Smith named MVP as GB crowned European champions

Josh Smith could barely have asked for more from his international softball tournament debut.

Josh Smith was named MVP by the Great Britain coaches as they won the Men's Slowpitch European Championship in Italy. (30950455)
Josh Smith was named MVP by the Great Britain coaches as they won the Men's Slowpitch European Championship in Italy. (30950455)

Guernsey’s top softballer earned MVP honours for Great Britain as they won the Men’s Slowpitch European Championship, defending their title from the inaugural edition in 2018.

He also scored more triples than any other player in the tournament, ranking fifth overall on batting average with .708. Not bad for an under-23 player and international rookie.

Smith was one of four such rookies representing GB at the tournament in Colorno, Italy, where they arrived early to acclimatise to temperatures reaching 30-33C during match times.

The first day of competition carried mixed fortunes as they beat Belgium 21-2 but lost 17-2 to the Netherlands, who looked to be their closest challengers. Smith played both matches.

Smith started on the sideline for their 12-11 edging of Italy but served as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, scoring two runners. The next batter up scored him to win the game.

He finished off day two by helping GB beat Germany 27-4.

Smith played again on day three, when GB pipped Ireland 14-13 to cement their place in the top three seeded nations.

That came ahead of day four’s seeded round robin to decide GB’s route for the knock-outs, with the national team getting revenge against the Netherlands – winning 21-15 with Smith playing – and beating Ireland 20-9.

This made GB top seeds, giving them two opportunities to get to the final through a Page play-off system.

They ended up taking the hard route, losing 18-12 to the Netherlands, which meant they had to beat Germany to make the final.

A massive 33-13 victory set them up for the final – but at a cost.

Smith pulled his hamstring in the second inning and ruled himself out for the rest of the tournament, prompting senior player Mike MacDowell to say, ‘We will win this for you’.

They met Netherlands in what the sidelined Smith believes will go down as the best European slowpitch final to date.

GB held off a fiercely determined side to win 47-31.

‘I was overwhelmed when the final catch was made and “ball game” was called,’ he said.

‘Words can’t really describe the feeling of being European champions.

‘I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. But I am honoured to be a part of team with such amazing coaches and players.

‘I was granted the MVP award by the coaches – they said that my clutch hitting and solid fielding was amazing all week.’

Beyond expressing his gratitude to sponsor Fixt Limited, he added: ‘I would like to thank the support received from the Guernsey community and I hope that I have made them proud.’

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