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by Gabriel Fidler
BRNO, Czech Republic – The Netherlands (6-0) scored four runs in the fifth and seventh innings, adding two more in the ninth to defeat Germany (3-3), 10-2. The final score masked the fact that the final game of day one of the final round of the European Baseball Championship was a pitchers’ duel for the first four frames between Kevin Heijstek and Andre Hughes.
Aside from two hits in the second, Hughes was sailing through the brutal Dutch lineup for the first four, striking out five for Germany. Meanwhile, Heijstek had a perfect game going for the Orange broken up by a Ludwig Glaser double to lead off the fifth. Heijstek worked around the two-bagger and an error to keep the shutout going for the Netherlands.
The Netherlands finally broke through against Germany and Hughes in the fifth. Shawn Zarraga singled to leadoff and Yurendell de Caster ripped a double. Both were plated on a booming triple by the speedy Sharlon Schoop to break the deadlock.
Schoop remarked after that after the hit, “I went hard and took a peak and just kept going. Just trying to put a good at bat together.”
Nick Urbanus then singled home Schoop to make it 3-0. A double by Hainley Statia scored Urbanus and the Netherlands was up 4-0, with Hughes exiting the game and Schmitz entering for Germany.
It was a 1-2-3 fifth for both the Netherlands and Germany, but the Orange broke the game open in the seventh. Schoop had a leadoff single and moved to second on a bunt hit by the laser fast Urbanus, who nearly beat out a bunt attempt earlier in the game. Schmitz hit Randolph Oduber to load the bases for the Netherlands. A throwing error by the second baseman plated Schoop, while Urbanus came around on Curt Smith’s RBI-single.
Schmitz then got two outs for Germany, but Zarraga ensured the rally was not finished with a 2-run single to make it 8-0 the Netherlands over Germany before the inning ended.
In the bottom of the frame, Moritz Buttgereit reached on an error and came home on the next pitch as Glaser ripped a 2B into the RF corner. With two down, Kevin Kotowski singled home Glaser, and Germany narrowed the gap with the Netherlands to 8-2.
Schoop led off the eighth with a walk against new German pitcher Daniel Thieben, a Mariners’ farmhand, and after a strikeout, Oduber hit his third dinger at the Euros. Thieben would recover to get out of the frame, getting slugger Gianison Boekhoudt looking to end the frame.
Kevin Kelly relieved for the Dutch and was untouchable, striking out the side and flashing a tight breaking ball and fastball with pop. The Orange did not threaten in the ninth, and Arshwin Arjes entered to wrap things up against the Germans.
There was a scary moment in the bottom of the ninth as Lukas Jahn was hit in the face by Arjes and took five minutes to stand, but made his way off the field without assistance. Nils Hartkopf entered to pinch run and moved to a second on a walk and third on a double play.
Maurice Wilhelm would claim some relief for Jahn with a shot to right field that just cleared the fence and narrowed the margin to 10-4 against Arjes, but that was all for the German team.
Heijstek earned the win with seven strong innings, giving up two unearned runs on three hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out three, needing only 80 pitches.
Asked about his repertoire in the game, Heijstek noted, “I feel like I had all of my pitches, and was just trying to throw strikes and keep them off balance. I got a lot of first pitch strikes with my fastball and kept them off balance with my changeup.”
Hughes took the loss after surrendering four runs, all earned, on seven hits in 4 1/3 frames. He whiffed five. Schmitz tossed 2 2/3, giving up two earned runs on four hits and a walk, with three Ks. Thieben hurled the final two frames, giving up two earned on three hits and a base on balls, also striking out three.
Zarraga topped both teams with three hits, driving in two. Statia, de Caster, Schoop, and Urbanus all had a brace of hits. Statia had two RBI while Schoop reached base three times and scored three runs. Urbanus crossed home twice.
The Netherlands will turn around and play in the opener against France (4-2), who lost to the Czech Republic earlier. That game will begin at 11 a.m. GMT.
“We have a strong team: strong hitting, strong pitching, strong defence,” remarked Heijstek. “I think if we keep playing like we have been, we have a really good chance for the finals.”
Germany will attempt to get back on track against Spain, who lost a close game with Italy in the first game of the day. First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. GMT in Brno.
Follow the games live at http://www.baseballstats.eu/2014/brno2/schedule.php and follow Extra Innings on Twitter for live play-by-play and analysis.
Photo by Gregor Eisenhuth