Team Italy women's softball squad gains valuable experience in 2019 Asia Pacific Cup

Under the leadership of manager Enrico Obletter, the Team Italy women's softball squad won two games during the recent Asia Pacific Cup at Blacktown International Sports Park in Sydney, Australia from January 31 - February 3, 2019. The Azzurre kicked off the tournament with a 3-0 shutout victory over Australia A in the first of two games on January 31, 2019. Team Italy starting pitcher "Iron" Greta Cecchetti threw a one-hit complete game with 10 strikeouts and one walk to earn the win.

Team Italy scored first in the top of the third inning when Azzurre leadoff hitter Amanda Fama reached second base on an infield error. An RBI single by Fabrizia Marrone brought Amanda Fama home to give the Italians a 1-0 lead. In the top of the sixth inning, Amanda Fama led off with a a double to center field. Fabrizia Marrone moved her over to third base with a sacrifice bunt. Amanda Fama scored on a sacrifice fly by Marta Gasparotto to make it 2-0 game. In the top of the seventh inning, Team Italy added some padding when Priscilla Brandi doubled. She was lifted for pinch-runner Chiara Bassi, who reached third base on a wild pitch. Ilaria Cacciamani followed with a fielder's choice to drive in Team Italy's third and final run of the game.

The Azzurre women's softball squad was not so fortunate in the nightcap when they fell victim to Travelodge Aussie Spirit in a five-inning mercy-rule 7-0 shutout. Starting pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani tossed four innings before handing the ball off to reliever Laura Bigatton. A double by Erika Piancastelli and a single by Chiara Bassi accounted for Team Italy's only hits of the game.

20190202 CECCHETTI Greta ITA ASP2019 (Softball Australia)Team Italy suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in an 11-inning battle against Chinese Taipei in the first of two afternoon games on February 1, 2019. Azzurre starting pitcher Greta Cecchetti struck out 12 hitters in nine innings and allowed just one earned run. Relief pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani took the loss despite holding Chinese Taipei hitless.

Chinese Taipei starting pitcher Yin Hsin Lin limited the Azzurre offense to singles by Marta Gasparotto in the first inning and Chiara Bassi in the second inning before giving up an unearned run in the top of the eighth inning. As per tie-breaker rule, Valeria Bettinsoli was placed in second base. She advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Priscilla Brandi and scored on an infield error when the grounder to third hit by Elisa Princic was misplayed. Chinese Taipei evened the score 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning.

In the top of the ninth inning, Elisa Cecchetti was placed on second base as per tie-breaker rule. Amanda Fama followed with a triple to left-center field. Marta Gasparotto followed with an RBI double to to give Team Italy a 3-1 lead. Chinese Taipei fought back and scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to extend the tied 3-3 game. Two close plays at home plate may have cost Team Italy the game. In the top of the 10th inning, a sliding Valeria Bettinsoli was tagged out by the catcher. Adding to the frustration was yet another do-or-die moment in the top of the 11th inning when Chiara Bassi was called out at the plate. Chinese Taipei prevailed after scoring the decisive run in the bottom of the 11th inning and winning 4-3.

20190202 PIANCASTELLI Erika ITA (Softball Australia)An exhausted Team Italy returned hours later to take on China. Starting pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani gave a solid effort in 4.2 innings and allowed just just one earned run and one hit. Team Italy missed out on scoring opportunities in the early innings. In the top of the second inning with one out, Chiara Bassi was hit by a pitch and advanced to second base on a bunt single by Giulia Longhi. The rally soon fizzled out and both runners remained on base without registering a run. Another disappointment occurred In the top of the fourth inning when Marta Gasparotto doubled and Erika Piancastelli, but once again Team Italy came up empty. China took the 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning and added two more runs in the bottom of sixth inning. Alice Nicolini pitched 1.1 innings of relief and was responsible for one earned run. In the end, Team Italy lost to the Chinese 4-0.

Team Italy faced New Zealand and Japan on the last day of the preliminary round at the Asia Pacific Cup on February 2, 2019. The dynamic Italian pitching duo of Greta Cecchetti and Ilaria Cacciamani combined to limit the Kiwis to two unearned runs in morning game. After New Zealand scored an unearned run in the top of the first inning, Team Italy leadoff hitter Amanda Fama homered to tie the game up 1-1. Erika Piancastelli later singled, stole second base, reached third base on a passed ball, and scored on a wild pitch to give the Azzurre squad a slim 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the first inning.

Team Italy's Priscilla Brandi APC 2019 (Softball Australia)Team Italy added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth inning. After Priscilla Brandi singled with one out, Susanna Soldi entered the game as a pinch-runner and quickly stole second base. She later scored on an RBI single by Elisa Cecchetti. Team Italy returned in the bottom of the fifth inning to add two more runs. Erika Piancastelli doubled and advanced to third on a passed ball. Giiulia Longhi walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Susanna Soldi, who stole second base. An RBI sacrifice fly by Chiara Bassi followed by an RBI single by Fabrizia Marrone sealed the deal as Team Italy went on to win the game 5-2. 

In the afternoon contest against 2018 Asia Pacific Cup Champion Japan, Team Italy starter Laura Bigatton got tagged for the loss by allowing seven earned runs in three innings of work. Despite a lead-off single by Giulia Longhi in the top of the second inning, Team Italy was stimied by Japan starting pitcher Yamato Fujita and could not get on the board until the top of the third inning when Valeria Bettinsoli reached on an infield single and scored on an RBI double by Amanda Fama. Team Italy threatened for more in the top of the fourth inning after singles by Erika Piancastelli and Priscilla Brandi, but the Japanese kept the Azzurre women softball squad at bay for an abbreviated four-inning mercy-rule 11-1 win. 

20190202 ITALIA vs Nuova Zelanda (Softball Australia)Team Italy closed out the Asia Pacific Cup with a rematch against Australia A on February 3, 2019. Azzurre starting pitcher Greta Cecchetti threw five strong innings but gave up one run in the top of the second inning. It appeared Team Italy was going to even it up in the bottom of the second inning when Priscilla Brandi led off with a single to right-center field and advanced to second base on a perfectly-executed sacrifice bunt by Chiara Bassi. However, the Team Italy offense was unable to bring her home to tie the game. More missed scoring opportunities occurred in the bottom of the fifth inning when Elisa Princic singled and in the bottom of the sixth inning when Erika Piancastelli doubled without either crossing the plate. 

Reliever Ilaria Cacciamani entered the game in the top of the seventh inning and surrendered one run to put Australia A on top 2-0. It looked like Team Italy was ready to come from behind to win the game, but the Azzurre rally fell just short in the end. Priscilla Brandi led off with a double and was replaced on the bases by pinch-runner Susanna Soldi. Then Chiara Bassi singled to advance Susanna Soldi to third base. A fielder's choice by Elisa Princic brought Susanna Soldi home to make it a 2-1 game, but Australia A starting pitcher Sandra Holden held on for the win. With the loss on the final day of the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup, Team Italy finished the seven-team international tourney with a 2-5 record. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen

by Roberto Angotti