The B-Level European Championships were held this week in both Zurich and Vienna. Six teams competed at each site trying to win a spot in the 2014 European Championship to be held in the Czech Republic.
While Great Britain, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, Switzerland, and Slovenia were competing in the B-Level Championship in Zurich. Austria, Belarus, Russia, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Ireland were playing in Vienna.
Through the round robin play, three teams were tied with a 4-1 record. Austria, Russia, and Belarus all finished with just a single loss. Due to the tie-breaker rules, Austria and Russia would face off with one another in the Championship Game for a spot in the 2014 European Championship.
It was a close and exciting game, but Russia would come out on top when it was all settled by a score of 3-2. Errors played a big role in the game as both team picked up unearned runs.
Austria jumped out on top 1-0 with a run in the second inning. With two outs, Felix Zimmerle (1-for-4) singled to start the rally. Lukas Scheicher (2-for-3) then singled to move Zimmerle to second, but an error by the Russia center fielder let Zimmerle come all the way around to score the first run of the game.
Austria picked up another run in the third inning. Fabian Hirnschal (0-for-2) led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch. He was quickly sacrificed to second base. Then after another ground out moved him to third, Peter Ferak singled (1-for-4) him home to give Austria a 2-0 lead.
Christian Tomsich was cruising on the mound for Austria. Through eight innings he had given up just one a run and had allowed only seven hits. However, in the top of the ninth he walked the lead off hitter and then gave up a single before being pulled for reliever Werner Harrasser.
Harrasser got the first batter he faced on a sacrifice that put runners at second and third with just one out. Then Aleksandr Maksiakov (1-for-2) was caught trying to steal home for the second out of the inning. It all looked good for Austria. The next hitter had an 0-2 count and it looked like they would advance. Then it happened.
A fly ball to center fielder Dominik Talir was dropped allowing a run to score to tie the game and opening up the way for Russia to take the win away from Austria. The next two hitters singled scoring the go ahead run for Russia and putting Austria in a corner heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Austria would make it interesting in the ninth. A one-out walk started it all, but with two outs and facing elimination, Richard Alzinger came up with a pinch-hit single to put runners at the corners. Austria was just a hit away from tying the game up. However, Andrey Lobanov settled down to get the final out and the win for Russia.
Lobanov went the distance for Russia giving up just two runs (one earned) on seven hits while striking out nine.
Peter Ferek (Austria) was named the tournament MVP. He hit .500 with five RBI. Victor Samchuk (Russia) was named the tournaments best hitter. He finished with a .750 average (6-for-8) with five walks. He was also 4-of-5 in stolen base attempts. Nikita Lobanov (Russia) was named the best pitcher. He struck out eight in his one appearance tossing a complete game and giving up just one unearned run.
B-Level European Championships Vienna Final Standings:
1. Russia 4-1
2. Austria 4-1
3. Belarus 4-1
4. Slovakia 2-3
5. Lithuania 1-4
6. Ireland 0-5
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.