UTENA, Lith. — Greece received another impressive pitching performance, this time from Jonathan Kountis, easily dispatching Romania, 14-0. Meanwhile, Lithuania had little trouble with Poland, as Eimantas Zickus, one of the top pitchers in the domestic circuit, helped dispatched Poland, 11-3.
Greece 14 – Romania 0 (7)
Greece took no time to make its mark on Day Two of the Lithuanian qualifier, as Alejandro Torres-Skerrett and Tom Roulis hit back-to-back doubles to start the first. An error would score one, and singles from Ari Sechopulos and Gregory Taormina would drive in two more
After a lead-off single, Kountis quickly got out of the first, and the Blue-and-White offense would once more get going quickly. first three batters would reach safely, pushing one run home, while two errors led two additional runs.
Neither side would score in the third, but Nick Halamandaris would put the game out for free before Romania had registered a single out in the fourth. The second reliever of the day for Romania got off to an inauspicious start, issuing free passes to the first three batters he faced. Halamandaris then stepped into the box and, on the first pitch, drilled a mammoth shot over the centerfield fence. The grand slam would put Greece up 10-0 and start the mercy rule countdown.
Greece would add three more in the fifth, as Game One star Dimitrios Kourtis ripped a three-run jack after the inning started with a walk and a one-base knock. Razvan Razvan entered for Romania after the Kourtis blow, and the rest of the game proceeded much more smoothly. Although Greece scored a final run in the sixth on another Roulis two-bagger, it was the only hit Razvan allowed. Roulis reached base five times in a 4-for-4 day, scoring four runs and collecting two ribbies.
Kountis was still sailing at this point, only once allowing more than one runner on base and twice getting out an inning with a double play. The right-hander scattered five hits and only a single base on balls in seven shutout frames, sending down nine on strikes. Greece has now prevented the opposition from scoring in its first 16 innings, but will face a much tougher test tomorrow in Lithuania.
Lithuania 11 – Poland 3
The nightcap from Lithuania’s baseball capital was a much closer affair, with solid pitching from Lithuania’s Zickus and Poland’s Mateusz Szustek in the early innings. In fact, it would have been hard to say either side was clearly headed for victory until the ninth.
The top of the first featured one of the rarer baseball feats to put Lithuania on top. Arunas Dankovskis led off with a base on balls and, with one out, top Lithuanian-American prospect Vytas Valinčius beat out a single to third as Dankovskis skated all the way to third. Edvardas Matusevičius then stepped in to face Szustek, taking a called strike as Valinčius – surprisingly fleet considering his 1.93m (6-foot-4), 109 kg (240 lbs) frame – took off for second. An unsuccessful throw went down to second, as Dankovskis easily swiped home for the 1-0 lead.
Other than this bit of subterfuge, Zickus and Szustek looked equal through two, before a similar strategy earned Lithuania its second run in the third. Lukas Paskevičius blooped a ball down the left field line to start, hustling to second on an error by the left fielder. He then moved over on a sacrifice bunt, coming around to school on a wild pitch.
Poland had runners on the corners in the third against Zickus, but could not bring anyone around. Lithuania, meanwhile, plated two in the fourth on two errors and a run-scoring safety from Kestas Vilimas. The host nation added another pair one inning later, once more on a key hit – this time by Matusevičius – and another miscue.
Zickus appeared to be getting stronger as the game went on, retiring seven-of-eight through the 5th inning. After a seventh run in the sixth on an RBI-double by Dankovskis, Poland finally got its offence going against Zickus. The first two batters would reach, and Maciej Wroblewski and Paweł Zagórski then struck one-base hits to right. Wroblewski’s Blow scored one, while a second crossed home on a fielder’s choice. Poland, however, left the bases loaded following an error, and could have made things much more interesting.
Marcin Musiałek, who had entered to start the sixth, struck out the side in the seventh, handing things over to the Polish offence still only down 7-2. With two out and now facing Lithuania’s bullpen, Poland had put two men on. A bouncing ball to shortstop was then muffed, keeping the inning alive and scoring one. The next batter was plunked, loading the bases, but Poland could not take advantage, once more leaving the sacks jammed.
Neither side would threaten in the eighth, but the wheels would come off against the third Polish moundsman of the day. The first out came easily, that was followed by a hit batter, an infield single, and a walk, setting up Alvara Jacyna for a two-run single. after another hit by pitch, Vilimas laced another RBI-safety, adding two more to Lithuania’s total.
Matusevičius, who had entered to stifle the rally in the seventh, finished off the game in style, giving up a leadoff single before sending down the final three batters swinging. Zickus (1-0) earned the win after six effective frames (5H, 2ER, 2BB, 9K) and Szustek (0-1) took the loss, allowing four earned in six innings, striking out five.
The victory set the matchup for the pool final, as Lithuania and Greece will face each other once more in round robin play and then again for the right to book a trip to Italy for the European Championship in September.
June 30: Poland 0 – Greece 7
June 30: Romania 2 – Lithuania 12 (7)
July 1: Greece 14 – Romania 0 (7)
July 1: Lithuania 11 – Poland 3
July 2: Romania – Poland
July 2: Greece – Lithuania
July 3 (Final): Greece – Lithuania