After winning five consecutive games and outscoring opponents 81-0, the Team Italy women’s softball squad began European Championship Pool F action with a battle against Euro rival the Netherlands under the lights in Ostrava, Czech Republic on July 2, 2019.
Azzurre captain Erika Piancastelli was out of the lineup after being listed day-to-day as a result of a wrist injury sustained while catching against Spain hours earlier. Having thrown a stellar six-inning shutout against Israel in the morning, ace Greta Cecchetti was not available to pitch in the evening contest. On this summer night in Team Italy’s third game of the day, the pitching staff was lean and fatigued. Lisa Birocci was summoned to the mound for the start by Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter. The Netherlands offense went right to work in the top of the first inning. Despite surrendering a home run and back-to-back singles, starting pitcher Lisa Birocci was very effective in mitigating the damage to only two runs as an ensuing double play and strikeout got the Italians out of a major jam.
Down 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning, cleanup hitter Lisa Birocci helped herself by leading off with a home run over the right field fence. The Azzurre threatened to rally for more when Giulia Longhi doubled, but she never crossed the plate and the score remained 2-1. The Dutch scored another run in the top of the third inning to take a 3-1 lead. Back-to-back singles from Laura Vigna and Marta Gasparotto presented an opportunity to score in the bottom of the third inning, but the Team Italy offense failed to answer in the bottom of the third inning.
Having thrown an impressive three-inning one-hitter against Ukraine on July 1, Alice Nicolini relieved Lisa Birocci in the top of the fourth inning. The Netherlands welcomed the pitching change and scored three runs to take a commanding 6-1 advantage. Alice Nicolini settled down in the late innings and held the Dutch scoreless for the rest of the game.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Italians made a valiant attempt to come from behind. Marta Gasparotto led off with a single and scored on an RBI double from pinch-hitter Andrea Howard. But the rally was short-lived, and Team Italy eventually lost the game 6-2.
The Azzurre squad now seeks revenge in a pair of games on Wednesday, July 3 against France at 2 pm (local time) and Greece at 8:45 pm (local time). The European Women’s Softball Championship continues through Saturday, July 6. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti