The Netherlands won the U15 European Championship on Saturday in Trnava, Slovakia, defeating Italy 14-4 (box) in five innings before a crowd of 350 spectators. Guus Toemen was the man of the match as he drove in seven runs in a three-hit afternoon that ended with gold medals for him and his Dutch teammates, silver medals for Italy, and bronze for Czechia, the defending champions, after a 20-6 (box) victory over France.
Germany (2-2) finished fifth at the tournament, with Hungary (1-3) avoiding relegation, and the hosts, Slovakia (0-4), bringing up the rear.
Oranje and Azzurri met with perfect records
The Dutch gold medal capped off a dominant run through the tournament. Competing initially in Group B, the Dutch defeated France 13-9 and Slovakia 17-2 before advancing to face Czechia in a semifinal that was decided by a furious second inning. The Czechs opened the scoring with five runs in the top half of the frame, only for the Netherlands to respond with 12 runs of their own on their way to a 13-9 final result (box) and qualification for Saturday’s final.
The Italians entered the gold medal contest with an unblemished record of their own, though the path to the final was certainly rockier. Competing alongside Germany and Czechia in Group A, pool play promised drama, and there was plenty, with Italy squeezing past Germany, 7-6 (box), on Day 1 and Czechia on Day 3, 10-7 (box).
Friday’s semifinal against France also ended with an Italian W, but not without some hand wringing. The Azzurri led 10-3 after three innings, only to see the French rally, with two runs in the fifth and four more crossing the plate in a sixth inning that ended with two runners stranded on base. A 1-2-3 seventh inning allowed Italy to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate a 10-9 (box) victory and the chance to play for the gold medal.
The Dutch, perhaps better rested, were too strong for Italy on Saturday, however, with the Dutch offense collecting 10 hits, five of them for doubles, while aided along by eight free passes. Two of the aforementioned three hits by Toemen were doubles, with catcher Lorenzo Willem contributing a single, a double, and two RBI.
Toemen, Destro, and Volpato with individual awards
Toemen was named the tournament MVP after slugging .929 and driving in nine RBI, a total matched by Czechia’s Lukas Kincl and Italy’s Lorenzo Maiorelli, whose teammate Andrea Destro was named Best Pitcher after recording a 1.62 ERA in 4-1 innings of work for the silver medalists.
France’s Baptiste Volpato was named Top Batter after recording a .692/.750/.1.231 slash line. He went a combined 7-for-11 with four RBI in the three games against the eventual medalists,
For complete results, rosters, statistics, and more, visit the WBSC Europe U15 European Championship competition page. MrBB