European Zone Champions: Paderborn, Germany
WASHINGTON, Pa. (May 25) – Paderborn, Germany proved that it was the best among the PONY European Zone, after outlasting 16 teams from 12 different countries over four days at the SUMA Open – PONY European Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. It will be Paderborn’s third appearance at the DICK’S Sporting Goods PONY League World Series (DSGPLWS) in the last five years.
According to head coach Georg Bull, the team was prepared for battle at the SUMA Open after part of the team trained for 16 days in the Dominican Republic playing 12 different teams. Paderborn began the tournament on fire and dismantled its first three opponents by a combined score of 45-1. The bats continued to stay hot, as Paderborn defeated the Bordeaux Academy of France 10-0 and the London Mets of Great Britain 15-1 to advance to the championship game.
Paderborn faced stiffer competition for the title, as the team was pitted against the 2014 PLWS European Zone representative Czech Academy from Brno. The game was deadlocked 2-2 before the Germans came away with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to a few Czech miscues. With one out in the inning, Carl Wenzel reached on an error and was moved to second thanks to a Henry Muller single on the proceeding at-bat. Wenzel and Muller advanced 80 feet thanks to a passed ball, and Wenzel then scored after Colin Holzwarth reached on another Czech error.
“We weren´t able to really to hit the strong Czech Academy pitcher before, and when we did, it was straight at people,“ said Bull regarding his team’s hitting. “I wasn`t too happy with our performance until that point so, yes, the error helped to get us the result we´ve battled for.“
Nikolai Kirchhoff, the tournament’s MVP, came in to pitch in the seventh, and despite allowing a hit batsmen to advance around to third, Kirchhoff came away with the save and Paderborn was victorious 3-2. Teammate Simon Baumer was declared the tournament’s best batsman, after he went 11-for-16 with a homerun, nine RBIs and nine runs scored. Kirchhoff finished the tournament with 7.0 IP, no runs allowed and 12 Ks.
“He always kept his cool, smiled and displayed great composure and posture day-in and day-out, while being a role model and leader for his teammates,“ said Bull about Kirchhoff.
In 2012, Paderborn was the European Zone’s first-ever PLWS entry, and that team went on to record a 2-1 win over Washington, Pa. before being ousted by Laredo, Tx. Paderborn made back-to-back appearances in 2013 and once again beat Washington, but it did not go on farther. Bull believes the experience gained from those two trips will lend itself well in 2016, and the team is excited to visit Washington.
“We, as coaches, know what to expect and can relay that experience to the players. For them, it will be a completely new experience and they can´t wait to be air bound,” said Bull. “We are proud and happy that we were able to qualify again. For us, it‘s very important to play as many tough games as possible since baseball is a small sport in Germany. Also, the atmosphere in Washington is unique. It´s a beautiful stadium and set up, the organizers do a tremendous job of giving all participants the feeling of taking part in something really big, a real World Series. Playing in Washington, Pa. is a tremendous experience they will never forget.“
The European Zone champions will play their first game, Game #4, against hometown Washington, Pa. at 2:30 p.m. (ET – U.S.) on Saturday, Aug. 6. You can follow all of Paderborn’s games, as well as every game of the 2016 DSGPLWS online at plws.org and on social media.
Photos from the SUMA Open / PONY European Championships