The first round at the European Championship ended on Tuesday with the last preliminary phase games. From Regensburg Italy, France and Germany qualified for the final round in Brno (September 18-21). Belgium is going to play for seventh place in Blansko (September 18), while Great Britain and Sweden try to avoid relegation to the B-Pool in Trebic (September 18 & 19).
In the morning game at the Armin-Wolf-Arena in Regensburg France defeated Belgium 5-4 on a two-run walk-off home run by Felix Brown in the bottom of the ninth inning. Belgium would have needed a win by three runs to keep their chances for the second round alive. They erased a 0-3 deficit in the top of the seventh and got up in front 4-3 in the eighth. Owen Ozanich pitched five scoreless innings for France. Pierrick Lemestre picked up the win in relief. Kenny van den Brande got charged with the loss.
In the afternoon Alex Liddi hit home runs in each of his first three at-bats to lead Italy to a 13-1 rout over Great Britain. The former Major Leaguer with the Seattle Mariners was playing his third game after arriving on Sunday morning. He is now 6-for-10 with four home runs and 10 RBI in the tournament. On the mound Carlos Teran and a couple of relievers kept Great Britain to one run in seven innings. Mike Renery took the loss.
In the evening Germany defeated Sweden 12-8 in front of 1,192 in attendance. A seven-run third gave the host of the first-round group in Regensburg a 7-2 lead en route to the victory. Max Boldt and Kevin Kotowski each scored two runs for Greg Frady’s squad, who gave his bench players an opportunity to see some game action. Trailing 4-12 in the ninth, Sweden managed a four-run rally in the top of the ninth, but Nils Hartkopf eventually recovered and recorded a strikeout to end the game. Sweden’s catcher Bjoern Johannessen suffered a calf injury and had to go to the hospital for a check-up. Maurice Wilhelm, Enorbel Marquez-Ramirez and Wolfgang Reitter also pitched in the game. Dave Long took the loss.
Prior to the evening game in Regensburg current member of the Bundestag (German parliament) and former bronze medal winner at the 1976 Summer Olympics Eberhard Gienger flew in the game ball with a parachute, landing perfectly on the mound. He then threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Italy is going to take two wins into the final round, while France starts with a 1-1 record and Germany with 0-2. Three round-robin games against the Netherlands, Spain and Czech Republic will determine ranks 3rd to 6th in the final standings, while the top two will advance to the final on Sunday. The other three teams from Group A have to settle for the consolation round.
Final Standings Group A:
1) Italy 5-0
2) France 4-1
3) Germany 3-2
4) Belgium 2-3
5) Great Britain 1-4
6) Sweden 0-5
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Photo by Walter Keller