BRATISLAVA — Ireland and Slovakia each scored big wins on the second day of qualification for the European Championship and eliminated Hungary and Finland from the picture. The day started with a 16-3 shellacking of Hungary by the Irish on the back of six no-hit innings from Mitchell Hillert, concluding with a 12-1 romp over Finland by the host nation. The victors will face off on July 2 in a dry run for the actual pool championship a day later.
Ireland 16 – Hungary 3 (7)
The fast three batters of the day reached for Ireland, with Fionn Gallahar-Hall lacing a single to centre to score the first run. A sacrifice fly and an obstruction call plated the second and third markers of the inning. From there, the national team of the Emerald Isle kept the pressure high. In the second, two hits, two hit-by-pitches, and a walk led to a pitching change, but another free pass and a single were issued before an out was made. By the time that Hungary finally nailed down the final out of the frame, Ireland had scored six runs and left the bases loaded.
Meanwhile, Mitchell Hillert, a 2016 graduate of NCAA Division II Concordia-Bronxville, was having no problems with Hungary. Other than a pair of walks in the second, no Hungarian Hitler had reached base, and Hillert struck out two in each of the first two innings. After a scoreless third, in which they left the bases loaded, Hillert added another two Ks in the third.
In the fourth, two more freebies and a single put Ireland up 10-0, but it was David Gallagher that really fit the game out of reach, drilling a ball deep over the left centre field fence for a three-run jack.
Hillert exited after the sixth and had still not yet given up a hit, recording a whopping 13 strikeouts and permitting only two base on balls. By the time that Hungary took its final time at bat in the bottom of the seventh, Ireland was ahead 16-0. The first two Hungarians drew free passes and stole a bag, setting up slugger Carlos Rubio for a two-run single, breaking up the no-hitter. As Hungary emptied its bench – mostly consisting of teenagers – Paris Ketema looped a one-base knock to center before the game concluded.
Gallagher drove in four, reaching base three times and stealing a base. Leo Farrell had two singles, three walks, and a swipe.
Slovakia 12 – Finland 1 (7)
Although the home side posted a four-run first, Slovakia and Finland were fairly even through most of the game. Timo Liiri settled down after a Michal Noga double and a run-scoring safety from Martin Brunegraf started the second, matching Michal Puškár and reliever Jaroslav Kosna through the middle innings. Finland erased the run from the top half of the second with a base on balls and a two-bagger from Silvio Quevedo. Neither side would mount much of a rally until the top of the sixth, when Liiri run out of steam.
Once more, Noga started things off, singling through the left side. After a free pass, Mário Gottschall and Tomáš Biskorovájny lined back-to-back doubles to give Slovakia a 7-1 lead with no outs. The hosts would not stop there, however, taking advantage of inaccurate pitching from a reliever to load the bases without putting the ball in play. A single by Game One hero Jakub Ižold plated another before Noga lifted a sacrifice fly for the seventh run in the inning. Neither club would threaten again, and Slovakia claimed the 12-1 victory.
Puškár tossed three easy innings, working around two walks and a single hit, sending down three on strikes. Kosna was just as good, finishing the game with four shutout innings. Liiri and Finland’s third pitcher, Andres Mena, kept the bull in the strike zone, with only the single walk for Liiri, who pitched five innings, striking out three. Slovakia a comma however, feasted on those strikes, bashing out 16 hits, including five doubles. Noga and Brunegraf were both 3-for-4 with a double, while Denis Pakši was 3-for-3 with a walk.
With a pair of victories through two games, both Ireland and Slovakia have already qualified for Saturday’s title bout, but will first face each other in the final game of pool play. Meanwhile, Hungary and Finland will face each other for consolation.
June 30: Finland 1– Ireland 6
June 30: Hungary 2 – Slovakia 3
July 1: Ireland 16 – Hungary 3 (7)
July 1: Slovakia 12 – Finland 1 (7)
July 2: Hungary – Finland
July 2: Ireland – Slovakia
July 3 (Final): TBD