Powered by home runs by leadoff hitter Amanda Fama and captain Erika Piancastelli, Team Italy was one strike away from an 2-1 upset over fourth-ranked Australia; however, the Aussies came back from behind to win in extra-innings by a score of 3-2 in the first of two games for the Azzurre in the WBSC Women's Softball World Championship at NASPA Stadium in Narita City, Japan on August 4, 2018. Team Italy returned later in the day to battle third-ranked Canada. The Italians nearly scored twice in the extremely close contest. In the second inning, Mariel Bertossi singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch; however, she was left stranded in scoring position when the third out was called. The Azzurre scoring opportunity was cut short again in the fourth inning when a do-or-die sliding catch by the Canadian rightfielder denied Erika Piancastelli an extra-base hit. Despite executing the game plan set by manager Enrico Obletter, Team Italy lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Canada.
Team Italy (0-3) plays Botswana (0-3) today at 11:30 pm (EDT) in the first of two games at Zett.A. Ball Park in Ichihara City. The Azzurre women face Great Britain tomorrow at 2:30 pm (EDT). The Italians then travel to Akitsu Stadium in Narashino City for games against Venezuela on August 7 and China on August 8 to conclude Group B play.
If Team Italy pitching continues to be outstanding in the 10-day international tourament, there is absolutely no reason the Azzurre cannot advance to the playoffs from August 9-12 as one of the top four finishers in Group B. Starting against Australia, pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani took a no-hitter into the fourth inning. After walking a batter and surrendering her first hit of the game with two out, Italian skipper Enrico Obletter summoned reliever Greta Cecchetti from the bullpen. Inheriting baserunners at the corners, Greta Cecchetti ended the Aussie scoring threat when she caught the batter looking at a third strike off-speed pitch. Australia scored in the top of the fifth inning when an infield error lead to an unearned run. In the top of the seventh inning with bases loaded, two out and a full count, Greta Cecchetti was one strike away from a Team Italy victory. Lady Luck was on the Aussie side as an infield error allowed another unearned run to cross the plate to send the game into extra innings. Australia went on to score the winning run in the top of the eighth inning to defeat the unlucky Italians 3-2.
Greta Cecchetti started against Canada and pitched three solid innings. The Canadians scored their lone run in the bottom of the second inning. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, reliever Ilaria Cacciamani kept the game close by throwing three innings and allowing just one hit. Team Italy pitching coach Lisa Birocci-Banse must be commended for helping both pitchers reach their full potential and for inspiring the squad to compete at their highest level against the game's elite. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti