Undefeated Kauno Lituanica and 2020 Lithuanian baseball champions Utenos Titanai met for a heavyweight bout in Kaunas, with each side claiming a knockout win. Vilnius took advantage of the split by sweeping Kaunas’ second side to jump into share of first place. Each of its starters allowed only one hit, while Evaldas Remeika and Napalis Grigas were relentless at the plate. Finally, Vilnius Baseball Academy earned its first victory this season in a well-played series versus Utena’s lower club.
Utenos Titanai at Kauno Lituanica (0-10, 6-0)
Given the impressive performances in the Lithuanian Baseball Championship by both teams this year, perhaps it is unsurprising that the Titans and Lituanica would split the series. Kaunas came into the matchup with the league’s best pitching (the Titans were third), while Utena had scored, on average, almost three runs per game more than the next best offence (Lituanica). It was only fitting, then, for each side to showcase good pitching and hitting, if a little inexplicable to have such feast or famine.
Game One was set for a great pitching duel, with Eivinas Nagurka (3-1) on the mound for the Titans and Will Gordon for the hosts. Nagurka had trouble finding the strike zone and was let down by a porous defence, and Kaunas jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first thanks to Andrius Stravinskas, Sr.. Kaunas’ clean-up hitter mashed a two-run shot to stake Gordon to the early lead, one of the very rare round-trippers in Lithuanian baseball.
From there, Lituanica did not slow down, scoring a single run in every subsequent inning until the seventh, when it earned a mercy rule walkoff with another three-score frame. Stravinskas drew a free pass each of his remaining three trips to the dish.
Gordon (2-0) was dominant on the bump, surrendering a single baserunner—a single to Arunas Trainys—and striking out four. For the victors, Marius Urbanivicius went 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two stolen bases. Lituanica totalled nine hits, 10 walks, and six stolen bases, whiffing only three times.
The second game of the twinbill delivered the mound battle that the first did not. Eimantas Zickus toed the rubber for Utena, while Norvydas Zukauskas got the start for the home side. The game sailed through four innings with neither side threatening, but in the top of the fifth, Kaunas’ defence fell apart and the Titans added a couple key hits, earning the game’s first marker before scoring five unearned runs.
That was it for either side, with Stravinskas getting the final two outs of the frame and surrendering only two baserunners through the end of the seventh. Zickus (4-1) was excellent, punching out six, with no walks and only four hits in seven frames, adding to his run of consecutive innings, which has reached 13.2 frames. Zukauskas took the tough loss, his first (3-1), also totalling six Ks and four hits, with only a pair of free passes in 4.1 innings. Only Lituanica’s Urbanivicus had more than one hit in the contest.
Utenos Taranai at Vilnius Baseball Academy (2-1, 1-5)
A meeting of the fifth- and sixth-place clubs meant a good opportunity for the young academicians to enter the win column and the Lithuanian capital’s second team did just that. Game One was a nail-biter, with VBA starting well. Mindaugas Svedas drew a free pass from the No. 2 spot and Eimantas Kazlauskas showed why he bats fourth for Vilnius, ripping a two-bagger to score Svedas.
Dovydas Zakaras looked excellent in the early going for the hosts, though Taranai equalized in the third when Thomas Jusken scored after reaching base for the first of three times in the game. In the fifth, Utena’s leadoff hitter was once more the catalyst, scoring the go-ahead run. Darius Kviklys and Tomas Ramelis took turns driving in Jusken.
Dalius Neliupsis (3-3) was superb, pitching 6.1 hitless innings after Kazlauskas’ double and permitting only two free passes the rest of the way. He sent down five on strikes and is the only Taranai pitcher to win a game. Zakaras (0-2) was unlucky to be pinned with the defeat, going five innings and allowing three hits and four walks. Lukas Morkunas struck out two in two hitless frames to finish.
Zacchaeus, all of 16 years old, ensured that VBA would once more open positively, walking and swiping second to set up Svedas, who stroked a one-base hit to bring him home. Svedas followed his predecessor’s approach, stealing a bag and coming home after Morkunas was handed a free pass. Audrius Rascius brought both runners home with a two-run single
With a 3-0 lead, a rare blessing for the Academy’s hurlers, Dominykas Bacharevic looked comfortable on the bump despite checking in at 15 years old, quickly turning things back over to his offence. Zacchaeus followed the blueprint from the first inning, taking four balls and pilfering a bag, setting the tables once more for Rascius, who delivered another run-scoring safety
Taranai would have its turn in the third and would also successfully repeat an offensive tactic. Jusken singled as the lineup turned over and raced home on a long two-base hit from Domantas Naudziunas in the two-hole to put Utena on the board. Bacharevic (1-2) would coast from there, though, allowing only five hits and a single freebie, striking out three. Morkunas once again came out of the ‘pen and went one-two-three in the seventh, punching out a batter for the exclamation point on VBA’s first win of the year
Vilnius at Kauno Gaja-Lituanica (13-2, 10-1)
Kaunas’ second team is certainly gaining a lot of experience this season, but has struggled against the rest of the league. A home series against Vilnius, which had outscored opponents 36-16 this year, did not make things easier.
Game One saw the visitors from Vilnius plate five and, although Sergej Benkec answered for Gaja-Lituanica with a solo shot in the second, consecutive four-run innings spelled an early end for the hosts. Refreshingly for fans, the game featured only one defensive mistake and only five walks to Vilnius, which bashed out four doubles and 11 singles in hanging a ‘13’ in the run column.
Maksim Burdin sailed through four for the win (3-0), with Benkec’ blow the only hit against him. He walked one and struck out four. Lukas Paskevicius gave up a double to Ignas Pauliukevicius, who scored on the game’s only error, in the final frame.
The nightcap resulted in a virtually identical outcome, with Vilnius scoring two in the first, Gaja-Lituanica answering with one in the bottom half, and then the tourists scoring four in the third and fourth. It was Gytis Morkunas’ turn to allow only one hit and a single run in the win (3-1). Vilnius’ starter sent down five on strikes, as did reliever Vilius Paikovas, who tossed the final two frames.
Vilnius’ hitters were 28-for-54 in the two games, mounting a combined .519/.618/.648 line. Remeika was 3-for-3 with three runs, a double, and a walk in Game One and 2-for-4 with a pair of two-baggers and a run in the second game. Grigas was a perfect 5-for-5 with a walk and two plunkings on the day, while Morkunas had a brace of hits in both games. Tomas Jankoitis had a double and a free pass on both ends of the twinbill.
Next week features two games that should be full of intrigue. Lituanica will visit Vilnius in a battle for first place, with two wins from either club moving that team into the top spot uncontested. A split would mean the trifecta of top clubs will continue. At the other end of the table, Kaunas will host VBA as Gaja-Lituanica hopes to earn its first win. Two wins for Vilnius, however, would move it into a tie with Utenos Taranai.
Minsk was inactive in Week 6 and is not listed on the schedule for this weekend’s games. It seems likely that the Belarussian baseball side has withdrawn from the league.
By: Gabriel Fidler
|Vilnius Baseball Academy||1||7||.125||6||1-1||0-6||20||45||-25||W1|
|Kauno SM Gaja-Lituanica||0||8||.000||7||0-4||0-4||17||91||-74||L8|
Week 6 Results (May 22-23)
Titanai 6 – Lituanica 0 [box]
Taranai 2 – VBA 1 [box]
Titanai 0 – Lituanica 10 [box]
Taranai 1 – VBA 5 [box]
Vilnius 13 – Gaja-Lituanica 2 (5) (May 23) [box]
Vilnius 10 – Gaja-Lituanica 1 (5) (May 23) [box]
Week 7 Schedule (May 29-30)
Lituanica – Vilnius
Lituanica – Vilnius
Gaja-Lituanica – VBA
Gaja-Lituanica – VBA