VILNIUS, Lithuania — The Utena Titans came from behind to defeat BK Vilnius in a hard-fought championship game to claim the national title in the first Lithuanian Baseball5 Championship. Utena claims its second crown in six months and featured two baseball5 national team players. Lithuania, of course, has already secured a place in the first Baseball5 World Cup, now scheduled for 2022 in Mexico. Silver medallists at the 2020 European Baseball5 Championship, the northeastern European nation must be considered one of the continent’s leaders in the sport.
Given the intense competition on the baseball5 court over the past weekend and last spring, Lithuania looks poised to maintain its place near the top of European baseball5. At the 2020 Euros, it finished 8-4, ahead of baseball and softball powerhouses Italy (fourth), the Netherlands (fifth), and Czech Republic (No. 12 of 14). Only France prevented The Yellow, Green, and Red from claiming gold [link]. According to www.theroonba.com, Lithuania is ranked No. 9 in the world in baseball5.
The championship was supposed to take place during winter over five rounds, but were postponed due to COVID-19 quarantine in Lithuania. Earlier in March, the Lietuvos Beisbolo Asociacija announced a one-day event instead, scheduled for Mar. 21. Seven teams registered, representing five clubs from across the country.
Over seven hours of play, all but one team secured at least a single victory, while no club remained undefeated. The highlight was a nail-biting game between the Titans and BK Vilnius, which was tied 2-2 through five innings. After two more frames were contested, the score remained deadlocked at two, but the eighth inning was a dramatic change of course. The Utena club, which featured two medallists from the Euros, finally opened the floodgates, scoring seven runs. Facing a large deficit, Vilnius set to work, plating a pair of runs before falling short against the Titans in an eventual 9-4 defeat.
Still, Utena picked up a loss before round robin play was over, offering hope to whomever would take them on for the national championship. In the end, it was BK Vilnius which emerged as the next-best squad. Before the final, the club’s second team took on Kauno UKG for the bronze medal, with neither side able to score until late, allowing one of the two teams from the central Lithuanian city to take third, defeating Vilnius II, 2-0.
The final did not disappoint, and it appeared that Vilnius would avenge not only its only loss to the Titans, but its second five’s heart-breaking playoff loss. The host team took an early 3-0 lead and looked to be in command against its long-time diamond rivals. However, Utena finally broke through and scored seven unanswered runs, defending a heated bottom of the fifth to emerge as the country’s first baseball5 champions, 7-3.
The head coach of Lithuania’s national team, Eimantas Žičkus, was part of the winning side, along with Luke Sirgėdas, another national teamer. It was Ūla Šyvyte, however, that was awarded Women’s MVP honors. Trinkun Domantas and Eimante Zenkovaitė also took home gold medals in the tournament. Men’s MVP in the mixed-gender event was BK Vilnius’ Tomas Jankoitis.
The north-western city begins 2021 much as it finished 2020, when the Titans claimed the Lithuanian Baseball League title, while BK Vilnius fought hard in the third-place playoffs to take silver. The 2021 hardball season is due to begin in late April, though dates have yet to be confirmed. The Titans are due to feature Sirgėdas, who now has a silver in the Baseball5 Euros, gold in the Lithuanian baseball5 championship, and the 2020 batting average (.531) and RBI (18) crowns from the baseball circuit. Stay tuned for more coverage of Lithuanian baseball and baseball5.
1. Utenos Titanai
2. BK Vilnius
3. Kauno UKG
4. BK Vilnius II
5. Kauno Lituanica
6. Radviliškio Bėgiai
7. Utenos Titanai II
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