After defeating New Zealand 5-4 the day before, the Team Italy women's softball team returned for a rematch in order to stay alive in the Asia Pacific Cup Consolation Round at Blacktown International Sportspark in Sydney, Australia on Sunday, February 4, 2018. Manager Enrico Obletter along with coaches Federico Pizzolini and Lisa Birocci Banse prepared their 16 Italian players to compete at their highest level in the international tournament against opponents Japan, Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, and the Aussie All-Stars.
In the bottom of the first inning, Team Italy got on the board early when leadoff hitter Laura Vigna bunted for an infield single, stole second base and scored the Azzurre's first run on an RBI-double by slugger Marta Gasparotto. An RBI-single from Giulia Longhi brought Marta Gasparotto home to give Italy a 2-0 lead. The Team Italy offensive rally ignited again in the bottom of the second inning with two out when Alessandra Rotondo walked and Laura Vigna was hit by a pitch. Marta Gasparotto once again came through in the clutch by clubbing a two-RBI double and giving Team Italy a 4-0 advantage over New Zealand. The Italians added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning when Elisa Cecchetti singled, Fabrizia Marrone doubled, and Alessandra Rotondo drove them in her with two-RBI double. Starting winning pitcher Alice Nicolini looked comfortable on the mound and held the Kiwis to just four hits in her seven scoreless innings of work.
After shutting out New Zealand 6-0, Team Italy advanced in the Asia Cup Consolation Round to face an Aussie All-Stars squad that had beaten them 6-3 on Saturday. Manager Enrico Obletter sought revenge by starting Beatrice Ricchi, who the Australians had not seen before in the only time the teams met. The Italians capitalized on an infield error to rally in the top of the third inning. A two-RBI single by Giulia Longhi allowed Laura Vigna and Marta Gasporotto to score. The Aussie All-Stars came back to score runs in the fourth and fifth innings to tie the game 2-2. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Team Italy skipper Enrico Obletter summoned pitching ace Greta Cecchetti from the bullpen, and she stymied the Aussie All-Stars well into extra innings; however, in the bottom of the ninth inning with the tie-breaker rule in effect and a runner placed on second base to begin the at-bat, the Australians were able to bring home the winning run and defeat a resilient Team Italy 3-2. With their second consecutive win over New Zealand (0-8) and loss to the Aussie All-Stars (4-4) , Team Italy (2-6) placed sixth in the seven team Asia Pacific Cup tourney. Having achieved a renewed sense of confidence that they could indeed compete with softball's elite in Australia, the Italians successfully accomplished what they set out to do in taking the first step in preparing themselves for the 2018 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women’s Softball World Championship in Japan from August 2-12, 2018. The WBSC event will be the first chance for teams to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti