2021 European Championship Qualifier
The 2021 European Championship Qualifiers (also listed as the B/C Level European Championship) were a bit unusual in a few ways:
1) Since 2013, Europe had been using B- and C- Level tournaments, with the losers of the main European Championship dropping to the B-Level, the winners of the B-Level moving up to the main event, the losers of B dropping to C and the winners of C moving up to B. This year, the B and C pools were merged.
2) With the European Championship expanding from 12 teams to 16 (the first expansion since 1997), no teams would have to defend their spot from the 2019 European Championship. Instead, all contenders were looking for one of the expansion spots. Several teams had played in the Euros in the past - Russia had played pretty much every year from 1993-2016; Greece had played pretty much every time from 2003-2016; Ukraine had played sporadically from 1995-2010 and Slovenia had played from 1995-1999. At least one new time would qualify as Russia and Slovenia were in the Moscow pool, while no team in the Bratislava pool had ever played in the European Championship.
- Belarus 31, Turkey 2. Turkey made their debut in a European Championship qualifier and was clearly outmatched in a five-inning mercy rule loss. 2B Yauheni Karalevich, 1B Kiryl Kazlouski (4 H) and CF Yauheni Kurhun each score four, while RF Uladzislau Barashenka drives in four. Anton Pryputnevich, Anton Mozhar and Ilya Babiychuk combine to fan 11. RF Melik Viran and CF Teoman Badem get Turkey's only hits while Fatih Buker takes the loss.
- Russia 20, Slovenia 0. As expected, the hosts cruise in the opener, in another five-inning mercy rule win. Russia gets six RBI from LF Alexander Bolgov and four from 2B Yunior Valiente. DH Yan Pérez, C Nikita Monakhov and 1B Kiril Chermoshentsev each score three. Andrei Lobanov allows four hits in four innings, fanning six, for the win. Jakob Matic takes the loss, while 1B/2B Igor Drobnak has half of Slovenia's four hits.
- Republic of Ireland 6, Finland 1. As usual, Ireland relies on American imports like Keelan Smithers, who fans 16 and allows one hit in seven shutout innings. Matti Nylander takes the loss, while C Jose Mesa has two hits for the Finns.
- Slovakia 3, Hungary 2. The pool hosts have a close call in the opener despite an amazing game from the only Slovakian to have played in the minors, Jakub Ižold (22 K, 4 H, 0 BB, 2 R, 1 ER). Losing the game was Sean Fekete, an American collegian born in Dubai, who couldn't quite match Ižold.
- Belarus 13, Slovenia 8. Slovenia plays a much closer game than yesterday but again falls. 2B Yauheni Karalevich scores four runs and SS Siarhei Sokal has 3 runs, 4 RBI and two homers. Ilya Sladzinski gets the win, Rok Cucek the loss. SS/P Zan Primozic goes 2 for 3 with 3 walks for Slovenia, which draws 15 walks in the loss.
- Russia 19, Switzerland 4. Thierry Burkhardt's two-run homer off Denis Leonov in the top of the first briefly put the Swiss ahead, but Russia lit up Andrea Girasole and would romp to a six-inning mercy rule win. Their Cuban imports especially starred, with RF Geidys Soler going 4 for 5 with two homers, four runs and seven RBI and four RBI apiece from 2B Yunior Valiente and C Yan Pérez. Petr Balan got the win.
- Greece 7, Poland 0. Dimitri Kourtis strikes out 14 and allows two hits in six innings as Greece starts strong; Yanni Orfanidis has a three-inning save. CF Alejandro Torres-Skerrett steals four bases while SS Tom Roulis drives in three. Marek Deska struggles with 7 runs (6 earned) in 5 innings.
- Lithuania 12, Romania 2. The pool hosts start off on a high note as well. 2B Arunas Dankovskis (3 H) and LF Dimitri Prongos (3 for 3, 2 R, 2 RBI) lead a balanced offense while Marius Balandis strikes out 15 in six shutout innings of three-hit ball. Eduard Pirvu takes the defeat.
- Ukraine 11, Estonia 1. Veteran Yevhenii Tkachenko allows one unearned run in six, while C Yevhun Zhantalai goes 3 for 4 with two runs for Ukraine. Vahur Poder takes the loss, while Aleks Koppel has Estonia's only run.
- Serbia 7, Bulgaria 0. The pool hosts start with a shutout win as Christian Bokich gives up two hits in eight innings, fanning ten; CF Alen Pantelic scores three and 1B Vlastimir Arandjelovi drives in four. Petyo Petkov takes the defeat while SS Dimitar Nassapov and 1B Martin Andonov get Bulgaria's hits.
- Republic of Ireland 16, Hungary 3. Bundesliga veteran Mitchell Hillert gets the win for the "Irish" team while SS David Gallagher has four run and four RBI. Paul Ogg is the losing hurler, while C Carlos Rubio drives in two.
- Slovakia 12, Finland 1. 3B Michal Noga (3 R) and SS Denis Pakši each rap three hits for the hosts while Jaroslav Kosna gets the win with four shutout innings of relief. Timo Liiri takes the loss while 1B Mikko Kaijansinkko goes 2 for 3 for Finland.
- Switzerland 30, Turkey 7. Turkey shows more offense in the second game but again gives up 30+ runs. 2B Saenis Zeller homers twice (4 R, 5 RBI), 1B Yannick Brot scores five and CF Louis Bischof steals four bases while David Kaestli gets the win. P/2B/C Utku Ergun is the losing pitcher but leads Turkey's offense, scoring two and driving in a pair.
- Russia 17, Belarus 0. The two unbeaten teams in the Moscow pool square off and Moscow romps to a five-inning mercy rule rout. RF Geidys Soler again has a big day with two home runs and seven RBI, while 3B Frank Bulte scores three times. Dmitry Shtykher gets the win in relief of Victor Cole Jr. while Rody Castelló wraps up the combined one-hitter (2B Yauheni Karalevich gets the lone hit). Arsen Abukhovich is handed the loss.
- Greece 14, Romania 0. Greece gets another pitching gem, as Jonathan Kountis allows five hits and one walk in seven shutout innings, striking out nine to beat George Adumitrachioate. SS Tom Roulis goes 4 for 4 with four runs while LF Nick Halamandaris drives in five.
- Lithuania 11, Poland 3. The hosts match Greece at 2-0, again using a balanced offense; C Kestas Vilimas has 3 hits and 3 RBI. 36-year-old Eimantas Žičkus gets the win against Mateusz Szustek. SS Dominick Golubiewski goes 2 for 4 with a walk, two steals and a run for the Poles.
- Bulgaria 6, Ukraine 3. Bulgaria ties Ukraine at 1-1. SS Dimitar Nassapov falls a triple shy of a cycle and scores three, while Evgenii Chernozemsky gets the win over Andrii Kostashchuk. 2B Kostiantyn Chukhas goes 2 for 4 with a run and a RBI for Ukraine.
- Serbia 15, Estonia 0. 2B Bojan Ninić, the #9 hitter, goes 3 for 4 with 3 runs in Serbia's six-inning mercy rule win. Danijel Kozjak is the winning hurler, Aleks Koppel the losing hurler. Aleks Koppel and C Tauno Koppel have Estonia's only hits today.
- Hungary 5, Finland 3. In a game that determines third place in the pool, SS Balint Piros has 3 hits and C Carlos Rubio drives in two while Zsolt Gyori gets the victory against Matti Nylander. 3B/P Andres Mena is 2 for 3 with two runs and a homer for Finland.
- Slovakia 15, Republic of Ireland 5. The two teams were already going to meet in the pool finale, so this game meant little. Slovakia used a ten-run third for the win. 2B Martin Brunegraf fell a homer short of a cycle and drove in four, while DH Mário Gottschall also drove in four. Daniel Just got the win, while Brendan Scott was handed the loss.
- Switzerland 25, Slovenia 4. Switzerland needs only five innings to score 25 runs against Slovenia. 2B Harry Wischnewski, SS Joshua Crouse and CF Marquis Richards each score four times for the Swiss, while DH Saentis Zeller drives in four and Hideori Oshima gets the win. Tevz Gantar is the losing pitcher.
- Russia 24, Turkey 0. Russia got a five-inning mercy rule no-hitter. Resting their Cubans, they got 6 RBI from LF Alexander Bolgov and 5 runs from RF Konstantin Porkhun. James Paton and Ilyin Uladidzlav fan 14 batters in the no-hitter, walking two. Utku Ergun is roughed up for the loss.
- Romania 6, Poland 3. In a game for third place in Utena, Eduard Pirvu not only strikes out fourteen but also hits three doubles. SS Dominick Golubiewski is again a bright spot in a losing effort (3 for 5). Radoslaw Zajda takes the defeat.
- Lithuania 9, Greece 7. With both teams having locked up spots in the finals, several regulars are rested. 3B Audrius Beliauskas goes 4 for 5 with 3 runs, while Vilius Paikovas saves the win by Matas Sirgėdas, stranding the bases loaded in the 9th. SS Tom Roulis has three hits for Greece, while 1B Ari Sechopoulos scores three times. Daniel Gosselin is the losing pitcher.
- Bulgaria 17, Estonia 2. 1B Petre Gruev goes 3 for 5 with 3 runs and 3 RBI while C Yoanis Aleksandrov drives in four, Petar Petrov getting the win. Ergo Rohi allows six runs while retiring none, while SS Aleks Koppel has half of Estonia's four hits.
- Ukraine 6, Serbia 1. Ukraine moves to the finale against Serbia by beating them today. CF Vladyslav Kosenko steals three bases and scores twice, while Ihor Lukin allows one run in eight innings. Savs Dupor takes the defeat, as Serbia strands nine.
- Championship Game: Slovakia 12, Republic of Ireland 2. Slovakia is headed to the European Championship for the first time as Jakub Ižold fans nine in seven innings in a mercy rule complete game win, also driving in three. 2B Martin Brunegraf and CF Jakub Horáček also each drive in three, while CF Martin Lukačka scores three. Keelan Smithers is roughed up by the hosts, while Mike McGee's two-run homer gives Ireland their only runs.
- Slovenia 18, Turkey 2. SS/P Tosja Lesjak goes 4 for 4 with two runs and two RBI, plus is the winning hurler. For Turkey, SS Mehmet Yildirim goes 2 for 2 with two steals and a RBI off the bench while Utku Ergun is the losing pitcher.
- Belarus 8, Switzerland 6. With the winner moving on to face Russia with the finals, Belarus gets a big jump when CF Yauheni Kurhun hits a grand slam four batters into the game, taking James Sanders deep. 2B Yauheni Karalevich has three hits and Kiryl Kazlouski gets the win. 2B Harry Wischnewski draws 3 walks and scores 3 runs for the Swiss.
- Championship Game: Greece 8, Lithuania 4. Greece punches their return ticket to the European Championship, as P/3B Dimitri Kourtis is 3 for 3 with a double, homer, two walks and three runs while collecting the win; Jonathan Kountis has a three-inning save. Edvardas Matusevičius takes the loss, while he also goes deep; Lithuania has now fallen just short of qualifying for three consecutive European Championships.
- Championship Game: Ukraine 9, Serbia 5. Ukraine will be back in the European Championship for the first time since 2010, using a six-run second against Stefan Zivic. Andrii Boyko gets the win, while Sergii Shtapura notches a three-inning save. C Illia Velykyi drives in three for Ukraine, while RF Predrag Kukoleca drives in two for Serbia.
- Championship Game: Russia 4, Belarus 1. After averaging 20 runs in their first four games, Russia's offense fades significantly, but is still enough to pull out a victory and a return to the European Championship. 2B Yauheni Karalevich begins the game with a homer off Russia's Andrei Lobanov but Lobanov and Denis Leonov give up no more runs and only four more hits, while three Cubans homer in the bottom of the 1st off Yauheni Kurhun: SS David Castillo, RF Geidys Soler and 2B Yunior Valiente. Kurhun does a great job after that, holding Russia to three hits and one run, but the damage had been done.
- Serbia's Predrag Kukoleca was the only MVP in a qualifier whose team did not win their pool. The right fielder was 5 for 9 with a double and a home run.
- Slovakia's Jakub Ižold was 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA and won the championship game; he fanned 31 and walked one in 16 innings. Also playing DH, he hit .300/.364/.300 with four RBI.
- Yunior Valiente batted .467/.500/1.133 with 3 homers and 10 RBI in 4 games for Russia, while playing error-free defense at second base.
- Dimitri Kourtis allowed only four hits and four walks in 12 shutout innings, whiffing 22 and going 2-0. He also played 3B and DH, producing at a .400/.500/.867 clip with two home runs, six runs and seven RBI in four games for Greece.