With the final out there was total joy on the field as both sets of players were really proud of what they managed to achieve over the two games
Early on Saturday morning, the two teams were back at the Għarb Stadium getting ready for Game 2 to decide who gets to lift the Gozo Cup. The weather was favourable for the pre-game ceremony which started with a presentation of a memento of the Gozo Cup 2018 Fastpitch Softball International Tournament to the two umpires, Mr Angelo Muscat and Mr Michael Grech, as a show of appreciation for their efforts. Following the introduction of the two sets of players, the three national anthems were played with tenor Angelo Muscat singing Lil Din L-Art Helwa. Mr Mario Debono, former President of the Malta Baseball & Softball Association, and presently a Technical Commissioner within the European Softball Federation, was invited to throw the ceremonial first pitch. It was fitting for Mr Debono to be part of the opening ceremony as it was during his Presidency the Għajnsielem Redcoats joined the Association, and he was always keen to help the game of softball to grow on the Maltese Islands.
Team REDCOATS-OLYMPIA-PRINC built what seemed to be a comfortable six run advantage in Game 1. While team MLT-CRO-NED, led by Nicole Thomas, came into Game 2 with nothing to lose and keen to perform at their best, their opponents thought that they had the tournament wrapped up, and took their foot off the pedal. It took just the top half of the first inning for Nicole Thomas and her teammates to wipe out the six run deficit that they had from Game 1. Starting pitcher Estelle Scicluna was not at her usual best. She gave up six hits and allowed two walks, while striking out two. On the other hand, Rosanne de Vries, the starting pitcher for team MLT-CRO-NED, had a very good first inning striking out three of the four hitters she faced.
Estelle improved in the second inning and was unfortunate to concede another run. Her team managed to get that run back in the bottom half, as Eva Voortman singled, stole second, and scored on a base hit from Maranca Ham. Rita Despot came in to relieve Estelle for the 3rd inning. She started very well getting two quick outs. Then Rebecca Grech laid down a perfect bunt for a base hit to start a two-out rally for her team. The next batter, Katrina Prskalo, brought her home with a base hit. Daphne Cassar then connected for a solid triple down the right field line to bring Katrina home. In the bottom half Rosanne struck out the side so that after three innings the score was 10-1 for team MLT-CRO-NED.
Team REDCOATS-OLYMPIA-PRINC brought in Eva Voortman to stop the bleeding and to try to mount a comeback. Effectively they had to score another four runs to win the tournament. Eva did her job as she pitched four scoreless innings, striking out eleven batters. Nicole Thomas opted to bring in the young and promising left-handed pitcher, Monique Attard, to relieve Rosanne de Vries. Monique picked up where her much experienced teammate left off as she recorded two three-up-three-down innings in the 4th and 6th and allowed a run to score in the 5th on two walks. Over those three innings she struck out three hitters including Eva Voortman on a foul tip caught by catcher Marilise Vella.
So going into the bottom half of the 7th inning, with thick, dark-grey, threatening clouds moving rapidly towards the Għarb Stadium, REDCOATS-OLYMPIA-PRINC needed two runs to tie and share the spoils of the Gozo Cup, and three runs to win it. Rather than come in to pitch the final inning and secure the win for her team, Nicole Thomas opted to leave her starlet in the game as a reward for her outstanding performance over the previous three innings. The Gozo Cup 2018 Fastpitch Softball International Tournament was very much about empowerment as it was about showcasing the talents of the international as well as the local softball players. So the decision to leave Monique Attard in the game was very much justified given the circumstances.
Monique walked the first batter and gave up a hit to the Marija Vella. She got lucky as the lead-off was caught between 2nd and 3rd and was tagged for the first out of the inning. With a light drizzle starting to put at risk the final act of the game and the tournament, Monique walked Emma Mercieca as she had some difficulty with her control due to the wet condition. The next two hitters were the top of the REDCOATS-OLYMPIA-PRINC line-up. Still, despite the situation the young lefty kept her poise. A couple of wild pitches saw a run come in, but Brenda Beers popped-up for the second out. With the tying run on third, Estelle Scicluna was up to bat with an opportunity to tie or win the tournament. Emma scored on a wild pitch but on the following pitch Estelle popped-up to end the game. The 10-4 final score meant that the Gozo Cup was to be shared by the two teams!
There was total joy on the field as both sets of players were really proud of what they managed to achieve over the two games. The young Redcoats surprised themselves and everyone else with their performances. They all had many reasons to celebrate. Playing with some of the best softball players in Europe made the Gozo Cup a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience for the Redcoats. Performing so well was the icing on the cake. There was also plenty of joy among the international players who were flown in to Gozo to make all this happen. They were quite happy to have been a part of this wonderful experience. Their presence here made a tremendous impact on the local players. With their contribution they helped the game of softball to grow in Gozo. The Gozo Cup 2018 Fastpitch Softball International Tournament also contributed to the legacy that the Erasmus+ Sports: Small Collaborative Partnerships project, IGETS, will leave, as plans are already underway for the second edition of the Gozo Cup in autumn of 2019.
The three partners in IGETS were keen to conclude the two-year long project with something very special. With this high level tournament they managed to do so. CONGRATULATIONS to Olympia Haarlem, SK Princ Zagreb and Għajnsielem Redcoats for the multiple achievements of your project Inclusion and Gender Equality Through Softball.
IGETS is a two-year project co-financed by the European Union. The Għajnsielem Redcoats received assistance from the Ministry of Education and Employment through the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport & Voluntary Organisations to meet its co-financing obligations.
Disclaimer: This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.