With a lone victory over Nicaragua in the opening round of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U18 Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, Team Italy Juniors (1-4) begin play in the Consolation Round of the 12-country international tournament from September 7-9, 2017. The Azzurri kick off the first of three final games of the tourney with a battle against winless South Africa (0-5) at Baseball Central on September 7 at 2 pm. Team Italy returns to face Mexico (1-4) on September 8 at 9:30 am and plays their final game of the 2017 WBSC U18 Baseball World Cup against the Netherlands (2-3) on September 9 at 6 pm.
Team Italy has demonstrated their ability and talent on both offense and defense during the 10-day competition. Azzurri first baseman Leonardo Seminati--a promising Cincinnati Reds prospect known for his power--has put up some impressive numbers in the 2017 U18 World Cup. The Italian team captain and slugger's performance so far has made him a top 10 hitter in several categories: two home runs (ranked #1), 13 total bases (ranked #4), .765 slugging percentage (ranked #5), seven hits (ranked #7) and .412 batting average (ranked #11). Teammate Riccardo Bertossi has also raked at the plate to qualify for U18 World Cup top 10 status. The Team Italy third baseman and catcher, who has a .368 batting average during the tourney, has 14 total bases (ranked #2), a .737 slugging percentage (ranked #6), seven hits (ranked #7) and one home run (ranked #8).
Team Italy shortstop Gabriele Angioi, who has a .333 batting average and six hits (ranked #11), has not only been an offensive sparkplug but more importantly a defensive magnet. On the field, his 16 assists (ranked #1) lead the U18 World Cup. Coupled with his five double plays (ranked #2), Gabriele Angioi is undoubtedly one of the biggest surprises in the 50-game tournament.
Azzurri pitcher Michele Vassalotti (1-0, 3.00 ERA), a prized Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect who grew up in Venezuela, has dominated hitters in the U18 World Cup. In his one start against Nicaragua, the right-handed hurler threw six innings and struck out eight batters. Team Italy reliever Tommaso "Bulldog" Battioni has made two appearances so far in the U18 World Cup. His 6.1 innings of work in two games has been lights out (1 save, 0.00 ERA).
Expect Italy to pour heart and soul into the U18 Baseball World Cup Consolation Round. Team Italy manager John Cortese along with coaches Rolando Cretis, Stefano Cappuccini and Gianluca Marenghi know the 20-man Azzurri roster is capable of sweeping their final three games. With a win over Nicaragua and a loss to Chinese Taipei--both of which are in the U18 World Cup Consolation Round--Team Italy enters the competition with a 1-1 record. Based on how well the Italians performed in their last two games against Canada and Korea--two nations that advanced to the Super Round--the U18 squad is primed to make a lasting impression in Thunder Bay, Canada.
by Roberto Angotti