After beating France 19-8 on opening night of the U15 European Baseball Championship at Steno Borghese Stadium in Nettuno, Team Italy lost to undefeated Germany 8-6 on July 17, 2019. The Germans dominated early scoring six runs in a first-inning offensive blitz. Germany tacked on one earned run in the top of the second inning and an unearned run in the top of the sixth inning.
Azzurri starting pitcher Riccardo Nepoti lasted only 1.2 innings and surrendered seven earned runs before Team Italy U15 manager Roberto De Franceschi replaced him on the mound with Leonardo Belardi, who allowed no earned runs during his stellar 4.1 innings of relief. Reliever Matteo Colalucci closed out the game for the Italians.
Germany starter Paul Schmitz stifled the Team Italy offense by striking out 12 batters and allowing just two runs on one hit. The Azzurri scored in the third and fourth innings. In the bottom of the third inning, catcher Lorenzo Lambertini walked and was thrown out at second base on a fielder's choice from Leonardo Belardi. Alessandro Beccari followed with a walk. Both runners advanced one base on a passed ball. Then Leonardo Belardi scored on a groundout RBI by Nicholas Bertoldi. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Elia Sartini led off with a walk and advanced to second base on a single by Filippo Venditti. Elia Sartini later scored on a pair of wild pitches.
Team Italy was delighted to see starting pitcher Paul Schmitz leave the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. He was replaced by reliever Noah Lindt, who immediately gave up an infield single by pinch-hitter Cristian Laghi. Then Andrea Di Siero was hit by a pitch. Back-to-back walks to Nicola Spagnolo and Alessandro Beccari brought Cristian Laghi home to score the first of four runs for Team Italy. After another pitching change, Nicholas Bertoldi followed with a two RBI single. He later scored to make it a 8-6 game, but the late-inning Italian rally fell short.
Team Italy (1-1) concludes Pool A action against Russia (0-2) on Thursday, July 18 at 8 pm (local time). If the Azzurri beat the Russians, Team Italy will advance with Germany to the U15 Euro semifinals on Friday, July 19. The two top teams from Pool B, Czech Republic (2-0) and the Netherlands (2-0), face off on July 18 at 10 am (local time). The loser of the contest will play against Germany in the U15 Euro semifinals on July 19 at 5 pm (local time), while the winner of the game will play under the Steno Borghese Stadium lights at 8 pm against (hopefully) Team Italy.
The U15 European Baseball Championship final takes place on Saturday, July 20 at 7 pm (local time). The battle for the bronze medal begins earlier in the day at 10 am (local time). The two top teams in the U15 European Baseball Championship will qualify for the 2020 U15 Baseball World Cup. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti