MOSCOW — Russia and Switzerland scored lop-sided victories over Turkey and Slovenia, respectively, with the host nation clinching a spot in the qualifier championship with a 24-0 combined no-hitter by James Paton and Uladidzlav Ilyin. With its spot in the final now secure, Russia awaits either Belarus or Switzerland for the right to return to the European Championship. The latter blasted its fellow alpine nation, 25-4, out-homering the slugging Russians for the day as well.
Russia 24 – Turkey 0 (5)
Turkey faced its tough competition yet in its reintroduction to international baseball, as Russia mounted an 11-run advantage before Turkey could pick up its bats, whereupon James Paton carved up the Turkish hitters in a performance worthy of MLB: The Show.
The game started with back-to-back walks, leading to a Nikita Monakhov RBI-single. Two groundballs and a strikeout should have gotten Turkey out of the inning, but both balls hit to the infield were booted, adding a second run. Frank Bulte and Maxim Monakhov followed with a two-run hit apiece before another miscue led to a seventh run. Out number two was then finally recorded, but a walk and a poor decision by an infielder put a runner on each bag. Alexander Bolgov then eased the congestion with a no-doubter over the left field wall for a grand slam.
With the game essentially already over, Paton took to the bump. A recent Kenyon College (Ohio) hurler, Paton struck out the first two Turks on three pitches before walking Turkey’s Game 2 star, Utku Ergün. A foul pop to first would end the first, but little did the Red Crescents know that it would also be the high point of the game for them.
The second unfolded in a similar fashion, with five unearned runs scoring after Turkey’s shortstop misjudged a pair of balls in the first four batters. Artem Logvinov and Bolgov each poked a run-scoring bingle, while Nikita Monakhov scored two on a line drive double down the left field line.
Two runs would cross home for Russia in the third, while a two-run double from Bulte and a triple from Kirill Chermoshentsev led to four more in the following frame. The final two runs for the hosts trickled in on a wild pitch and a passed ball in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Russia’s starter made the mild difficulty of the first look like a full-on assault. Paton was so dominant, in fact, that other than a foul pop-up to end the first, Turkey’s line-up did not even put the ball in play and its contact amounted to 12 foul balls. Paton registered 11 punchouts in four no-hit frames, walking a pair. Ilyin then finished by striking out the side in the fifth.
As in its game with Belarus, Turkish pitching pounded the zone, with only six walks and no hit batters in five innings, a reasonable effort against a Russian squad that seldom plays below Europe’s top tier. Ergün surrendered only four earned runs in three frames, striking out three. Turkey committed six errors, leading to 15 unearned runs.
Bulte led all players with three hits, including two doubles, driving in four. Bolgov was one of six other players with two hits, sending six home. After games of four, eight, and four round-trippers, holding Russia to a single longball was a victory of its own for Turkey. Russia is now win away from the European Championship.
Switzerland 25 – Slovenia 4 (5)
The day began in a very different way than it would finish, as Slovenia took advantage of back-to-back one-out walks by the Swiss starter to put two on. After a flyout, the other half of Switzerland’s battery let a ball past him and, as the ball ambled its way slowly to the fence, Žan Primožič darted all the way from second to score. Igor Drobnak then ripped a run-scoring safety, moving to third after an error and a free pass. With the sacks now filled, Switzerland almost escaped with only two runs across, but an 0-2 count turned into a walk, and four more balls followed, plating two more runs on the RBI-free passes. A pitching change for Hideori Oshima finally brought the nightmare inning to an end.
Rok Čuček emerged from the dugout looking like Slovenia would be taking hacks soon enough, mixing his pitches nicely on consecutive Ks to star the second. Luigi Cinardi put an end to his dominance, however, lining a ball over the wall in left center.
As if a switch had been flipped, Slovenia’s starter suddenly lost the plate, walking Marquis Richards on four pitches. Switzerland’s No. 9 hitter then made matters worse, dodging, ducking, dipping, and diving his way to thefts of second and third. Two more base on balls followed and Richards then scurried to the plate on a wild pitch for the second run of the second. Saentis Zeller would await a pitching change and then cleaved a pitch to rightfield for a bases-emptying two-bagger and a 5-4 lead.
From this point, the Red Crosses would not look back. Switzerland posted a four-run third, once more doing the damage with two out, taking advantage of two walks and a pair of crucial miscues. It was in the fourth, however, that the Swiss erupted.
Richards followed an inning-starting single by Cinardi with a round-tripper of his own, but an error and a pair of base-knocks quickly refilled the bases with only one out. After a walk forced in a run and a wild pitch added another, Tabanobu Oshima sent a ball far over the left field wall for a three-run fence-beater. Pinch hitter Adrian Kaufmann followed with a double and Cinardi was walked to restart the rally, and Harry Wischnewski dutifully sent Kaufmann home before Joshua Crouse struck a two-base hit for two more. By the time the inning ended, 10 runners had touched home, and Switzerland had a 19-4 lead.
On the other side of the ball, Oshima was still dealing in relief. The southpaw – who has a career 46-9 record in the Swiss Nationalliga – finished off the five-inning game on the mound, striking out five without allowing a run.
The Swiss bats had one final salvo, however. Although the first two outs in the top of the fifth came quickly, two singles and a groundball resulted in a run. Consecutive freebies pushed two more home and allowed Thierry Burkhardt to free up the stations with a three-run double as Switzerland reached the quarter-century mark.
Zeller was 4-for-6 with four RBI and Wischnewski and Crouse each collected two hits and drove in three, the former walking twice and stealing a base. Crouse totalled three free passes and two swipes as the Red Crosses finished with 18 hits – seven for extra bases – 12 walks, and seven stolen bases. No Slovene had more than one hit.
Switzerland awaits an all-determining game with Belarus on Day 5 for a chance at the Moscow title bout.
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 7 – Switzerland 30 (5)
July 1: Russia 17 – Belarus 0 (5)
July 2: Switzerland 25 – Slovenia 4 (5)
July 2: Russia 24 – Turkey 0 (5)
July 3: Turkey – Slovenia
July 3: Belarus – Switzerland
July 4 (Final): TBD