Starting the day with a game against Great Britain, Team Italy was determined to give a valiant effort to defend the throne as Euro champion. This match would determine which would team would face the Netherlands in the final game of the 2017 European Women’s Softball Championship in Bollate (Milan). After the Italians defeated the Brits 8-1 and before the first pitch against the Netherlands, pitching coach Lisa Birocci Banse expressed her appreciation and pride for Team Italy and her players’ accomplishments during the weeklong international competition. She said, “The last day of a tournament is all about guts and the mental side of the game. It has been a long week, but we have persevered thus far. I have full confidence our team will give us everything they have tonight.”
Bollate Stadium was sold-out as 2,000 devoted European softball fanatics cheered on the two powerhouse squads. In their quest for revenge, Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter sent out pitcher Greta Cecchetti, who had limited the Dutch to just one run in Italy’s 1-0 loss the previous day. Unfortunately, Obletter had to take her out of the game early in the first inning when the Netherlands’ offensive attack began. Pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani was called upon in relief, but the relentless Dutch battled to score a total of three runs in the first inning. They added another run in the second inning to take a 4-0 lead over Team Italy. The Italians fought back in the third inning when Marta Gasparotto walked. An RBI double down the third base line by Erika Piancastelli brought Gasparotto home to give Team Italy their first and only run of the game. The Netherlands answered with another two runs in the bottom of the third inning to make it a 6-1 ballgame. The Dutch scored an insurance run in the fifth inning to widen their 7-1 advantage. Team Italy pitcher Alice Nicolini closed out the game, but the undefeated Netherlands (12-0) prevailed as the winner of the 2017 European Women’s Softball Championship.
Although Italy was unable to repeat their role as Euro champions, they placed second in the 23-country international tournament and thereby qualified for the Softball World Championship in Tokyo next year. Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter must now take his U19 squad to the 12th Annual WBSC Junior Women’s Softball Championship in Clearwater, Florida from July 24-30, 2017. Among players on the Italian National Team who are also listed on the U19 Team Italy roster, Laura Vigna would especially like to get back at the Netherlands by beating the Dutch in the upcoming Junior Women’s Softball Championship. Florida ranks fifth in U.S. states with the highest population of Italian Americans so Team Italy can expect a warm welcome when they arrive in Clearwater. Forza Italia!
by Roberto Angotti