Thursday, July 20th: CROATIA VS. BELGIUM

Its funny how when coaches first notice the schedule of a tournamentand the pairings they immediately notice key games early on or toards
the end of pool play. So it was natural when I first saw the schedule
for the European Championships B Pool, this matchup stuck out there for
everyone to see. Yes, Great Britain has a great ball club, but I also
knew if we were going to win this thing, the key matchup would be
Thursday evening: Belgium vs. Croatia. And true to form, both ball
clubs entered the contest undefeated and the winner would be sitting
alone without a loss in a double elimination tournament.

What a great setting in Beveren as the weather cooperated quite
nicely and this small seating capacity ballpark was filling up
impressively. With both teams throwing their aces earlier in the week
it was pretty much anyone’s guess as to who would have the upper hand.
As charcteristic, our bats started off slow. The energy and enthusiasm
were certainly there, but Belgium jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a few
hits and some shoddy defense by the Croats. Our bats were pretty much
non-existent and with our starting pitcher Alexandar Horvatic reaching
the 100-pitch plateau, things looked bleak.

Until the 6th, that is, when we finally started to show some life
and closed the gap to 4-2. I had to pull Alexandar (aka Ottso), in the
8th and went with our ace Slobodan Galas (aka Bobo). He held the
Belgium team in check in the 8th and in the bottom half we came alive
with a three spot to take the lead. It is always great to see a ball
club’s capacity to come back from deficits and they really showed me
something here. You never know sometimes with these kids and to see
them not fold their tents was impressive. We sent Bobo out there in the
top of the 9th to finish them off and what proceeded to happen is kind
of one of those illogical occurances that happen from time to time in
baseball. The first batter hits a dribbler down the 3rd base line that
sits on the chalk for a base hit. The next batter flairs one over the
first baseman’s head and the third batter flairs one over the third
baseman’s head. Bases loaded and no outs. I’ve been snake-bit many
times coaching and playing this game and I’ve felt this hopeless
feeling before. We pull the infield in and the next batter hits a
rocket, but playable right at our second baseman. Unfortunately, the
play was not made and after a successful suicide squeeze on their part
the wind came out of our sails.

We did not offer much of a threat in the bottom half of the 9th and
would get stung with a tough 8-5 loss. The guys were obviously down,
but not much time to dwell on it. We have a tough Great Britain team
tomorrow and a loss would send us packing.

Stayed tuned, Bill

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