Team Italy cruises by France 16-2 in European Baseball Championship opener

In the opening game for Team Italy against France in the European Baseball Championship in Bonn, Germany on September 7, 2019, the Italians prevailed in a 16-2 victory. Team Italy manager Gilberto "Gibo" Gerali called on Azzurri patriarch starting pitcher Alessandro Maestri, who limited the French to two runs on two hits with two strikeouts in four innings of work.

Team Italy got on the board first in the top of the third inning. Leadoff hitter Drew Maggi reached second base on an outfield error. Then Azzurri captain Alessandro Vaglio was hit by a pitch. Team Italy slugger Chris Colabello followed with an RBI single to give the Italians a 1-0 lead.

Back-to-back homers by Federico Celli and Sebastiano Poma increased the Team Italy advantage in the top of the fourth inning. France answered with two runs of their own in the the bottom of the fourth inning. The Italians tacked on a run in the top of the fifth inning to make it a 4-2 game after Giuseppe Mazzanti reached first base on an infield error and later scored on an RBI single by Sebastiano Poma.

After a rain delay, Italian American pitcher Michael Johnson replaced starter Alessandro Maestri on the mound in the bottom of the fifth inning and held France scoreless for 2.1 innings with four strikeouts. Team Italy rallied for five runs in the top of the sixth inning. Singles from Chris Colabello and Giuseppe Mazzanti followed by a walk to Alberto Mineo loaded the bases for Federico Celli, who was hit by a pitch. Then Sebastiano Poma delivered a two-run single. An overthrow from the center fielder allowed him to reach third base and another run to cross the plate. An RBI single from Erick Epifano brought home Sebastiano Poma and gave Team Italy a commanding 9-2 lead.

Azzurri reliever Alex Bassani entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with one out and a runner on first base. A strikeout and groundout ended the inning without incident. Team Italy scored another run in the top of the eighth inning. After Sebastiano Poma doubled and pinch hitter Mattia Reginato singled, Azzurri sparkplug Aldo Koutsoyanopulos hit an RBI fielder's choice to put Team Italy in control 10-2.

Alex Bassani pitched a scoreless eighth inning before the Team Italy offense exploded for five more runs in the top of the ninth inning. After a leadoff single from Chris Colabello and a walk to Giuseppe Mazzanti, catcher Alberto Mineo delivered an RBI double. An infield single by Federico Celli paired up with a throwing error by the shortstop allowed Giuseppe Mazzanti to cross the plate. Then Sebastiano Poma hit an RBI single to give Team Italy the 13-2 advantage. Aldo Koutsoyanopulos followed with a two-RBI double to right field and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Chris Colabello to make it a 16-2 game. Closer Nick Pugliese came out to throw a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts to secure the Team Italy victory.

With the 16-2 win over France, Team Italy now travels to nearby Solingen on Sunday, September 8 at 4 pm for a clash against Croatia before returning to Bonn to play against Austria on Monday, September 9 at 11 am. The 2019 European Baseball Championship continues through Sunday, September 15 and culminates with the European Baseball Championship final game at 7 pm. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen #RoadtoTokyo

by Roberto Angotti

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