Led by new Azzurri manager Gilberto Gerali, Team Italy took down the Netherlands 3-2 in the opening game of the three-game European Baseball Series in front of a sold-out crowd at Gavagnin Stadium in Verona (Veneto) on Friday, October 20, 2017. Having pitched in all World Baseball Classic competitions since its inception in 2006 as well as in Minor League Baseball (Chicago Cubs 2006-2011), Team Italy patriarch Alessandro Maestri was called upon by skipper Gilberto Gerali to suppress their European rivals. The right-handed hurler limited the Netherlands to just two hits and one run in five complete innings of work on the mound. Although deserving of the win for his dominant pitching with six strikeouts, Team Italy’s Alessandro Maestri did not factor in the decision. Crafty lefty reliever Yomel Rivera was the winning pitcher after keeping the Netherlands off-balance for two scoreless innings. Team Italy closer and Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospect Ludovico Coveri struck out two in two innings of relief to pick up the save.
Italian American slugger Nicola Garbella, who grew up in La Jolla, California and played baseball at Palomar College and Cal State Northridge before joining the Italian Baseball League, was the hero of game one of the European Baseball Series. With Team Italy trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, 'Nico' Garbella hit a home run of the right field fence to tie the game 1-1. In his next at-bat in the bottom of the sixth inning with one out, he singled to center field. During his successful attempt to steal second base, Nico Garbella reached third base on the throwing error to second base by the Netherlands catcher. He then scored when Alex Sambucci singled to give Team Italy a slim 2-1 advantage.
Alex Sambucci also scored that inning after a pair of singles from Alberto Mineo and Mattia Reginato to give the Azzurri the 3-1 lead. The Netherlands fought back in the top of the ninth inning and scored one run to make it a 3-2 game. The Dutch threatened for more with baserunners on first and third with two out, but relief pitcher Ludovico Coveri got the job done to give Gilberto Gerali his first victory as the new Team Italy manager. Congratulations to ‘Gibo’ Gerali and coaches John Cortese, Rolando Cretis, Alberto D'Auria, Claudio Liverziani and Paolo Da Re.
The 2017 European Baseball Series continues throughout the weekend. The tourney travels to Godo's Casadio Stadium for game two on Saturday night, October 21 before the final match on Sunday afternoon, October 22 at Codogno's Comunale Stadium. Forza #Italia in the #EuropeanBaseballSeries!
by Roberto Angotti