by Simon Fitzjohn
Alex Malihoudis delivered a clutch pinch-hit RBI single as Great Britain squeezed past previously unbeaten France in a thriller in Sant Boi.
Shaking off their lethargy from the previous nights’ shutout at the hands of Italy, Britain struck early, survived a French rally and came on strong in the late innings.
With three wins from four Pool B games Team GB’s place is assured in the medal round, and victory over Ukraine in the final group game tomorrow could even see them win the pool.
Facing a strong French pitching lineup, Britain jumped to a great start manufacturing three runs in the top of the first.
After Adam ROBERTS singled and Aeden MCQUEARY-ENNIS doubled Brant UST reached on an error that scored ROBERTS.
Mike NICKEAS then hit an RBI sac fly followed by an Ian YOUNG RBI groundout.
Team GB starter Alex SMITH looked strong on the mound, but was punished for a loose pitch in the bottom of the second which was drilled over the left field fence.
The middle innings saw British batters handcuffed as Anthony PIQUET settled into a groove, although both Brad MARCELINO and YOUNG had long drives caught at the fence.
France crept further back into the game when another loose SMITH pitch was crushed for a home run to left in the fifth inning.
Team GB had a great chance to break the game open in the sixth but James RUTHERFORDd struck out swinging with runners on second and third.
That missed opportunity looked as though it would come back to haunt Britain when in the bottom of the seventh an UST misfield allowed the tying run to scamper home.
With the boisterous French support in full voice the game appeared to be slipping away, but Team GB showed great tenacity to strike back immediately.
UST walked, NICKEAS doubled and Ian YOUNG was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Craig PYCOCK, batting for the ailing Mitch EVANS struck out swinging before up stepped MALIHOUDIS.
MALIHOUDIS hit a soft ground ball to third which caused hesitancy in the French defense, allowing UST to score.
Although Britain failed to increase their lead, Stephen SPRAGG came on to shut down any French revival with two strong shutout innings to earn the save.
While France face a tricky final game with hosts Spain GB move on to face Ukraine in buoyant mood, and with their Olympic dream still very much alive.