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Stuttgart’s Caiden Ray hits his second double against Wiesbaden in the team’s opening game of the tournament at the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships.

Stuttgart’s Caiden Ray hits his second double against Wiesbaden in the team’s opening game of the tournament at the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

RAMSTEIN, Germany – Championship-level baseball has returned to Germany, with 16 Division I, II, and III teams opening the DODEA-Europe baseball championships Thursday.

Two years of coronavirus-induced cancellations has been a sore spot for many of the teams as they were unable to give players the satisfaction of playing high school baseball.

“This has been fantastic, especially after having a full year of just practice,” Ramstein coach Alfredo Rios said. “These kids were definitely ready to go.”

The majority of teams playing in the 2022 tournament have one thing in common: teams are comprised of a majority of underclassmen.

“It’s really good getting young players who can come up in a program early on and help develop it from the ground up,” Lakenheath coach Gabe Feletar said. “Win or lose, getting these kids experience and building on that for the future is great.”

Ramstein second baseman Donovan Kaya fields a ground ball and throws to first against the Vilseck Falcons in the team’s second game of the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships.

Ramstein second baseman Donovan Kaya fields a ground ball and throws to first against the Vilseck Falcons in the team’s second game of the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

Rota’s Ethan Zehr rounds first after hitting a line drive in the left center field gap against  Naples in the team’s second game of the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships.

Rota’s Ethan Zehr rounds first after hitting a line drive in the left center field gap against Naples in the team’s second game of the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

Aviano Saints starting pitcher Steven Scavo goes through his windup in the team’s first game against the Rota Admirals at the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships.

Aviano Saints starting pitcher Steven Scavo goes through his windup in the team’s first game against the Rota Admirals at the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

All teams were placed in a blind draw and faced off against random opponents in two placement games Thursday. The teams were then re-seeded based on their performances and were placed in a single- elimination bracket starting Friday and ending Saturday.

The top performers Thursday for Division I were Ramstein and Wiesbaden, which were both undefeated their games landing them the No. 1 and No. 2 seed respectively. For Division II/III, Sigonella and Naples landed the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, also going undefeated in their placement games.

Ramstein defeated Lakenheath 21-1 and Vilseck 10-2, while Wiesbaden edged Stuttgart 2-1 and thumped SHAPE 27-1. Sigonella routed Hohenfels 22-1 and edged Alconbury 7-6, while Naples topped Aviano 10-4 and Rota 9-4.

Kaiserslautern’s Bryson Lokey throws a strike in the team’s opening game of the tournament at the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships.

Kaiserslautern’s Bryson Lokey throws a strike in the team’s opening game of the tournament at the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

Vilseck shortstop Michael VanGilder fields a ground ball and throws to first during the team’s opening game of the tournament at the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships.

Vilseck shortstop Michael VanGilder fields a ground ball and throws to first during the team’s opening game of the tournament at the 2022 DODEA-Europe baseball championships. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

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Kyle Alvarez covers the U.S. military in England. He graduated from Berry College in Rome, Ga., with a degree in public relations.
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