A sold-out G. Gregoret Stadium filled to the brim with over eleven hundred screaming softball enthusiasts in Ronchi dei Legionari cheered Team Italy to victory with a 7-3 win over Ireland to capture the U19 Women's Softball European Championship on July 21, 2018. Not only did playing in the final game of the week-long international tournament in Staranzano give the hometown crowd the thrill of watching the Azzurre win it all on their home soil, but it also qualified Team Italy to compete in the U19 World Cup in Irvine, California from August 11-18, 2019.
Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter along with coaches Federico Pizzolini and Marco Villani did a tremendous job in preparing the promising U19 squad for combat in the Euros. With the win over Ireland, Team Italy finished the tourney with an impressive record of 10-1. Italian skipper Enrico Obletter put his trust in starter Alexia Lacatena. By no stretch of the imagination was it a leap of faith as the 15-year-old pitching sensation had just shut out the Irish just two days prior. By limiting Ireland to two earned runs in 4.1 innings of work in the Euro Championship final, Alexia Lacatena improved her record to 6-0 during the tourney. Perhaps the unsung hero of the game was closer Susanna Soldi, who shut the door by throwing 2.2 scoreless innings and earned her second save of the competition.
The Team Italy offense got busy in the bottom of the first inning. Back-to-back singles from Laura Vigna and Susanna Soldi led to a sacrifice bunt from Andrea Howard to put the baserunners into scoring position. An RBI infield groundout by Elisa Princic gave Team Italy a 1-0 lead. When Ireland scored two runs in the top of the third inning, the Azzurre women were down by one run; however the Irish lead was short-lived as Team Italy tied the game up 2-2 in the bottom of the third inning when a leadoff single by Laura Vigna turned into a two-bagger due to an outfield error, and Susanna Soldi drove her in with an RBI single.
The Team Italy offense picked up the pace in the bottom of the fourth inning by scoring three runs to regain the lead. The rally began after a walk to Sofia Fabbian was followed by singles from Alessandra Rotondo and Laura Vigna. A productive RBI groundout by Susanna Soldi, and a two-RBI single from Andrea Howard gave the Azzurre a 5-2 advantage. Ireland scored a run in the top of the fifth inning to make it a 5-3 game. The Italians were gifted an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth inning after Sara Cianfriglia singled and later scored on a series of errors. Team Italy got an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth inning when Laura Vigna hit an inside the park home run to put the game out of reach 7-3. Congratulations to the entire Azzurre U19 squad on a job well done... Forza #Italia! LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti