Team Italy women's softball team gains valuable experience in Asia Pacific Cup

Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter along with coaches Federico Pizzolini and Lisa Birocci Banse know in order to qualify for the 2020 Olympic games that their Azzurre softball team must be able to compete against the best players in the world. In search of highest level of competition possible, Team Italy skipper Enrico Obletter traveled with 16 of his finest players to Sydney, Australia to go head-to-head with top-ranked Japan, fourth-ranked Australia, fifth-ranked New Zealand, eighth-ranked Chinese Taipei, up-and-coming China and the Aussie All-Stars in the 2018 Asia Pacific Cup. Having lost by a slim 3-1 margin to Japan on opening day of the 26-game tournament, the Italians returned to Sydney's Blacktown International Sportspark to play two games against China and Chinese Taipei on February 2, 2018 with a renewed sense of confidence that they could indeed compete with softball's elite. Despite a second loss in the tourney to host Australia the day prior, Team Italy shrugged off both defeats to give the very best effort facing China. Starting pitcher Alice Nicolini combined with relievers Ilaria Cacciamani and Veronica Comar to allow China just one earned run, but untimely errors on defense proved costly as Italy lost 5-0. Opposing pitcher Lan Wang threw a complete seven inning game and limited Team Italy to four hits by Giulia Longhi, Marta Gasparotto, Beatrice Ricchi, and Elena Chiesa. In the nightcap against Chinese Taipei, Italy manager Enrico Obletter started Greta Cecchetti, who gave up a run in the top of the first inning. The Team Italy offense battled back to tie the game up 1-1 in the bottom half of the inning after a Marta Gasparotto single and an RBI double from Priscilla Brandi. However, Chinese Taipei's relentless offensive attack put the game out of the reach. When Alice Nicolini was summoned from the bullpen in the fifth inning, the Italians were down by seven runs. A base hit from Giulia Longhi in the bottom of the fifth was not enough to spark a late inning comeback as Chinese Taipei went on to win 8-1. 20160502 Greta Cecchetti archivio (2f-Oldmanagency)Even after suffering back-to-back losses, Team Italy pitcher Greta Cecchetti kept her chin up knowing that her squad was improving every game in the 2018 Asia Pacific Cup. She said, "This isn't my first time in Australia, I came over in 2013 and played my first Australian National Championship in 2014. I've always wanted to visit Australia, and after four years of college in the USA I was contacted by Bob Harrow to come play here for ACT. I knew a lot of Australian girls who played in Italy before, so that made it easier. Playing nationals in Australia was an amazing experience. There are a lot of differences from the Italian league. I think the biggest one is the level of the competition, which is a lot better in Australia. This kind of experience allows players like me to play against some of the best players in the world and learn from them. In this type of tournament, there aren't any weak teams as there are in European competitions. Any team can beat you here, so you always have to be on top of your game. You can never relax and waste a pitch or waste an at bat. This is what makes you improve." Team Italy (0-4) plays New Zealand (0-4) and the Aussie All-Stars (1-3) on Saturday, February 3. The top four teams in the Asia Pacific Cup advance to the finals while the reamining squads compete in the consolation round on Sunday, February 4. Forza #Italia! #2020Olympics #LetsMakeItHappen

by Roberto Angotti