Great Britain punches ticket to World Baseball Classic

September 21st, 2022

The Regensburg Qualifier in Germany at Armin-Wolf-Arena concludes today with Czech Republic vs. Spain, with the winner joining Great Britain in next year's World Baseball Classic.

All qualifying games will be available to fans around the world on the World Baseball Classic YouTube and Facebook pages, as well as at and on MLB.TV. (Note: Times are ET and subject to change.)

In his day job, Martin Schneider fights fires. On Wednesday night, Schneider put out the red-hot Spain bats in the final game of the Regensburg Qualifiers for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, leading the Czech Republic to a 3-1 win that clinched its spot in next spring's World Baseball Classic.

After pitching just a handful of innings this year for Draci Brno in the Czech league, Schneider -- who has long been the Czech team’s best pitcher and shortstop -- was expected to pitch only in relief in the tournament. But with the Czech team playing in the biggest game in program history, manager Pavel Chadim had a request: Can you start?

Schneider didn’t back down against the powerful Spain lineup, which put up 21 runs against the Czech Republic on Saturday night and nine runs against Great Britain on Tuesday.

The right-hander pitched 6 1/3 dominant innings, striking out five batters and walking none in the victory. Recap >

Great Britain is in the World Baseball Classic.

With a dramatic 10-9, walk-off win against Spain in the 10th inning on Tuesday, Great Britain punched its ticket to the 2023 Classic.

Great Britain trailed 9-8 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, but Jaden Rudd belted a game-tying home run to right field off Spain's Rhiner Cruz to send the game to extra innings.

In the bottom of the 10th, Alex Crosby lifted a walk-off sacrifice fly to left field to send Great Britain to the World Baseball Classic.

Spain, which was three outs away from qualifying for the Classic, will still have a chance. Spain plays the Czech Republic on Wednesday, with the winner of that game earning the final spot in World Baseball Classic 2023 from Pool A.

Spain beat the Czech Republic, 21-7, in their first meeting of the Regensburg Qualifier on Saturday. Recap >

Tuesday, Sept. 20
Game 7: Czech Republic 8, Germany 4

Former Orioles prospect wasn’t going to let the Czech Republic baseball team lose. Facing the German hosts on another cold, rainy day in Regensburg, the Czechs beat Germany, 8-4.

After falling behind, 3-0, in the first inning on a three-run home run from Germany third baseman William Germaine, who hit the go-ahead home run in Deutschland’s win over South Africa on Monday, the Czechs stormed back in the bottom of the first. Designated hitter Petr Zyma hit a two-run home run and Cervenka followed that with an absolute moonshot over the trees and possibly the street beyond the left-field wall.

"I'm just glad I helped the team to be honest," Cervenka said. "And before me, it was Zyma, our DH, in the two-hole. He got it started with his two-run homer. He brought it back close after we gave up three in the top of the first."

With the score tied at 3 in the bottom of the third, the Czechs had one on with two outs when Cervenka came to the plate. He hit a strange bouncing grounder that Germaine couldn’t handle -- just enough to keep the inning alive. German pitcher Michael Bienlien then hit two batters and gave up a two-run single to Arnost Dubovy to give the Czechs a three-run lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

A strange bouncing RBI single from Matej Mensik to drive in his brother, Vojtech, came in the fourth before Cervenka hit another home run -- this one just cresting the left-field fence -- in the bottom of the seventh.

Though Daniel Padysak struggled through a rough first inning, the Prague native, who pitches for Charleston Southern University, settled down and made it into the fifth inning. He was relieved by Michal Kovala, who entered with one out and the bases loaded. Kovala shut down the rally and tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the save.

He had actually predicted the moment before the game.

"I told him before the game, 'If you got runners on with no outs, I got you,'" Kovala said.

It’s a tough loss for the German team, which had high expectations going into the tournament as hosts. It’s also the second time the Czech Republic eliminated its German rivals -- it also did it in the 2017 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers.

"We only have to look on our own back today with what we did and didn't do well," German manager Steve Janssen said. "And you've got to give [the Czech team] credit right there. Let's put it that way. They're the only team in both pools that only played with homegrown guys. So, you have to tip your head to those people out there. They did a good job."

"It's super impressive to see guys that we have on the team that don't really necessarily have the chance to play baseball professionally or anything -- they have their own jobs. Just for them to come out and compete on the highest level and just see that we're pretty good. We can do this," Padysak said.

The Czechs advance to play the loser of Tuesday's Spain-Great Britain game on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET, with the winner advancing to March’s World Baseball Classic tournament. -- Michael Clair

Monday, Sept. 19
Game 6: Germany 11, South Africa 5

For five innings, an upset was in the cards. South Africa, the lowest-ranked team in the Regensburg Qualifiers, had held Germany to a 2-2 tie on a cold Monday afternoon. The South African side scored on a solo home run by Dayle Feldtman and some impressive small ball led by team captain Jonathan Phillips.

"We do not have the power to just rely on the hits and the home runs. We do not have that kind of juice in our bats," Phillips said after the game. "So, we rely on playing difficult, tough baseball -- that's what we rely on. I think coach Andy [Berglund] has done a particularly good job in educating us how to play in that kind of way."

Unfortunately for the only nation to regularly compete on the international circuit in Africa, the hopes for some World Baseball Classic magic ended when Germany slugged three home runs during a seven-run sixth inning that proved to be the difference as the host nation dispatched South Africa in an elimination game.

South Africa starting pitcher Kieran Lovegrove kept the German team in check for five innings, including holding former Major Leaguers Bruce Maxwell and Aaron Alther to a combined 0-for-6 with three strikeouts. Once he departed, Germany feasted on its opponent’s bullpen.

Third baseman William Germaine led off the bottom of the sixth by smashing a breaking ball from Kevin Townend to left field for a go-ahead homer.

"It's my first chance to play for the national team, living in Germany for the last three years. I got married a week and a half ago and that's what made me eligible," Germaine said after the game. "It's a great month for me. So, I'm happy to be here."

German manager Steve Janssen then joked that, "You can tell Billy's wife I'm happy to spend the honeymoon with him."

The next four German batters reached via three singles and a throwing error before right fielder Demetrius Moorer drove the first pitch from Robert Lewis-Walker out to right-center for a three-run dinger. One batter later, former Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr crushed a solo shot off the batter’s eye in center.

Moorer tacked on a two-run homer in the seventh inning to finish with five RBIs on the day.

Right-hander Nick Wittgren, a seven-year MLB veteran who pitched for the Cardinals earlier this season, picked up the win in relief by retiring the only batter he faced in South Africa’s half of the sixth. Of course, he did this while also wearing Wu-Tang Clan socks -- something that doesn't show up in a box score, but is equally important.

The win allows Germany to continue the pursuit of its first-ever World Baseball Classic appearance. It will face the Czech Republic in another elimination game Tuesday at 7 a.m. ET. The winner will play the loser of the Tuesday afternoon Spain-Great Britain matchup on Wednesday, with a ticket to the WBC on the line.

For South Africa, its tournament dreams are over, but vice captain and catcher Kyle Botha said the close-knit group has a lot to be proud of.

"It's difficult, obviously, we're all down," Botha said. "But the guys just need to know that they can hold their hands up high. We went toe to toe with professional athletes. I mean, we're pretty much amateurs in our own right. These guys play a lot more baseball than we do. And we gave them a fight."

Sunday, Sept. 18
Game 5: Czech Republic 7, France 1

After a lethargic showing against Spain on Saturday, the Czech Republic put together a complete performance Sunday, tallying 12 hits in a wire-to-wire win over France to advance in the Germany Qualifiers of the World Baseball Classic.

The Czech Republic wasted no time getting out in front, as Vojtech Mensik opened the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff home run before former Cleveland and Baltimore prospect Martin Cervenka added onto the lead with an RBI double.

Those runs were more than enough support for Czech starter Lukas Ercoli, who threw four strong innings before being relieved by Martin Schneider, who allowed one run in four innings. The Czech Republic's knockout blow came in the bottom of the sixth inning in the form of a two-run single from Marek Chlup that made it 4-0.

France's lone run came on an RBI single from Ivan Acuna in the top of the eighth inning. 

With the win, the Czech Republic, the highest-ranked team in this qualifier, advances to Monday, where they'll play the winner of Sunday's between South Africa and Germany. The winner of Monday's contest will play in the championship of the loser's bracket with a spot in the World Baseball Classic on the line.

Game 6: South Africa vs. Germany: postponed

The second game of Sunday's doubleheader was postponed due to heavy rain at Armin-Wolf-Arena. The game will be made up Monday at 6 a.m. ET.

Saturday, Sept. 17
Game 3: Spain 21, Czech Republic 7

Behind a four-hit, five-RBI day from Reds No. 2 prospect Noelvi Marte, Spain achieved a powerful, seven-inning victory over the Czech Republic and improved to 2-0 in the Regensburg Qualifier on Saturday.

Spain jumped out to a 7-1 advantage after the first two innings thanks in part to a three-run homer from Jesus Ustariz and an RBI double by Marte. But those turns at bat paled in comparison to Spain’s fifth inning, which saw 17 men come to the plate and 12 runs score on seven hits and six walks.

That big inning was highlighted by a pair of two-run singles from Marte and a grand slam by Edison Valerio, who went deep twice in the shortened game.

The Czech Republic, trailing 21-2, homered three times in the bottom of the fifth to help keep the game going, but that only extended the inevitable as Spain’s 14-run lead at the end of the seventh inning invoked the tournament’s 10-run rule. The game would have ended after the fifth inning if Spain was ahead by at least 15 runs.

Spain will look to stay perfect when it plays on Tuesday at 7 a.m. ET against the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Great Britain and Germany. Whoever wins Tuesday’s game will clinch a berth into the World Baseball Classic in March. It would be Spain’s second appearance in the WBC.

The Czech Republic, the highest-ranked team in this qualifier, will try to stay alive in the tournament when it plays France at 7 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Game 4: Great Britain 8, Germany 1

After blowing out France on Friday, Great Britain put up another dominant performance on Saturday, this time against Germany. Third baseman Justin Wylie kicked off the scoring in the first inning with a three-run home run after back-to-back hit-by-pitches to lead off the game. And Great Britain didn't look back from there.

Germany would hit back with a run of their own in the bottom of the first inning, but that would be all. Six Great Britain pitchers held Germany to just one run on four hits, though they handed out nine free passes.

The game went into a rain delay during the top of the fifth inning. When the game resumed, it was Great Britain's offense that came to play. They added five more runs, including a two-run triple from Anfernee Seymour and a two-run home run from Harry Ford to put Germany away. 

Great Britain has now outscored its opponents 22-5 across two games.

Germany will look to keep its WBC hopes alive when it plays South Africa at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Great Britain will look to stay undefeated on Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET against Spain. Whoever wins Tuesday’s game will clinch a berth into the World Baseball Classic in March.

Friday, Sept. 16
Game 1: Spain 5, South Africa 4

We are in for quite an entertaining World Baseball Classic if the first game of the qualifying round was any sign of what’s to come. The 2023 WBC officially got underway Friday as Spain defeated South Africa, 5-4, at Armin-Wolf-Arena in Regensburg, Germany.

Justin Connell, a 23-year-old outfielder in the Nationals’ system, led Spain’s offense by going 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. He opened the scoring when he got a fastball from South Africa right-hander Justin Erasmus and ripped it far beyond the left-field wall to lead off the bottom of the fourth. He added an RBI double in the seventh.

South Africa, the lowest-ranked club to take part in the Regensburg Qualifier, erased a 2-0 deficit in the top of the seventh thanks to an RBI groundout from second baseman Victor Ngoepe and a run-scoring single by third baseman Jonathan Phillips. But Spain immediately responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame.

That rally started with a one-out walk from shortstop Noelvi Marte, the No. 18 prospect in MLB, who came around to score the go-ahead run on Jesus Ustariz’s triple. Designated hitter Chris Kwitzer followed with a double to the opposite field, setting the stage for Connell’s third hit of the day.

Former Astros and Blue Jays reliever bent, but he didn’t break in the ninth inning. After allowing a two-run double to Tyler Smith, Cruz notched the save by retiring the next two batters on an infield popout and a strikeout.

Game 2: Great Britain 14, France 4

In a matchup of two teams looking to qualify for the World Baseball Classic for the first time, France got on the board first on Ivan Acuna's solo homer in the bottom of the second, but Harry Ford -- the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect -- answered with a two-run blast in the top of the third, and Great Britain never looked back.

Britain scored in each of the final six frames en route to a 14-4 victory that was called after eight innings. Every Great Britain starter reached base at least once, and all but one had at least one hit. Ford, a 19-year-old catcher who went 12th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft, set the tone out of the leadoff spot, going 2-for-3 with three walks, a double and his go-ahead homer.

Wednesday, Sept. 21
Game 9: Czech Republic vs. Spain, 1 p.m.