After thunder, lightening and a hailstorm shortened their game against Australia the day prior, sunny blue skies welcomed the Team Italy Juniors at Port Arthur Stadium prior to facing Chinese Taipei (ranked #4) in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U18 Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada on September 3, 2017.
Team Italy U18 skipper John Cortese and coaches Rolando Cretis, Stefano Cappuccini and Gianluca Marenghi prepared their spirited squad for their battle against the Asian powerhouse by arriving at the field in the early morning darkness before sunrise. Strength and conditioning coach Daniele Santolupo led the Azzurri players through a long series of stretches, sprints and exercises while FIBS delegation manager Fabrizio De Robbio, trainer Graziano Abbate, physician Guido Squarcia and WBSC technical commissioner Peter Caliendo watched intensely nearby.
Team Italy manager John Cortese sent out pitcher Giovanni Bortolamai with the daunting task of keeping an explosive Chinese Taipei in check. Although he surrendered two runs in the top of the first inning, the right-handed starter Giovanni Bortolamai kept his composure. The Azzurri Juniors came up to bat in the bottom of the first inning down 2-0. Shortstop Gabriele Angioi tried to jumpstart the Team Italy offense with a single to center field, but the Azzurri sparkplug could not do it alone as the Chinese Taipei pitching staff prohibited anyone from scoring.
Italy starting pitcher Giovanni Bortolamai returned to the mound in the second inning with poise and kept Chinese Taipei off the board until the third inning when they chalked up three more runs to take a 5-0 advantage. He was replaced by reliever Tommaso Battioni, who got out the first Chinese Taipei batter he faced to end the top of the third inning. Tommaso Battioni, just as he had done earlier in the 12-country international tournament pitching in relief against Nicaragua, kept hitters off the bases in the fourth inning. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Azzurri catcher Riccardo Bertossi hit a home run over the left field fence for Team Italy's first and only run of the game to made it a 5-1 ballgame.
Relief pitcher Tommaso Battioni went back to work and threw scoreless fifth and sixth innings to keep Team Italy in the contest. Leadoff hitter Tommaso Giarola walked to start a potential Team Italy rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. Riccardo Bertossi later reached first base on a fielder's choice. Cleanup hitter Leonardo Seminati then followed with single to center field. With runners on the corners, right fielder Ricardo Paolini grounded out to end the inning. Lefty pitcher Davide Novello took over for Tommaso Battioni on the hill and did not give up a run to Chinese Taipei in the seventh or eight inning. In the bottom of the eight inning, it looked like Team Italy was in rally mode when designated hitter Giulio Da Re reached first on an infield single and Riccardo Bertossi doubled to left field. Despite having two men in scoring position, Team Italy fell short of scoring any runs.
Reliever Davide Novello came back to pitch in the top of the ninth, but when two men reached base he was replaced by Samuel Aldegheri. After Chinese Taipei scored two runs to take a 7-1 lead, Team Italy manager called on utility infielder Ricardo Paolini to pitch out of a bases loaded jam. Unfortunately, the ball hit by the Chinese Taipei batter was just out of the reach of first baseman Leonardo Seminati to drive in two more runs. Trailing 9-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Filippo Daddi singled, but the burden for Team Italy was too great for a miraculous comeback.
Regardless of the 9-1 final score, Team Italy U18 manager John Cortese knew his squad played their best game against Chinese Taipei. With the loss in today's game for Team Italy (1-2), the Italians get ready for their next challenge against host Canada (ranked #10) at Port Arthur Stadium on September 4, 2017. Forza #Italia #U18WorldCup #ThunderBay2017
by Roberto Angotti