When was the last time Great Britain was in the World Baseball Classic?
An emotional ninth-inning comeback sees Great Britain qualify for the World Baseball Classic by defeating Spain 10-9 in extra innings
Spain came out of the gates swinging and for nine innings led the game. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead and there were times, such as in the fourth with Noelvi Marte’s three run blast, where it looked like they were simply a cut above the Brits.
One thing that has surprised everyone in Regensburg, Germany during this qualifying round has been the dogged resilience of the Great Britian baseball team. Widely viewed as one of the weakest teams in the pool, they have shocked the entire pool by trouncing France 14-4 before handing home nation Germany an 8-1 defeat. Tonight, they would not simply lie down.
Team GB scratched and clawed their way back into the game, one run at a time, with catcher Harry Ford, the Seattle Mariners’ number one prospect, knocking in the first run with his third home run in as many games, ultimately going 2 for 5 on the night with three RBIs.
D’Shawn Knowles, a Los Angeles Angels prospect outfielder, made it a one-run game when he hit a dinger to right center in the seventh before Blue Jays prospect Jaden Rudd levelled the game at 9-9 in the ninth inning with a shot over that same right center wall.
“I took a pretty good pitch that I probably should have put in play. After that I was done thinking. Just bat to baseball. I got a good pitch, got out front and it landed way over the fence,” explained Rudd. “It was like a new energy in the dugout. We felt like we were gonna win that baseball game. And we did. That was one of the best moments in my baseball career right there.”
Going to extra innings, the Lions stepped up on the mound as well, with Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Tahnaj Thomas shutting that prolific Spanish offense down. In the bottom half of the tenth, the Lions got men on the corners with one out for Alex Crosby, and he didn’t disappoint. The left-handed hitter took the 1-2 delivery to the opposite field, with a sacrifice fly ball to the warning track, deep enough to score Matt Koperniak from third.
This will be the first appearance ever for the GB Lions in the World Baseball Classic, having failed to qualify in previous years, often with a fairly miserable performance. But with their outing in Germany, they look to be a serious contender for March. There is always the possibility that they could bring back a few of their previous players, such as Houston Astros pitcher Blake Taylor and Miami Marlins second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr, to appear in March 2023, which would set them in the top tier without a doubt.
With recent events in the UK, from covid to Brexit to the Queen’s death, the nation can often feel like it is on the receiving end of a series of heavyweight punches. Now, for fans and countrymen alike this win is an emotional moment. Following the win, center fielder Anfernee Seymour, paraded around the field with the Union flag before planting it in the dirt by home plate, as the team gathered to belt out God Save The King.
We will find out in the coming weeks where Great Britain will land for pool play, as well as finding out if they will be joined by either Spain or the Czech Republic, depending on the outcome of the final game in Regensburg. However it turns out, the Lions should be proud of their performance. And the country should get behind them, baseball fan or not.