After annihilating Austria 10-1 on day three of the nine-day European Baseball Championship in Bonn, Germany, undefeated Team Italy beat Spain 13-3 on September 10, 2019 to guarantee the top-seed in Pool B with one game remaining in group play against Belgium on September 11 prior to the start of the quarterfinals. Team Italy improved its record to 4-0 while Pool B second-seed Spain dropped to 3-1.
On Monday, September 9 Team Italy manager Gilberto "Gibo" Gerali used an arsenal of four pitchers including Andrea Pizziconi, Mattia Aldegheri, Filippo Crepaldi, and Yomel Rivera to decimate Austria. The Azzurri offense demonstrated a solid one-two-three power punch at the plate with solo homers from Drew Maggi and John Andreoli coupled with a grand slam from Chris Colabello putting the game away for Team Italy.
Returning the following day for a contest against Spain, Italian skipper Gibo Gerali called on Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Luis Lugo. The crafty 25-year-old left-handed hurler entered the European Baseball Championship coming off his best season ever since being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2011. In eleven starts for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies, Luis Lugo was undefeated (6-0 with a 3.47 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 107 innings pitched). Spain countered with lefty Ricardo Hernandez, who many of the Azzurri hitters were familiar with from the time he spent in Italy pitching for Nettuno (2012) and Rimini (2016).
Team Italy got on the board early with two runs in the top of the first inning when a two-out rally ensued after Seattle Mariners property John Andreoli legged out a single into a double and slugger Chris Colabello clubbed a two-run home run over the center field fence. Another two-out Italian offensive outburst in the top of the third inning put the Italians in front 3-0. After back-to-back walks to John Andreoli and Chris Colabello, third baseman Giuseppe Mazzanti delivered an RBI single.
Starter Luis Lugo looked good on the mound going through the order and surrendering just one hit after three innings with three strikeouts and one walk. Toronto Blue Jays catching prospect Alberto Mineo, who comes off a strong season for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, called a good game behind the plate and played an even better game at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a single, double and three-run home run to his credit.
Spain scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it a 3-2 game. Team Italy answered in the top of the seventh inning with four runs. After Drew Maggi singled and Alessandro Vaglio reached first base on an infield error, Chris Colabello hit an RBI single. Then Giuseppe Mazzanti blasted a three-run home run into the last row of the left field bleachers.
With a runner on second base and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Luis Lugo was replaced by lefty reliever Michael Johnson, who could not get out of the inning without giving up one run. Azzurri starter Luis Lugo threw a total of 98 pitches and was responsible for one earned run on six hits with five strikeouts.
Team Italy put the game out of reach when adding six more runs in the top of the ninth inning to increase the lead to 13-3. Alessandro Vaglio settled for a leadoff double that reached the left field fence. John Andreoli followed with a single to left field. Then Team Italy manager Gibo Gerali called for a hit-and-run, which resulted in John Andreoli scoring from first base on an RBI single by Chris Colabello. The offensive rally continued when Erick Epifano singled to right field, and Alberto Mineo hit a three-run blast high into the trees in right-center field. The Azzurri cashed in on back-to-back walks to Federico Celli and Drew Maggi after team captain Alessandro Vaglio hit an RBI single to score the sixth run of the inning.
Team Italy closer Alex Bassani struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth inning to nail the coffin shut on Spain. The undefeated Azzurri baseball squad returns to the ballpark in Bonn on Wednesday, September 11 at 11 am for a game against Belgium (2-2). The 2019 European Baseball Championship continues through Sunday, September 15 and culminates with the European Baseball Championship final game at 7 pm. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen #RoadtoTokyo
by Roberto Angotti