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Team Italy beats Israel 7-6 and advances to European Baseball Championship Final

Team Italy prevailed in the European Baseball Championship Semifinals in Bonn, Germany with a 7-6 win over Israel on September 14, 2019 to advance to the European Baseball Championship Final. Team Italy came back from a 6-4 deficit to score three runs in the top of the eighth inning after Chris Colabello clubbed his fifth consecutive home run in as many games and Alberto Mineo slammed a two-run no doubter to the deepest part of center field.

In the other semifinal game, Euro rival Netherlands narrowly defeated Spain 1-0 to earn the right to face Team Italy in the European Baseball Championship Final on September 15 at 7 pm. Spain and Israel will battle for the bronze immediately preceeding the Euro championship final game at at 3 pm.

Team Italy manager Gilberto "Gibo" Gerali put his trust in right-handed starting pitcher Murilo Gouvea, who gave up back-to-back singles in the bottom of the second inning but ended the inning on a high note with a strikeout. He pitched a scoreless third inning before being relieved by lefty Yomel Rivera in the bottom of the fourth inning.

The Team Italy offense went to work in the top of the third inning with a four-run rally. Azzurri captain Alessandro Vaglio reached first base on an infield error and advanced to third base on a single just out of reach of former MLB third baseman Danny Valencia down the right field line by designated hitter Beau Maggi. Former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Federico Celli followed with an RBI single. Then Team Italy leadoff hitter Drew Maggi singled and caused a rundown between first and second base which allowed brother Beau Maggi to cross the plate from third base and Federico Celli to advance to third base with no outs incurred. An RBI groundout by Sebastiano Poma and a sacrifice fly to center field by John Andreoli added two more runs to give Team Italy a 4-0 advantage going into the bottom of the third inning.

Israel scored the first of five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning when Danny Valencia led off with a solo home run into the left field bleachers. Nick Rickles, a 29-year-old catcher who retired from his playing days in Minor League Baseball to become a coach in the Milwaukee Brewers system, followed with a single before Team Italy starter Murilo Gouvea granted back-to-back walks to load the bases for first baseman Simon Rosenbaum. The former Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens Collegiate All-American hit a grand slam to put Israel on top 5-4. Team Italy skipper Gibo Gerali came out in a hurry to replace his ailing starter Murilo Gouvea and summomed lefty reliever Yomel Rivera, who induced a groundout and two strikeouts to end the inning.

Team Italy threatened to tie the game up in the top of the fifth inning. After being walked, Drew Maggi stole second and third base; however, the Team Italy shortstop was left standed at third base without scoring. Filippo Crepaldi replaced Yomel Rivera and pitched a scoreless bottom of the fifth inning. After a quick flyout, the Italian-born and developed right-handed reliever struck out  Israel sluggers Danny Valencia and Nick Rickles.

Team Italy missed out an another scoring opportunity in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Giuseppe Mazzanti walked. Then catcher Alberto Mineo was caught looking for out number two. Alessandro Vaglio followed with a single, but a groundout by designated hitter Beau Maggi eliminated the scoring threat. Filippo Crepaldi returned to pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning and surrendered a leadoff homer to increase the Israel 6-4 lead.

With time running out fast, Team Italy failed to capitalize on a leadoff single by center fielder Federico Celli in the top of the seventh inning. Desperate to get into scoring position, the Azzurri center fielder was thrown out at second base trying to tag up from first base on a flyout to left field by Drew Maggi. The bang-bang double play coupled with a strikeout of Sebastiano Poma robbed the Italians of any scoring possibility. Reliever Andrea Pizziconi entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning and had an easy 1-2-3 out appearance.

In the top of the eighth inning, Team Italy regained the 7-6 lead. With one out, Azzurri slugger Chris Colabello connected with his fifth consecutive home run in as many games. Third baseman Giuseppe Mazzanti followed with a walk. Then Alberto Mineo came through in the clutch as he did the prior night against Germany with a two-run homer over the center field scoreboard.

Italian manager Gibo Gerali called for reliever Alex Bassani in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Team Italy closer ended up pitching two scoreless innings with four strikeouts to pick up the save and preserve the slim 7-6 victory. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen

by Roberto Angotti

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