By Gabriel Fidler, Managing Editor.
One week prior to the European Baseball Championship, Myllypuro Baseball Field in Helsinki played host to the Nordic Baseball Cup, which crowned a de facto champion for Scandinavian hardball. The three-game event on 15–16 Sept. saw Sweden defeat Norway and Finland, while the Norwegian nine triumped over the hosts in an 11-inning thriller. The following weekend, a youth version of the tournament occurred as well.
Various referred to as the Nordic Baseball Tournament, Nordic Baseball Challenge, and Baseball Nordics Tournament, the event continued the efforts in recent years to link Scandinavian baseball countries. For Sweden, the tourney also served as a tune-up for the Baseball Euros, while for Norway and Finland, the games offered crucial experience for the qualification process for Europe’s top-tier of national team play.
Game 1: Finland – Norway [box]
In a schedule disrupted by rain, Finland took on Norway and jumped to a 6-1 lead that it held until the bottom of the eighth thanks to the superb pitching of Matti Nylander, who struck out nine and allowed only two hits, a free pass, and an unearned run in his seven frames. A four-run rally by the visitors in the game’s penultimate frame then set up Norway to strike for the tying run in the bottom of the ninth. After both teams scored in the tenth, Lars Liguori walked off the Norwegians with a RBI-single in the eleventh, his fourth hit of the day. Emil Fjellvang struck out 11 in 6.2 for Norway, permitting three earned runs, while Steffan Torgerson punched out five in the remaining 4.1 frames, surrendering a pair of earned runs. Mikko Rauhamäki was the hard-luck loser, striking out four over three innings.
Game 2: Sweden – Norway [box]
Norway kept the game close against Sweden’s Euros squad despite a difference of thirty places in the world rankings (No. 63 to No. 33). Heading into the top of the eighth, Sweden clung to a 5-2 lead, with Norway’s Lars Liguori tossing a six-hitter with seven strikeouts and four earned run. However, the Svenska offense kicked into high gear in the eighth, knocking out Liguori and posted a 10-run frame to end the game via mercy rule. Ben Johnson collected four of Sweden’s 13 hits in the victory, while Olle Jerfsten was superb in relief, punching out four in three innings of one-hit, shutout relief.
Game 3: Sweden – Finland [box]
In the second game of the day, Sweden picked up where it left off, posting two runs in the first, with Finland replying with a single run. A five-run third was again followed by a marker for the hosts, while Sverige added two more in the fifth and another eight an inning later. Seven different Swedish players notched at least one hit, while five collected a pair of walks. Jeff Pruitt led the charge with a triple and two singles. Akio Huovinen and Andrés Mena each had two hits for Finland. Five pitchers toed the rubber for each country.
‘[In Game 1,] Norway runs with their Norwegian-American who plays in Italy every day, a really good challenge for us, [against] which we do really well. Very useful for us to meet a really good leftie like this before the [European Championship],’ remarked Sweden’s Head Coach, Rickard Reimer [Google translation of original]. ‘Our own pitchers are doing really well and it will be a comfortable victory in the end. We have a good day with two wins and get the team together in a good way. Hope that maybe Denmark can join next year!‘
Pruitt, a 2009 Chicago Cubs’ draftee, led the tournament in average (.833), hits (tied, 5), on-base percentage (.875), and slugging percentage (1.333). Fellow Swedish player Daniel Johnson led in walks (4) and tied brother Joel Johnson for the lead in runs (5). Finland’s Huovinen also had five hits, while Norway’s Torgerson joined Pruitt as the only players with a double and a triple. Fjellvang topped the charts in strikeouts (11), while Nylander posted the most innings with a 0.00 ERA (7).
Nordic Baseball Cup U15 Tournament
On 23–24 Sept. at Örvallen Field in Sundbyberg, Sweden, Sweden and Finland’s top Under-15 players gathered for a junior version of the Nordic Baseball Cup, with Sweden fielding three U15 squads for a four-team tournament. Results are not available, and inquiries to the national federations were not returned.
Finland – Sweden A
Finland – Sweden B
Sweden A – Sweden C
Finland – Sweden C
Sweden A – Sweden B
Sweden B – Sweden C
WBSC World Rankings
For reasons that are unclear, the senior competition of the Nordic Baseball Cup did not offer any WBSC rankings points, despite the fact that the tournament website was part of Finland’s MyWBSC page. (The junior portion was ineligible for points, given the nature of the teams.) For more on the significant effects of this decision, see the longer version of this article at Extra Innings UK [link].