While officials, players, coaches, media and fans battle the heat wave in the Netherlands, the first round at the Europe/Africa Softball Olympic Qualifier 2019 in Utrecht, Netherlands ended on Thursday with four games. Italy and Great Britain advance with undefeated preliminary round records at 3-0, while the Netherlands and Czech Republic join them in the Super Round as well. Italy and GB are at 1-0 each as the decisive phase starts, while the Dutch and Czech face a 0-1 uphill battle. Only first place after the next two days will advance to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
On Thursday Italy defeated France 5-1 in the morning game in Group B. Four runs in the fourth inning decided the contest. Italy secured first place in the group with a perfect 3-0 record. Alessandra Rotondo had two RBI. Ilaria Cacciamani went the distance for the Squadra Azzurri, allowing just five hits, a run and a walk in seven frames. Charline Gartner got charged with the loss.
In the afternoon the Czech Republic used a ten-run first inning en route to a 12-1 blowout against Botswana. It was their second win in three games, putting them into second place in Group B. Katelyn Humhej and Martina Blahova combined for four no-hit innings. Tereza Jakesova and Ludmila Kucerkova picked up two RBI apiece.
Also in the afternoon Spain received its first win in the tournament with a 5-0 shutout against South Africa. Raquel Moncho had a double and three RBI. Ane Barandiaran went the distance, issuing just three hits and a walk in seven scoreless innings.
In the evening game Great Britain stunned the Netherlands with a 5-2 victory in a battle of previously undefeated teams. GB took a 3-0 lead after three innings. The Dutch team got within a run thanks to a two-run triple by Chantal Versluis in in the fourth. But the British squad added two more runs, while the Dutch efforts fell empty. Aubrey Peterson scored two times. Georgina Corrick picked up the win with a complete game performance.
Complete coverage of the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier is available through www.wbsc.org.
Photos by Jane Verhoeven