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23

Mar, 2017

The Netherlands & Switzerland to make first-time PONY European Zone Championships appearances

For the first time, the nations of the Netherlands and Switzerland will be represented at the 2017 SUMA Open PONY European Zone Championships in Prague Czech Republic, which will take place April 13-16 for age divisions Pony (14U), Colt (16U) and Colt Girls Softball (16U). The winners of each age division receive automatic qualification to this upcoming summer’s Pony, Colt and East Zone Softball World Series in Washington, Pennsylvania; Lafayette, Indiana and Sterling, Virginia, respectively.

The Netherlands

According to European Zone Director Jan Bagin, first-year PONY affiliate The Netherlands is one of the top baseball nations in Europe and he expects their six teams across the two baseball divisions to be contenders in Prague. Peter Kwakernaak, Chairman of the Amsterdam Diamonds Baseball Academy, was thrilled with the opportunity to compete on an international level to hopefully advance to PONY’s Pony and Colt World Series this August in the United States.

The six academies making up the six teams have been training for the event going back to last summer when a few players on the teams were participating with the Dutch National Teams (18U and Senior) that won the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) European Championships. The teams have been training indoors since October and they started their game schedules outdoors last week in preparation of the PONY European Zone Championships. Kwakernaak believes that the teams’ fitness level is excellent and overall, they are strong at the plate and in the field.

“We are not familiar with any other teams and have not played them before, but given the quality of the baseball education, our reputation in Europe and previous results, we should be able to fight for the championship in Europe,” said Kwakernaak. “It is very special to be the first-ever participant in the SUMA Open PONY European Championships from Holland. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a great tradition.”

Teams Holland B and C begin their journeys to a Pony European Zone Championship first for the nation. They will play Kaunas, Lithuania and Prague, Czech Republic, respectively, while Team Holland B begins its journey to a Colt European Zone Championship first for the nation. It will face the Swiss National Team. All three of those games will begin at 10 a.m. local time, 5 a.m. (ET/US).

Switzerland

Another first-year PONY affiliate, Switzerland, according to Bagin, has entered its Colt National Team in the tournament thanks to the continued efforts to grow the sport of baseball in the country. Manager Mike Bundi said he learned about the PONY European Zone Championships from Switzerland’s 18U national team head coach Martin Almstetter, and he entered his team after some of his younger players gained the experience of competing on the international level at the CEB European Championships Qualifier last summer.

Bundi said the team has been having indoor practices once a month, while doing additional baseball training with the 18U National Team at the Swiss Sports Complex in Magglingen. He said he expects the team to do well, considering it won two out of its four games at the qualifier and was very close to getting in. He highlighted Jonah Schaller and Gian Gardoni as two players to watch after their successful performances at a tournament in Athens, Greece last fall. Overall, Bundi is excited to see his teams perform at the international level and gain valuable experience.

“We have great respect for the teams in our group,” said Bundi. “If we have a good day and everything works out, I think we can compete with the Serbian and the Austrian team. The Dutch team we expect to be quite strong. We hope to play our best baseball and take home a good feeling that we did our best, whatever the outcome of the game is.”

The Swiss National Team takes on Team Holland B in its first game, which will begin at 10 a.m. local time, 5 a.m. (ET/US) April 13.

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