A sold-out Gianni Falchi Stadium crowd in Bologna witnessed history as UnipolSai Bologna beat prevously undefeated L&D Amsterdam 8-0 on June 8, 2019 to regain possession of the European Champions Cup from the Dutch on Italian soil. UnipolSai Bologna starter Raoul Rivera (7.2 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 walk and 14 strikeouts), recipient of an emotional standing ovation from the Bolognese faithful upon his exit from the game, was supported by his strong Fortitudo offense to earn the victory.
To get to the the European Champions Cup final, UnipolSai Bologna had to dethrone Curacao Neptunus, last year's Euro Champions Cup winner, in the semifinals on June 7 by a score of 10 to 3. UnipolSai Bologna manager manager Daniele Frignani called on starting pitcher Stephen Perakslis, a former Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners prospect, who dominated hitters and picked up the win (7.2 innings pitched, two hits, one unearned run, one walk, and seven strikeouts). Fortitudo reliever Alex Basani closed out the game and limited the Dutch team to just one hit with two strikeouts. Curacao Neptunus ended up settling for third place in the eight-team international tournament after a 9-0 shutout over Parma Clima in the battle for the bronze prior to the Euro Champions Cup final.
After more than a 30-year absence, Fortitudo Baseball welcomed the return of the European Champions Cup to Bologna. Having previously claimed the European Champions Cup trophy in 1973, 1985, 2010, 2012 and 2013, it was a very special night for UnipolSai Bologna to pick up its sixth European Champions Cup title. The defending Italian Serie A1 Champion got on the board early in the top of the second inning when the relentless Fortitudo offense scored four runs off L&D Amsterdam starting pitcher Kevin Heijstek. Unipolsai Bologna cleanup hitter Osman Marval doubled and scored on an RBI single by Team Italy captain Alessandro Vaglio. A single by designated hitter Eladio Russo and a walk to Alessandro Grimaudo loaded the bases for third baseman Francesco Fuzzi. The hot-hitting infielder knocked in all three runners with a double down the left field and put UnipolSai Bologna up 4-0.
The Fortitudo rally contined in the top of fourth inning when UnipolSai Bologna tacked on two more runs. After back-to-back singles by Francesco Fuzzi and Nick Nosti, Jose Ferrini reached on a fielder's choice when Francesco Fuzzi was called out at home. Shortstop Johnatan Polonius followed with a two-RBI triple to give UnipolSai Bologna a 6-0 advantage. The Italian squad added the first of two insurances runs in the top of the fifth inning when center fielder Ericson Leonora led off with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Alessandro Grimaudo. UnipolSai Bologna padded the 7-0 lead in the top of the eight inning after Joe Ferrini tripled and scored on an RBI double by Osman Marvel to make it a 8-0 game.
Not only did UnipolSai Bologna ultimately succeed in winning the Euro Champions Cup, but the team's best players received the tourney's top honors. UnipolSai Bologna hurler Stephen Perakslis (10 innings pitched, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, three hits, one walk, and nine strikeouts) was named the 2019 European Champions Cup Best Pitcher while UnipolSai Bologna slugger Osman Marval (6-for-14, .429 batting average, two doubles, one triple, one home run, one walk, and seven RBI) took home the 2019 European Champions Cup MVP Award. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti