Despite losing a 2-1 heartbreaker to the Netherlands and suffering a 9-5 loss to Cuba during 2018 Haarlem Baseball Week playoffs at Pim Mulier Stadium in the Netherlands on July 20 and 21, Team Italy manager Gilberto "Gibo" Gerali must be proud of the Azzurri squad's historic 7-3 victory over Cuba and 3-1 win over Germany.
Team Italy patriarch Alessandro Maestri pitched seven solid innings against the Netherlands and allowed just one run and three hits while striking out nine batters on July 20. With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Italian skipper Gibo Gerali summoned closer Alex Bassani, who struck out the first two batters he faced and ended the inning with a flyout. He pitched too well to take the loss, but the Netherlands' unearned run in the bottom of the ninth inning was all it took for the Dutch to walk-off as the winners by a score of 2-1. Team Italy's lone run came in the top of the second inning when Alex Sambucci led off with a single and later scored on an RBI infield groundout by Mattia Mercuri.
The Azzurri tried to bounce back on July 21 against Cuba, but the Cubans battled with a vengeance having lost to the Italians earlier in the competition. Team Italy pitcher Andrea Pizziconi threw one inning to start the game, but then it was bullpen by committee for the remainder of the game. Mattia Aldegheri, Valerio Simone, Claudio Scotti, Gianfranco Rizzo, Nicolo Clemente, Filippo Crepaldi, and Angelo Palumbo all saw action during the contest.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning, Italian American slugger Chris Colabello homered to right field to tie the game 1-1. Cuba regained the lead in the top of the fourth inning by scoring one run. Team Italy came back to tie it up again in the bottom of the fourth inning after Alex Sambucci singled and later scored on an RBI single by Mattia Mercuri. The Cuba offense blasted off five runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a comfortable 7-2 lead. The Italians rallied for two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, but Cuba answered with two runs of their own in the top of the seventh inning to make it a 9-4 game. Team Italy made a valiant effort to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Alessandro Vaglio reached second base on an infield error followed by a fielding error. Then Leonardo Zileri, who had a great day at the plate going 4-for-5, doubled to bring Alessandro Vaglio; however, in the end Team Italy came up short losing by a score of 9-5.
With the losses to the Netherlands and Cuba, Team Italy finished Haarlem Baseball Week with a 2-5 record. The Azzurri played better than what the win-loss record indicates. Team Italy was nipped 1-0 by Japan in the extra-inning Haarlem Baseball Week opener, and later lost 4-3 to Chinese Taipei in extra-innings. Team Italy could have very well won either or both of those contests. Ironically, Japan and Chinese Taipei square off in the 2018 Haarlem Baseball Week Championship game on July 22 at 8 am (EDT). It won't be long before the Azzurri make it to the top based on the way they played against these baseball powerhouses... Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti