After UnipolSai Bologna pitcher Raul Rivero threw a four-hitter with 12 strikeouts and two walks in eight innings of work, closer Stephen Perakslis added two more strikeouts to the delight of the Fortitudo faithful in order to preserve a 4-0 shutout and complete a three-game sweep over home team San Marino in the Italian Baseball Series on August 20, 2019. With the victory, the two-time defending Serie A1 Italian Baseball Champion Bologna won its 12th national championship title, and Venezuelan-born hurler Raul Rivero was named the 2019 Italian Baseball Series Most Valuable Player.
Winners of the 2019 Champions Cup, UnipolSai Bologna has proven to be the powerhouse of European baseball. During the Serie A1 regular season, the team was undefeated on their home turf (12-0) and went 21-3 overall. In the semifinals, resilient UnipolSai Bologna lost the first two games to Parma Clima but perservered to win three straight in order to advance to the Italian Baseball Series final against San Marino.
Many of the Team Italy baseball all-stars are on the UnipolSai Bologna roster. Azzurri captain Alessandro Vaglio is the most decorated players on the squad. He hit .329 during the regular season. Teammate Jose Ferrini led Bologna in hits (33), walks (13), batting average (.379) and on-base percentage (.451). In the pitching department, Team Italy's Alex Bassani and Murilo Brolo Gouvea led the squad with 12 appearances during the regular season. Both Raul Rivero and Alex Bassani won four games while Murilo Brolo Gouvea was close behind with three victories in addition to his team-leading four saves. Team Italy pitchers Filippo Crepaldi, Claudio Scotti, and Andrea Pizziconi registered two wins during the regular season.
Perhaps one of the unsung heroes of this Bologna team is Italian American pitcher Nick Pugliese. Many Azzurri fans may recall his name from the 2013 World Baseball Classic. With Team Italy trailing by one run in the World Baseball Classic opener at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 7, 2013, Mexico’s Adrian Gonzalez singled in the bottom of the seventh inning. Manager Marco Mazzieri summomed Nick Pugliese from the bullpen to get his squad out of a jam to end the inning and keep Team Italy in the game. The Florida native got Mexico’s Jorge Cantu to ground out and end the scoring threat. The former Los Angeles Angels minor leaguer held Mexico scoreless in the eighth inning to set the table for closer Jason Grilli, who saved Nick Pugliese’s first career WBC victory after Team Italy scored twice on Mexico's Sergio Romo in the top of the ninth inning to win the game 6-5. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti