MOSCOW — Belarus and Russia each changed opponents on Day Two of European Qualification, but the results were similar, as both trotted out their relentless offenses for the second day in-a-row. Slovenia had its opportunities in a 13-8 defeat to Belarus, but could never quite catch up as Siarhei Sokal went yard twice in a preview for the Moscow pool’s nightcap. Playing the evening game, Russia launched an eye-popping eight homers, including two-homer days for Geidys Soler and Ian Péres, in a 19-6 defeat of Switzerland.
Belarus 13 – Slovenia 8
Slovenia got off to a great start in its second game of Euro qualification, scoring three runs in the opening frame. In the bottom half, however, Sokal offered one of the two themes that would dominate the rest of the game. The Belarusian shortstop drilled a two-run homer to put his team on the board.
The second motif then emerged in the top of the second. Žan Primožič laced a double down the line in right and Ilya Sladzinski walked the next batter. Belarus’ starter, however, then worked out of the jam, stranding both. In total, Slovenia would leave 15 on base over the remaining innings.
Yauheni Karalevich returned to Theme One in the second half of the frame, knocking a big fly to right to plate two more. Belarus would not look back, adding two more in the following frame and answering a three-run inning from Slovenia in the fourth with four markers of its own. Sokal took care of half of those with another round-tripper. The remaining innings were a little smoother, although Slovenia struck for two against Belarus’ bullpen in the sixth, temporarily narrowing the margin to 11-8. Single runs that inning and in the eighth put the victory on ice for the Belarusians.
Sokal was 3-for-4 with three runs, a base on balls, and two steals in the game, while Karalevich reached base four times and touched home on each occasion. Haris Konjević and Primožič each had a two-bagger and a single for Slovenia. Primožič was solid in relief for the Slovenians, punching out six in four innings, with four walks and only two hits and two unearned runs.
Sladzinski (1-0) gutted through five for the win, allowing four earned runs. Yauheni Kurhun did not allow a hit in the final two frames, striking out two for the save. In total, four Belarus pitchers handed out 15 free passes and a pair of HBPs, while surrendering eight hits, but Slovenia could not take advantage.
Russia 19 – Switzerland 4 (6)
In the second game of the day from the Russian capital, the hosts put on an offensive display worthy of a mid-season special. No CEB records have been tabulated, but Russia put itself into consideration for most home runs in a game with eight in only six innings. The result was a fun game for the home fans, particularly as both sides played flawless defence and Swiss pitchers threw strikes, walking only a pair.
In a slight twist, the first home run of the day, however, came off the bat of Thierry Burkhardt and gave Switzerland a 2-0 lead in the middle of the first. That was the last time that the Red Crosses were close in the contest.
From there, the story progressed as follows. First inning: Geidys Soler, two-run shot, and Ian Péres, solo homer. Second inning, after four runners have already scored: Péres, three-run bomb, and Nikita Monakhov, quadrangular. Third inning: nothing doing. Fourth: Alexander Bolgov, solo homer, and Yunior Valiente, round-tripper with two on-base. Sixth and final frame, after a scoreless fifth: Maxim Monakhov and Soler, back-to-back jacks.
Russia bashed 18 hits, 10 going for a single base and the remaining crossing the outfield fence. Soler was 4-for-5 with four runs and seven ribbies, while Valiente and Péres each had two hits and four RBI. Switzerland’s approach against Russia’s starter was solid, and the Red Crosses reached Denis Leonov for three runs on three hits and a walk in four frames, although the righty did send down eight on strikes. This was not enough for Leonov to earn the win in the scorekeeper’s opinion, with former Twins’ southpaw Petru Balan tossing a scoreless frame.
The showdown between undefeated Russia and Belarus takes place today, July 1, and is likely to be the de facto title game. The fourth pool of qualification for the European Championship also commences in Belgrade. All games are streamed live, with a link to video and box scores available at the WBSC’s tournament page [link].
June 29: Belarus 31 – Turkey 2 (5)
June 29: Slovenia 0 – Russia 20 (5)
June 30: Slovenia 8 – Belarus 13
June 30: Switzerland 4 – Russia 19 (6)
July 1: Turkey – Switzerland
July 1: Russia – Belarus
July 2: Switzerland – Slovenia
July 2: Russia – Turkey
July 3: Turkey – Slovenia
July 3: Belarus – Switzerland
July 4 (Final): TBD
July 1: Estonia – Ukraine
July 1: Bulgaria – Serbia
July 2: Ukraine – Bulgaria
July 2: Serbia – Estonia
July 3: Estonia – Bulgaria
July 3: Serbia – Ukraine
July 4 (Final): TBD