A day after losing to Lithuania in extra innings on the final day of round-robin play at the U18 European Championship Qualifier in Zurich, Sweden rebounded to defeat Lithuania when it mattered most, with Saturday’s 18-0 (box), four-inning, mercy-rule victory qualifying the Swedes for next year’s U18 European Championship.
Three runs in the opening frame were followed by eight more in a long second inning that gave the Swedes a commanding lead that was never in danger.
All told, Sweden’s batters managed 13 hits, with catcher James Dellamico contributing two of them, one of them a triple, alongisde five RBI. Gustav Öijen and Karl Eidem each added two hits as well, with Öijen adding a triple of his own and two RBI. Eidem scored four runs.
On the other side of the ball, starter Linus Ritzen was dominant from start to finish. He gave up just two hits while striking out eight for his second eight-strike out performance of the tournament, the first coming against Switzerland on Day 1, when he surrendered just one hit in a 11-1 Swedish win (box).
That opening-day success against the Swiss was followed by a string of closer results as the round robin continued, including a 10-8 triumph (box) over Hungary and a 3-2 win (box) over Ukraine that saw Sweden score all of its runs in the top half of the seventh and final inning to ensure the W.
That left just Lithuania on the schedule, and ultimately, extra baseball was necessary to determine a winner between the two on the final day of group play. Tied at three after the scheduled innings had been played, Sweden scored three runs in the top half of the eighth, only for Lithuania to respond with four runs for the walk-off victory.
The result ensured that the two squads would meet again on Saturday with a berth at the 2024 European Championship on the line.
Eighteen runs later, Sweden has it eyes set on the summer of 2024, with Lithuania, who competed at last summer’s European Championship in Czechia, going winless in seven games, left to wonder what could have been.