The International Stars came to the 2014 Prague Baseball Week reloaded and ready to defend their 2013 Championship. Returning players from 2013 included Jason Daniels, Rob Herrmann, Matt Martin, Brandon Marshall, Julius Spann, and Czech legend Pavel Budsky and were reinforced by 21 new players hailing from 8 different countries (America, Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, The Netherlands, Curaco, Russia) and playing in 9 different leagues across Europe (Austria, Czech, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia).
Two players (Scotty Mulhearn and Eric Brenk) were sidelined with last second injuries and so once again the Stars had to reinforce the roster with late additions that included Alex Lee and Ruben Manriquez who played HUGE roles during the tournament.
In the very first match-up on national TV, the Czech National Team faced the Stars in a rematch from the 2013 PBW Championship Game. The Czechs, led by Head Coach Mike Griffin and preparing for the 2014 European National Championships to take place later that season, came out fired up and crushed the Stars 11-4.
Just as they had the previous year, the Stars were looking at needing to win-out and a bit of luck in order to qualify for the championship game. All the boys needed was a few good nights out in the Prague night life to get things going and it showed by rebounding against the Russian National Team with a clean 10-0 win. The Stars then played the Czech Juniors (Under-21) in a hard fought 13-9 win.
Needing one more win to get back to the championship game, the Stars breezed by the USSSA team, made up of select high school players from the U.S., on Saturday morning and setting up a rematch of the 2013 championship against the Czech National Team.
With about half of the roster having to leave prior to the Saturday evening Championship Game because many of the players had to be back to their home clubs for Sunday league matches, the Stars were down to 16 players and going up against a full stacked and healthy Czech National Team. The Stars were able to make a last minute addition by adding Russian RHP Nikita Lobanov for reinforcements, but they were still undermanned in the bullpen and without any depth in the field. In a steady drizzle the International Stars were paced by starting RHP Steven Chambers from Australia. Chambers was magnificent, a veteran of the Czech Extra-League he worked with his battery mate, Przemyslaw Paluch from Poland (who was also playing in the Czech Extra-League for Ostrava) to keep the Czechs off-balance with an assortment of pitches and late moving high 80s fastball.
After Chambers went 6 strong innings, giving up 1 earned run and striking out 4, the Stars turned to Dutch LHP Rick van Dijck for a 1 inning Hold, and then to their Team MVP, Jake Rabinowitz, playing in Europe for his first time with the local Tempo Titans from Prague. Rabinowitz (who was also the HR derby representative for the Stars) got the 2 inning save and got out of a jam in the 9th, with the tying run up to the plate and 2 men on, Rabinowitz yielded a deep fly to the warning track that was caught to preserve the exhilarating victory and allowed the Stars to repeat as Prague Baseball Week Champions.
Alex Lee won the Best Batter Award by hitting .462 in 5 games, with a .632 OBP, and 5 RBI’s – including 2 in the Championship game.
Steven Chambers won the Best Pitcher Award mostly for his work in the Finals but he had an overall E.R.A. of 1.29 for the tournament in 7 innings of work – yielding just 4 hits and 2 walks and striking out 6.
Other standout performers included:
Pavel Budsky (Czech) – Draci Brno – Czech Extra-Leauge: .375 AVG, 1 HR, 2B, 4 RBI, .500 OBP in 3 games
Matt Martin (USA) – Paderborn Untouchables – German Bundesliga: .313 AVG, 2 2B, 5 RBI in 5 games
Jake Rabinowitz (USA) – Tempo Titans – Czech Exra-League: .333 AVG, 1 HR, 2B, 4 RBI, 2-2 SB, and championship game Save on the mound in 4 games played
Daniel Schmidt (Austrlia) – Oosterhout Twins – Dutch Overgangsklasse: 0.00 ERA, 5 K, 0 BB, and 1 win in 2 appearances (1 start) and 5.1 IP
Will Musson (USA) – Montpellier Barracudas – French Elite League: 0.00 ERA, 2 K, 0 BB, 0 Hits in 2.1 IP and 3 appearances
Check the 2014 Prague Baseball Week highlights from Czech National TV here: