After holding Spain and Switzerland scoreless in previous contests at the European Women’s Softball Championship in Bollate (Milan), Italy, Team Italy pitching was put to the test to keep their shutout streak alive in three back-to-back games against Croatia, France and Greece on June 27, 2017. With stellar pitching performances by Greta Cecchetti, who tossed a perfect game on opening night versus Spain, and Alice Nicolini, who held the Swiss to two petty hits the day before, Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter and pitching coach Lisa Birocci Bansi called on pitcher Veronica Comar to get the job done against Croatia. Comar came out firing from the start and never looked back by pitching a no-hitter while striking out four batters and allowing just two walks. Italian skipper Obletter used small ball strategy to set up big rallies in their 14-0 mercy rule four-inning route over Croatia.
Team Italy’s offense came alive in the second inning when Elisa Cecchetti singled up the middle. Manager Obletter signaled for Lara Cecchetti and Laura Vigna to bunt for base hits to load the bases. A wild pitch allowed the first run to score and baserunners to advance to second and third. With first base open, Obletter surprised the Croatia infield by calling for another bunt from Fabrizia Marrone to load the bases for slugger Erika Piancastelli. The NCAA All-American Piancastelli responded with a grand slam to give Team Italy a 5-0 lead. The offensive charge continued after Marta Gasparotto walked and Beatrice Ricchi doubled to bring Gasparotto home. Ricchi later scored on Ambra Collina’s RBI to give Team Italy a 7-0 advantage going into the third inning. The Italians put the game away when they scored an addition seven runs in the bottom of the third. Among the outstanding offensive performances by many of the Team Italy players was the effort of leadoff hitter Laura Vigna, who went a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Team Italy faced a very competitive French squad in the second contest of their trio of games. Both teams were undefeated prior to the first pitch and were guaranteed to advance in the 2017 European Women’s Softball Championship regardless of the outcome. With Team Italy outscoring their opponents 29-0 in their first three games of the competition, pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani was summoned to secure Italy’s fourth consecutive shutout. Sparkplug Laura Vigna wasted no time in getting the Team Italy rally going in the top of the first inning with a single to center field followed by a steal of second base. Priscilla Brandi then blasted a home run to give Team Italy an early 2-0 lead.
A walk to Erika Piancastelli and a single by Beatrice Ricchi led to an additional two runs to give Italian pitcher Cacciamani a comfortable 4-0 advantage over France. Priscilla Brandi scored again on a sacrifice by Giulia Longhi in the third inning to give Italy a 5-0 lead. Team Italy tacked on some insurance in the fourth inning when Lara Buila doubled and later scored on a Laura Vigna bunt, which induced an infield error and resulted in an unearned run to make it 6-0. Team Italy’s Ilaria Cacciamani did the rest by pitching a three-hit shutout against France and striking out seven batters in seven innings of play.
With the victory over the French, Team Italy advanced to the second round of the round-robin tournament and faced Greece, runner-up to the Netherlands (5-0) in their respective bracket. Under lights and cloudy skies, 2017 European Championship host Team Italy received encouragement and support from hundreds of hardcore Italian softball fans prior to the first pitch. Italy manager Enrico Obletter once again called on his pitching ace Greta Cecchetti to shut down Greece. Cecchetti did not disappoint as the hurler did not allow a Greek baserunner until the sixth inning. Her commanding two-hit shutout performance with 10 strikeouts coupled with a Team Italy run by pinch-runner Lara Buila in the fourth inning and an RBI double by Erika Piancastelli, which brought home Laura Vigna for a second run in the fifth inning, was all it took for Italy to defeat Greece 2-0.
With this win, Italy (5-0) has outscored their opponents by a score of 45-0. Team Italy plays a pair of games against Sweden (4-1) on June 28th and Great Britain (5-0) on June 29th in their ascent up the tournament ladder to eventually reach the European Softball Championship finals, which will be played on July 1, 2017. Forza Italia!
by Roberto Angotti