After losing to Russia 14-11 on day three of the U15 European Baseball Championship at Steno Borghese Stadium in Nettuno on July 18, 2019, Team Italy (1-2) advanced with Germany (3-0) from Pool A to the U15 Euro semifinals. The two top teams from Pool B, the Netherlands (3-0) and Czech Republic (2-1), also earned the right to compete in the U15 European Baseball Championship semifinals. Czech Republic and Germany clash on July 19 at 5 pm (local time), while Team Italy faces Euro rival the Netherlands under the Steno Borghese Stadium lights at 8 pm.
Coming back from an 8-6 loss to Germany on July 17, Team Italy returned to combat Russia. The Azzurri offense came alive with four runs in the bottom of the first inning, Leadoff hitter Diego Luciani singled and scored on an RBI double by Nicholas Bertoldi, who also crossed the plate after a wild pitch and a throwing error by the catcher. Then Tommaso Adorni walked, and cleanup hitter Elia Sartini singled. Tommaso Adorni scored on an infield error which allowed Filippo Venditti to reach first base. Elia Sartini also scored after fly outs by Andrea Di Siero and Zeno Marcoaldi.
Team Italy U15 manager Roberto De Franceschi sent out starting pitcher Vincenzo Bruno, who ran into trouble in the top of the second inning when he gave up four earned runs. He was replaced by reliever Alessandro Beccari, who could not get out of the inning after experiencing control issues and allowing two unearned runs to score. Riccardo Nepoti came in to stop the bleeding with bases loaded, but the reliever walked the first batter he faced to give Russia a 7-4 advantage. A balk followed by a pair of singles quickly put the Russians on top 10-4.
Team Italy chipped away at the deficit with three runs in the bottom of the third inning to close the gap 10-7. After a double by Filippo Venditti, and a trio of walks to Andrea Di Siero, Riccardo Nepoti, and Diego Luciani, Team Italy put up one run on the board. Two more runs crossed the plate when a pair of wild pitches allowed Andrea Di Siero and Riccardo Nepoti to score.
In the top of fourth inning, Team Italy reliever Matteo Giovanelli entered the game and kept the Russians at bay with two strikeouts. He came back in the top of the fifth inning to throw an easy 1-2-3 inning with one strikeout. Russia countered with three runs in the top of the sixth inning to increase the lead to 13-7. Reliever Matteo Colalucci closed out the contest and allowed one unearned run to make it a 14-7 game.
The Azzurri offense made a valiant effort to rally and come from behind in the bottom of the seventh inning when four runs scored. After Tommaso Adorni, Niccolo Funzione, and Lorenzo Lambertini walked, Nicola Spagnolo hit a three-run triple. He later scored on an RBI groundout by Cristian Laghi. In the end, however, it was too little and too late to defeat the Russians. Now the Italians are focused on bigger things.
Not only will a win over the Netherlands in the U15 Euro semifinals grant access to the U15 European Baseball Championship final, but it will also automatically qualify Team Italy for a berth to the 2020 U15 Baseball World Cup. The U15 European Baseball Championship final takes place at Steno Borghese Stadium 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). Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti