The Top ten games in Baseball Ireland History (number 3)
- Game: Ireland v Croatia
- Tournament: European Pool B Championships
- Game type: Group game
- Venue: Karlovac, Croatia
This excerpt from my book on Irish Baseball breaks the game down for you like a fraction. From 'Pitching in - ten years on the Irish baseball team'
''I woke up at 7 am. Nervous, excited and hungover. I paced around the hotel on my own for a while, stopped to eat a very basic breakfast and listened to my walkman for a while sitting on the steps in front of the hotel, watching Karlovac wake up slowly. We walked to the field almost in silence, meeting up with the rest of the team on the way.
There was a different feeling in the air amongst the team before our last game. Our backs were against the wall, we had lost everything and basically, at that stage, had nothing left to lose. For the first time in the tournament we were focussed, it seemed like the lads were saying ‘were not getting humiliated today.’
Behind our dugout the lads started to put their gear on, in relative silence. John Dillon waited until coaches, friends and onlookers were out of site and gathered us together. We huddled close and listened to one of the most inspirational pre game speeches I have ever heard, real or fictional. JD challenged us to stand tall like proud Irish men and leave everything on the field that day. There was total silence when he was done, as to a man his speech sunk in. We were suitably inspired.
Hungary was due to play Croatia in the final the next day but had their best team out against us. The game started and our emotions and determination took over. We started cranking out big hits and doing the little things, Darran O’Connor scoring from second on a single, driving himself into the dusty ground to score sliding home. Sean had caught four games in blistering sunshine but coaxed me forward on the mound, refusing to let me lose my concentration.
The game swung back and forth, the neutrals got into it. The Hungarians got into it. While pitching I could hear them sing on the bench, a kind of Hungarian chant, with the words ‘Cormac Eklof’ every now and then, I could only imagine what it meant, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t complimentary.
The seventh and eighth innings were hard. My arm was aching, literally throbbing. The guys could probably see it and were trying to keep me going, Darran constantly saying my name trying to urge me on. They backed me up defensively too, JD chasing fly balls down like his life depended on it.
We made it to the ninth inning with a 10-9 lead over the tournament finalists. I got the first two batters and we were almost home and dry. I got a little excited though and walked two guys to put men on first and second with two outs. Coach Steen had no choice. I will never forget the confidence he showed in me leaving me in there for 8 2/3 innings, but it was time for me to leave.
Sean came out to talk to me, basically giving Bill Beglane some more time to warm up. He took of his catchers mask and started asking me how I was, we both heard a huge ‘clank’ and looked around to see the dugout all standing up. Bill Beglane had just thrown a warm up pitch through a tiny gap in the back right into the dugout itself.
I watched Coach Steen ambling out towards the mound slowly, shaking his head. He didn’t say much, just kind of looked at me and put his hand out for the ball. I think I mumbled ‘sorry’, sorry for getting us into this ninth inning jam. I think coach said ‘Don’t be silly, good job’ or something. Then I turned and left the mound.
As I walked off the Hungarian third base coach and manager shook my hand, again something I will never forget. Bill Beglane trotted in from the bullpen to try and save the game.
Bill got ahead of the batter in the count, on the third pitch he drove a ground ball towards Darran at short with the runners off. Darran fielded it, briefly looked at second and then, after giving everyone a heart attack by delaying that second, threw to first, making the out with less than a step to spare. Game over. Ireland wins 10-9.
Somehow we had managed to beat the tournament finalists.''
- Read more at 'Pitching in - ten years on the Irish baseball team'
- The Top ten games in Irish baseball history list page
The games listed so far:
3. Ireland v Hungary: European Pool B Championships 2000
4. Ireland v Yugoslavia: European Pool B Championships 1996
5. Ireland v Serbia Montenegro European Championships 2004
6. Ireland v Slocum Fenway Park 2001 (pictures here)
7. Ireland v Finland European Championships 2004
8. Ireland v Slocum RI tour 2001
9. Ireland v Lithuania Sweden 2002
10. Ireland v Serbia Montenegro European Championships 2004 3rd