Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter along with coaches Federico Pizzolini and Marco Villani are preparing for the U19 Women's Softball European Championship in Staranzano, Italy from July 16-21, 2018. Accompanying the Azzurre squad are delegation manager Daniela Castellani, physician Lorenzo Raffo, and physical therapist Elio Paolini. Having traveled to Australia for the 2018 Asia Pacific Cup, battled the USSSA Pride and played against Venezuela recently, leading ladies Laura Vigna and Alessandra Rotondo headline an Azzurre roster of both familiar and new faces.
Italian American slugger Andrea Howard returns to the Azzurre squad after making her presence felt in the 2017 WBSC U19 Women's Softball World Championship in Clearwater, Florida. Team Italy skipper Enrico Obletter said, "Andrea Howard, the New Mexico native from Albuquerque, is an important player. She played a very good freshman season with the University of New Mexico Lobos this year. Andrea is a kid with a lot of talent and a booming bat. I say if all goes well, and we get a wink from Lady Luck...this U19 team will go a long way." In her first year of collegiate softball at UNM, Andrea Howard was second in team batting average (.313), slugging percentage (.543), home runs (7), and walks (23).
Among the new faces on the young and talented squad is New Jersey native Alexia Lacatena. Enrico Obletter said, "One newcomer is a very interesting pitcher in Alexia Lacatena, a recent addition to the U19 and U22 teams. Being only 15 says a lot about this kid who has verbally committed to the University of Kentucky for 2020." In her freshman year at Lenape Valley High School, Alexia Lacatena was impressive with a 23-4 record this season with 285 strikeouts (10.6 per game) and a miniscule 0.83 ERA. Her strikeout (285) to walk (22) ratio was best in the state (12.95). She pitched one of the best starts of her young career against Kittatinny High School when she threw a no-hitter and registered 15 strikeouts with one error separating her from a perfect game on April 23, 2018. On the following day, Alexia Lacatena tossed a two-hit gem and batted for the cycle to lead Lenape Valley to a 12-0 shutout over High Point. The freshman phenomenon pitched a complete game with 10 strikeouts and no walks in the winning effort. She also went 4-for-4 and batted for the cycle with three RBI and three runs scored.
Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter will be asking a lot from his pitching staff in the 2018 U19 Women's Softball European Championship as the squad with be playing four games during the first two days of the international competition. The Italians face Spain during the day and battle Euro rival the Netherlands under the lights on July 16, 2018. Then Team Italy returns for two more games against Israel and Ukraine on the following day. "Pitching will be paramount, and I can see us doing some patchwork to get through games. Our first day is not the easiest, having a doubleheader and having to play against one the favorites--Holland--in the second game," said Obletter. The Team Italy skipper would like to win 2018 U19 Women's Softball European Championship, but he sees the bigger picture. Enrico Obletter said, "Winning would be important but not vital to our softball world as 2020 Olympic Qualification is our number one goal.The U19 team serves as a trampoline for those players wanting to be a part of Team Italy. Those players that do well in that category have a good chance of making the 2020 Olympic Team Italy squad. Pitching and defense is always the key to winning championships, and it will be no different in Staranzano. However, Holland, Great Britain, Czech Republic, and Russia are only a few of the powerhouse teams there wanting to win. It will be a great tournament in my mind. We go to the Euro Champioship in Staranzano very confident knowing that we are going to be tough to beat."
The following Team Italy players have been selected to compete in the 2018 U19 Women's Softball European Championship: Chiara Bassi, SS (USG Collecchio), Chiara Biasi, P (La Loggia Softball), Marta Chiodaroli, INF (Bollate Softball), Sara Cianfriglia, 3B (Bussolengo), Alessia Colonna, 1B (USG Collecchio), Francesca Cumero, C (Thunders & Dragons - Stars Ronchi), Elisa De Trombetti, 2B (Bussolengo - San Martino Junior), Sofia Fabbian, OF (Thunders & Dragons), Andrea Howard, 1B/OF (Bussolengo), Alexia Lacatena, P (Caserta Baseball & Softball Academy), Chiara Marazzi, P/OF (Bollate Softball), Luna Oliveti, OF (Pianoro Softball), Elisa Princic, C/SS/OF (Bussolengo), Alessandra Rotondo, C/2B (Saronno Softball), Susanna Soldi, 1B/OF/P (Bussolengo), Giorgia Telo, P (Cali Roma Girls), and Laura Vigna, OF (Bussolengo). Team Italy reserves include: Sara Brugnoli (Saronno Softball), Sara Camisasca (Bollate Softball), Giorgia Migliorini (Old Parma) and Arianna Nicolini (Saronno Softball). Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti