And then there was one. After six weeks of Vilnius, Utenos Titanai, and Kauno Lituanica all jammed at the top of the Lithuanian baseball standings, one series – Lituanica paying a visit to the capital – changed everything. Meanwhile, at the other end of the table and fresh off its first win of the year, Vilnius Baseball Academy hosted winless Kauno SM Gaja-Lituanica.
Kauno Lituanica at BK Vilnius (1-5, 0-12)
A Week 5 split with the Titans of Utena seemed to mark the point at which Vilnius’ hopes of a pennant began to lessen, but a dominant performance against fellow league-toppers Kaunas rewrote the standings. Game One began as a pitcher’s duel between Norvydas Zukauskas, who has been in excellent form of late, and the hosts’ Maksim Burdin. Vilnius was the first to break through, plating a run in the third and two more one inning later. This was more than enough for Burdin (4-0), who permitted only two hits and only losing his shutout in the top of the seventh. The capitals’ starter struck out eight and walked one.
The nightcap started similarly, but Lituanica pulled away much more quickly, posting a five-running third and adding seven more in the fourth. Gytis Morkunas (4-1) was more than equal to the task, breezing through four innings, punching out three. Ignas Zinkevicius was 3-for-3 with a double and seven different Vilnius players notched a two-hit game in the doubleheader.
Kauno SM Gaja-Lituanica at Vilnius Baseball Academy (2-12, 7-5)
The Lithuanian capital’s Baseball Academy, which features many players in their mid-teens, finally entered the win column last week, using solid pitching to split a series with Utenos Taranai. This past weekend saw the bats come alive as well and VBA posted its first game with double digit runs this year.
Kaunas’ second side started more positively, as Tomas Michalskis ripped a triple to lead off the game and quickly came around to score the game’s first run. A second run – without the benefit of a hit – doubled the lead in the third. The final two frames were all Vilnius, though, as it almost cycled through its lineup twice in scoring 10 runs in the fourth.
Dovydas Zakaras was the beneficiary, earning his first win (1-2), with a team season-high nine strikeouts. The 17-year-old permitted only one hit and one earned run, walking five. Burdin pulled double duty for the weekend and reached base all four times to the plate, including three hits. Lukas Morkunas, who also played for the capital’s senior side on Saturday, went 3-for-4.
Game Two was a lesson in starting and finishing strong. Gaja-Lituanica had three markers in the first and second frames as the dam burst in the Academy’s often porous defense. Dominykas Bacharevic allowed only a single hit and two free passes and five of the runs were unearned.
Meanwhile, Dziugas Gavrilcikas was effectively wild for Kaunas, slinging five shutout frames to start before losing steam in the sixth. The opposing academicians suddenly erupted for five runs, aided in turn by a multiple miscue inning for Gaja-Lituanica. Paulius Nenartavicius entered with two outs, though, and slammed the door, chucking a scoreless seventh – after Kaunas had scored an unearned insurance run – for the save.
Gavrilcikas (1-2) punched out nine in 5.2 frames and surrendered four unearned runs on four walks and only three hits. Worth noting as well is the exceptional effort out of the ‘pen by Morkunas, who hurled 5.2 one-hit innings, striking out six and walking a pair. The two development squads combined for only seven hits, but 11 walks, two hit batters, seven wild pitches, and 12 errors.
The 2021 Lithuanian Baseball Championship has now finished its first phase and the Second Round begins this weekend. Utena will host Vilnius, Kauno Lituanica, and the Lithuanian U18 team, matching them against its Titans in a round robin tournament.
By: Gabriel Fidler
|Vilnius Baseball Academy||2||8||.200||7||2-2||0-6||37||54||-17||L1|
|Kauno SM Gaja-Lituanica||1||9||.100||8||0-4||1-5||26||108||-82||W1|
Week 8 Schedule (June 5-6, at Utena)
Lituanica – Vilnius
Lietuvos U18 – Titanai
Vilnius – Lietuvos U18
Lituanica – Titanai (June 6)
Titanai – Vilnius (June 6)
Lietuvos U18 – Lituanica (June 6)