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Team Italy defeats Germany 7-5 and moves on to European Baseball Championship Semifinals

Team Italy kicked off the European Baseball Championship playoffs in Bonn, Germany with a 7-5 walk-off victory over Germany on September 13, 2019 to advance to the semifinals. The Azzurri squad came back from a 5-0 deficit in the bottom of the fifth inning to inch back into the game inning-by-inning until a walkoff two-run home run by Toronto Blue Jays catching prospect Alberto Mineo gave the Italians the 7-5 win.

Azzurri manager Gilberto "Gibo" Gerali summoned his ace starting pitcher Alessandro Maestri, who surrendered four runs in the top of the first inning before settling down and pitching a scoreless second inning. Team Italy was unable to capitalize on back-to-back singles by third baseman Giuseppe Mazzanti and score in the bottom of the second inning. Germany added another run in the top of the third inning to take a commanding 5-0 lead.

The Azzurri offense finally came to life in the bottom of the fifth inning. Designated hitter Mattia Reginato led off with a walk. Then former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Federico Celli drilled a line drive deflected by the pitcher, who was unsuccessful in his attempt to get the force out at second base. A sacrifice fly to deep center field by Drew Maggi allowed both runners to get into scoring position. Then Azzurri captain Alessandro Vaglio delivered a two-run single to make it a 5-2 game.

Team Italy slugger Chris Colabello led off the top of the sixth inning with a solo homer into the shrubs in right field. Third baseman Giuseppe Mazzanti followed with a double, his third hit of the game. Then catcher Alberto Mineo had a great at-bat and fouled off pitches until he was granted a walk. With runners on first and second base, designated hitter Mattia Reginato hit a bunt single to load the bases for right fielder Federico Celli. He hit a sacrifice fly which allowed Giuseppe Mazzanti to cross the plate. An infield single by Sebastiano Poma loaded the bases for Drew Maggi, who hit a sacrifice fly to bring Alberto Mineo home to tie the game 5-5.

Italian skipper Gibo Gerali called for lefty reliever Michael Johnson in the top of the seventh inning to replace starter Alessandro Maestri, who gave up five runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. The Italian American left-handed pitcher struck out the side, which included former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Donald Lutz. Michael Johnson returned to pitch a scoreless top of the eighth inning.

Team Italy missed out a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out Federico Celli walked. A flyout to right field by Sebastiano Poma was out number two. Then Federico Celli advanced to third base on a single by Drew Maggi. With runners on the corners, Alessandro Vaglio grounded out to end the inning.

Reliever Michael Johnson came back for his third inning of work in the bottom of the ninth inning and held the Germans scoreless with two more strikeouts, including the second and final punchout of Donald Lutz. Team Italy put the game away in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two out, Giuseppe Mazzanti walked. He was replaced by speedy pinch runner Aldo Koutsoyanopulos. Alberto Mineo followed with a dramatic walk-off two-run home run just over the center field fence to make it a 7-5 final score.

Team Italy (6-0) returns to Bonn to play against Israel (5-1) in the European Baseball Championship semifinals on Saturday, September 14 at 7 pm. Netherlands (5-1) and Spain (5-1) clash in the other European Baseball Championship semifinal prior to the Italian game beginning at 3 pm. The winners of both contests will meet in the European Baseball Championship final on Sunday, September 15 at 7 pm with the battle for the bronze immediately preceding the championship game at 3 pm. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen

by Roberto Angotti

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