Irish baseball stars now target Olympic qualification

By James O’Connor

Brian McAuliffe was named tournament MVP as Ireland beat Greece 12-2 to win men’s baseball European Championships and enter the race to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

McAuliffe led Ireland’s batting stats all week, and with the help of ‘best pitcher’ winner Keelan Smithers, Ireland went unbeaten in the first major European sanctioned baseball tournament hosted in Ireland.

Ireland now advance to the next round of European baseball qualifiers in 2019 and have an opportunity to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

Baseball Ireland PRO Adrian Kelly said: “Coming into the tournament all the teams looked pretty even with results and rankings, but we just produced our best stuff all week.

“The other teams weren’t bad, it’s just Ireland were on top form and didn’t miss a beat.

“Just under half of our players are playing in the indigenous league, which makes the win even more special. Having a high number of home-grown players combined with the high commitment of our foreign players worked really well.”

The games last week were not short on support either, with 1,000 plus spectators making the trip to the International Baseball Centre in Ashbourne.

The tournament also had over 100,000 views online as the games were live-streamed from the venue.

It’s been like a carnival all week up here at Ashbourne. Even though the final got delayed until 5pm on Saturday because of rain the fans came out in big numbers, and it’s a credit to our volunteers for making it run so smoothly.

“With our U18’s doing well too, the week has been a stepping stone for baseball here in Ireland. We’re ranked 54th in the world at the moment but we’ll make a significant jump. The week couldn’t have gone better.”

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