In a win or go home WBSC Women's Softball World Championship playoff game at ZOZO Marine Stadium in Chiba, Japan on August 10, 2018, Team Italy played with heart but came up short losing to Mexico by a score of 1-0 in nine innings of battle. Italian manager Enrico Obletter chose to start pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani against Mexico hurler Dallas Escobedo. The contest took on special meaning for Azzurre captain Erika Piancastelli, who relished the opportunity to face Scrap Yard Fast Pitch teammate Dallas Escobedo on the mound. She responded with a single in the top of the first inning but would not advance further than first base.
The Mexico pitcher kept the Italians off the board. Center fielder Laura Vigna led off the top of the fourth inning with a single but was also left stranded at first base. Team Italy starter Ilaria Cacciamani matched her Mexican counterpart pitch-by-pitch through three complete innings and only allowed two hits. Reliever Greta Cecchetti entered the ballgame in the bottom of the fourth inning and surrendered a leadoff single to Annisa Urtez. "Iron Greta" Cecchetti dug in deep and got out of the inning with a strikeout and a custom-made infield double play. The relief pitcher escaped trouble in the bottom of the bottom of the fifth inning after a double by Koral Costa with one out. Greta Cecchetti quickly struck out the next batter, and Mexico's Koral Costa was thrown out at third base to end the scoring threat.
The momentum swung to Team Italy in the top of the sixth inning when Amanda Fama singled with one out. She was replaced by speedy pinch-runner Veronica Comar. After stiking out Laura Vigna for the second out, Mexico pitcher Dallas Escobedo intentionally walked slugger Erika Piancastelli despite putting Veronica Comar in scoring position. The strategy worked out perfectly for the Mexicans as Marta Gasparotto struck out for the out number three. Team Italy pitcher Greta Cecchetti came back firing striking out two of the three hitters she faced in the bottom of the sixth inning.
It looked like the Azzurre women would finally break the game open in the top of the seventh inning when Fabrizia Marrone singled and stole second base with two out; however, Mexico starter Dallas Escobedo struck out Elisa Cecchetti to stomp out the potential two-out rally. Greta Cecchetti escaped her own jam in the bottom of the seventh inning when a double with one out put the winning run in scoring position. The strong Team Italy pitcher fought back a strikeout and a flyout to get out of the inning.
Going into extra innings with the WBSC tie-breaker rule in effect, both Italy and Mexico came up empty in the eighth inning. In the bottom of the ninth inning, a tired Mexico scored the winning run to beat the Italians 1-0. Team Italy should be commended for battling throughout the competition regardless of the end result. With the heartbreaking loss to Mexico, Team Italy dropped to 4-4 in the 2018 WBSC Women's Softball World Championship. By defeating Botswana, Great Britain, Venezuela, and China, the Azzurre women squad proved they were worthy of an appearance in the 2020 Olympics by playing well against the game's elite. The #RoadToTokyo2020 now leads to the Super 6 Tournament in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands from Sept 18-23, 2018. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti