In Krysmk, Russia, near the Black Sea, just three teams will compete for the one spot in the 2012 European Championship after Moldova withdrew from the tournament before the event. Due this there will be a slightly different format, as the participants Ukraine, Russia and Belarus will play a double round robin. Each team faces the task to play two games on one of the three game days.
The Ukraine is the favorite to win the European Championship Qualifier in Krymsk, being one of the five relegated teams from last year’s European Championship in Germany. Their young team with a few veterans didn’t stand a chance in Stuttgart, Heidenheim and Neuenburg and finished the tournament with five losses in five games. They were tied for 11th place in the final standings, but only because the classification games was canceled due to rain. They batted .111 with an OBP of .172 as a team, scoring just five runs in the five games. Their pitching staff had a combined ERA of 11.43, allowing 52 runs. Denys Agapov was the lone bright spot with four hits in 13 at-bats. However looking at the success of KNTU in the European Cup Qualifier in Solingen, it looks like the young Ukrainian players have made another step forward and should be able to lift their team to a first-place finish against Pool B opponents from Belarus and Russia.
Russia last participated in the European Championship in 2007, finishing in 10th place in Barcelona, Spain thanks to a win over Austria in the classification round. They were supposed to host the European Championship in 2009, but organizational problems forced the CEB to reschedule for 2010 and give the tournament to Germany. In the Qualifier for 2010, Russia had to play in Portugal against the reinforced team from Greece, losing in the finals. We don’t know much about Krymsk, but if a good crowd will show up, Russia could win the tournament, probably relying heavily on Nikolay Lobanov and his teammates of the North Stars Moscow, which represented Russia in the European Cup at the beginning of June.
It would be the first time that Belarus would play in a European Championship. In the last qualifying round in 2009 they narrowly missed out on the finals in Prague, Czech Republic due to the tiebreaker with an even 2-2 record after the first round. After lopsided losses against the Czech team and Slovenia, they dispatched Poland and Latvia en route to a fourth-place finish. The main core of the Belarusian team most likely will be formed by the dominating team in the country Brest Zubrs. Zubrs played in the same European Cup Qualifier as KNTU in Solingen, settling for third place, losing only to the home town Alligators and the team from the Ukraine. Aliaksei Lukashevich and Siarhei Sokal also will be asked to lead the national team of Belarus.