Invigorated after a 9-1 win over Brazil in the WBSC U19 Women's Softball World Cup Placement Round at Bill Barber Park in Irvine, California the day prior, Team Italy looked to record back-to-back victories to conclude the week-long softball world championship. The Azzurrine squad played with heart but came up short losing to New Zealand by a score of 8-4 on August 15, 2019.
Winner of two previous starts during the international 16-country tournament, Team Italy pitcher Alexia Lacatena took the loss. The 17-year-old Italian American hurler pitched 5.2 innings and surrendered six runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and two walks. The game was all hers for the first five innings. Despite a rocky start when she surrendered a solo home run in the top of the first inning, Alexia Lacatena quickly regained her composure with a strikeout for the third out to mitigate the damage.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning, Team Italy answered with two runs. Giulia Koutsoyanopulos walked and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Susanna Soldi. Noemi Giacometti hit a bunt single to put runners on the corners for cleanup hitter Alexia Lacatena. Her sacrifice fly to center field allowed Giulia Koutsoyanopulos to cross the plate. Then Azzurrine captain Alessandro Rotondo reached first base on a bunt single. She quickly stole second base, and the throw from the catcher to second base resulted in Noemi Giacometti scoring from third base.
The Team Italy defense played well throughout the game to preserve the slim 2-1 lead. A great catch by center fielder Sofia Fabbian and a textbook 4-3 double play by Alessandra Rotondo ended potential New Zealand rallies. Team Italy added two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Giulia Koutsoyanopulos came through in the clutch with an infield single and stole second base. She advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Azzurrine sparkplug Susanna Soldi followed with an RBI double. The speedy runner stole third base. Noemi Giacometti followed and recorded her second hit of the night with an RBI slap-bunt single.
New Zealand came from behind and scored five runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a commanding 6-4 lead. The Kiwis got to Team Italy reliever Giorgia Telò and tacked on two more runs to make it a 8-4 game. With the loss to 9th place New Zealand (4-2), Team Italy (2-4) secured 11th place in the WBSC U19 Women's Softball World Cup 9-12 Placement Round. Czech Republic (3-3) took 10th place while Brazil (1-5) placed 12th. The Netherlands (3-3) ended the tourney on a high note with three consecutive wins to secure 13th place in the competition. The WBSC U19 World Championship final takes place on August 17 at 2 pm while the battle for the bronze precedes the game at 11 am. Undefeated USA will host Japan for the gold. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen #U19SoftballWC
by Roberto Angotti