The Team Italy softball squad made a statement on day one of the four-day Australia Pacific Cup (AP Cup) when the Azzurre women defeated fifth-ranked Mexico 4-3 at Sydney's Blacktown International Sportspark on January 30, 2020. However, the euphoria was short-lived as Team Italy was defeated by the eight-ranked Travelodge Aussie Spirit 7-4 in the nightcap.
Trailing 3-0 in the top of the sixth inning against Mexico, Team Italy rallied late in the game for four runs to take the lead and eventually win the contest 4-3. Azzurre leadoff hitter and sparkplug Giulia Koutsoyanopulos reached first base on an infield error and advanced to second base on a single by Emily Carosone. Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter summoned the speedy Fabrizia Marrone to replace Emily Carosone on the bases. After a walk to Erika Piancastelli, cleanup hitter Andrea Filler hit a sacrifice fly to right field to put Team Italy on the board. Andrea Howard followed with a single to load the bases for Marta Gasparotto, who reached first base on an infield error which brought Fabrizia Marrone home to score. A fielder’s choice by Beatrice Ricchi allowed Erika Piancastelli to cross the plate. Then an RBI single by Giulia Longhi gave Team Italy a slim 4-3 advantage.
Starting pitcher Greta Cecchetti threw 4.1 solid innings and allowed three runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts. But it was the combined efforts of relievers Lisa Birocci and Alexia Lacatena that kept Mexico quiet and preserved the win for Team Italy. The Azzurre squad had little time to celebrate the victory as Australia Pacific Cup host Travelodge Aussie Spirit was ready for combat against the Italians.
Having beaten Australia A by a score of 4-1 prior to the first pitch, Travelodge Aussie Spirit was also undefeated going into the contest. Team Italy jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. Back-to-back singles by Giulia Koutsoyanopulos and Laura Vigna followed by a two-RBI double by slugger Erika Piancastelli put the Italians on top 2-0. Team Italy skipper Enrico Obletter called on starting pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani to take on the eight-ranked Australian squad. She lasted just 1.2 innings and surrendered five runs. Alice Nicolini threw three innings of relief and allowed two runs, while Alexia Lacatena kept the Australians scoreless for the remainder of the game. Team Italy tried to rally with runs in the top of the sixth and seventh innings, but Travelodge Aussie Spirit prevailed in the end by a score of 7-4
The Italians return on Friday, January 31 for a battle against undefeated Japan (ranked #2) at 1:30 pm and a clash against New Zealand (ranked #16) at 6:30 pm. Team Italy kicks off the Saturday, February 1 morning opener at 11 am against Chinese Taipei (ranked #6) before coming back for a 4 pm contest with Australia A. The AP Cup playoffs begin on Sunday, February 2 at 9 am with the grand final scheduled in the afternoon at 1:30 pm. Forza #Italia!
by Roberto Angotti