak to 15.2. Vavruša was unlucky to take the loss (1-2) after eight strong innings.
Kotlářka took a 4-0 lead in the first in the rubber match, with top-of-the-order batsman Marek Slabý lining a triple to get things going. After a one-run retort in the Eagles’ half, Patrik Kolkus added another run for Kotlářka in the third. After transitioning from softball, Kolkus hit his first dinger in the Extraliga, running the score to 5-1. Through five the margin was 6-1, but the visitors added four in the sixth to seemingly ice the game. A run in the bottom half set up eighth-inning dramatics, but the Eagles’ five-run rally fell short and Kotlářka avoided the sweep.
Arrows Ostrava vs. Blesk Jablonec (13-2, 18-0, 10-2)
The Arrows displayed a relentless offensive form against Jablonec, with a total score of 41-4. The first match was decided during the first two innings, after which the Ostrava team led 9-0 and finished 13-2. In Game Two, Blesk pitcher Anthony Fell was welcomed in the first inning by five hits, including a home run by Matěj Menšík, the second in two games. Boris Bokaj (2-0) was electric, tossing five two-hit innings. Jakub Malík and Radim Novotný also went yard, while Petr Cech was 4-for-5 after a 2-for-3 day on Friday.
On Sunday, Jablonec tried out its home stadium for the first time this season, but it did not bring them luck in the form of a victory. However, the match was more balanced and the 13-2 final to the Arrows was only decided in the latter innings. Jakub Kubica and Michael Vykoukal homered, the latter as part of a 3-for-3 day in which he reached base five times and drove home five. Brett Holtz was 7-for-12 in the series, while Menšík was 6-for-10 and Tyler Smith had six hits, three walks, and two swipes.
Nuclears Třebíč vs. Hrosi Brno (4-7, 12-0, 12-6)
Třebíč took a 4-1 lead through four, but the Hroši (“Hippos”) fought back, wth Ondřej Kalandra lacing a two-run triple to tie the game up in the fifth with one run already in. Kellen Croce ripped a two-run shot in the following frame and Boris Večerka (2-0) kept the Nuclears off the board with three hitless innings, walking six, but sending seven down on strikes. Croce took over for the final two frames and did not allow a runner, punching out three. Although it was a save situation, Croce was not credited with his sixth save in as many attempts. Kalandra was 3-for-4 for Brno.
Ryan Johnson (3-1) was aces in delivering an easy shutout win in Game Two, striking out eight and running his scoreless innings count to 30. Johnson even chipped in a 2-for-4 effort in the two-hole. The real offensive baseball was seen on Sunday in Brno at Hroší’s stadium. During the first two innings, the teams scored a total of nine times. The guests were better off in the final count, knocking 19 hits to win the series. Richard Sázavský and Robin Vávra each had four hits for Třebíč, while Miroslav Křivánek had three. Michal Ondráček and Lukáš Trunkát both collected a double and two singles for Brno.
Many thanks to CBA for providing a daily recap, portions of which have been translated and adapted herein.
By: Gabriel Fidler