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Team Italy gets first win in Europe-Africa Olympic Baseball Qualifier with 5-1 victory over Czech Republic

After the Europe-Africa Olympic Baseball Qualifier opener against South Africa was suspended due to inclement weather without a winner declared, Team Italy defeated Czech Republic 5-1 for its first victory of the five-day international tournament at Stadio Gianni Falchi in Bologna on September 19, 2019. Team Italy three-hole hitter Chris Colabello hit a sacrifice fly RBI in the bottom of the first inning and slammed a three-run blast over the left field fence in his next at-bat to put the game away for the Azzurri baseball squad.

Team Italy manager Gilberto "Gibo" Gerali used Bolzano right-hand pitcher Angelo Palumbo to start the game against the Czechs. The 23-year-old hurler surrendered one run in the top of the first inning. Team Italy answered and tied the contest 1-1 in the bottom of the first inning after Azzurri third baseman Drew Maggi led off with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Team Italy slugger Chris Colabello.

The Italian offense came to life in the bottom of the third inning with a three-run rally to take a comfortable 4-1 lead. After Drew Maggi was walked and Alessandro Vaglio was hit by a pitch, Azzuri RBI machine Chris Colabello clubbed a three-run home run to left field. Team Italy added another run in the bottom of the fifth inning to increase the advantage to 5-1 when Drew Maggi singled and later crossed the plate on an RBI single by designated hitter Giuseppe Mazzanti, who collected a total of three hits on the night.

Despite going hitless with one walk, shortstop Gavin Cecchini demonstrated power at the plate in separate at-bats when two bombs he crushed over the left field fence were ruled foul and were not reflected in the box score. He was unlucky again in the bottom of the sixth inning when he was robbed of a base hit after the Czech center fielder made a spectacular diving catch.

In the top of the sixth inning with runners on the corners and one out, Team Italy pitching coach Dennis Cook made a visit to the mound to check on Angelo Palumbo. The Italian-Venezuelan starting pitcher remained in the contest and induced a 5-4-3 double play to end the scoring threat. Angelo Palumbo threw six innings and allowed just one run on seven hits with two strikeouts and one walk before handing off the ball to reliever Nick Pugliese, who entered the game in the top of the seventh inning with a runner on first base and no out. A single and a walk loaded the bases for Czech Republic, but two strikeouts and a fly out halted any possible comeback.

Nick Pugliese returned to pitch a scoreless top of the eighth inning. Team Italy captain and second baseman Alessandro Vaglio was responsible for two of the three outs when he charged two lightly-hit grounders up the middle and fired strikes to first baseman Chris Colabello. Filippo Crepaldi closed out the game in relief with three strikeouts and one single to secure the Team Italy 5-1 victory.

The Italians return to Stadio Nino Cavalli in Parma for a doubleheader on Friday, September 20 beginning in the morning at 11 am for the continuation of the suspended game against South Africa followed by the nightcap against Israel at 8 pm. Team Italy remains in Parma for a game against Spain on Saturday, September 21 at 8 pm. The rematch between European baseball powerhouses Italy and Kingdom of the Netherlands takes place at Stadio Gianni Falchi in Bologna on Sunday, September 22 at 8 pm. The top finisher in the round-robin tournament earns the right to be the lone Europe-Africa representative in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen #RoadtoTokyo

by Roberto Angotti

Czech Republic-Team Italy Box Score

Team Italy Photo Gallery

WBSC Europe-Africa Olympic Qualifier Schedule/Results

Team Italy and South Africa tied 4-4 in weather-related suspended Europe-Africa Olympic Baseball Qualifier opener

Team Italy baseball brothers Gavin Cecchini, Drew Maggi, and John Andreoli are ready to shine in Europe-Africa Olympic Baseball Qualifier