Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter must be very proud of the way the Azzurre softball squad played against undefeated powerhouse Japan (ranked #2) on the second day of the Australia Pacific Cup (AP Cup) at Sydney's Blacktown International Sportspark on January 31, 2020. A two-run home run off Team Italy starting pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani in the bottom of the first inning was the difference in the 2-0 loss to Japan in the first of two games for the Azzurre on Friday.
Team Italy threatened to score several times against Japan. In the top of the third inning, Andrea Howard doubled but was left stranded on second base. In the top of the fourth inning, nobody crossed the plate despite back-to-back singles by Erika Piancastelli and Andrea Filler. The Italians came up empty again in the top of the sixth inning when Emily Carosone singled and Andrea Filler walked. It looked as though the Azzurre offense was on the verge of a breakthrough in figuring out Japanese pitching. In fact, Team Italy actually outhit Japan 7 to 5.
Despite the inability to cash in with runners in scoring position, Team Italy kept Japan on edge throughout the contest. Starter Ilaria Cacciamani limited the explosive Japanese to two runs on five hits with two walks in two innings of work. Reliever Alexia Lacatena kept the game close by throwing three innings and allowing just two hits with two strikeouts and no walks. Closer Alice Nicolini pitched a hitless bottom of the sixth inning. Team Italy played exceptionally well with a sense of urgency to beat Japan. With a few extra added parts to the Azzurre softball roster between now and July, Team Italy may just shock the world and beat the Japanese on their home turf when it matters most in the 2020 Olympics.
The Italians returned for their second game of the day with a clash against New Zealand. Team Italy pitching ace Greta Cecchetti threw a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and one walk to shut out the Kiwis 8-0. The Azzurre offense came to life in the bottom of the third inning. Alessandra Rotondo singled, advanced to second base on a bunt single by Laura Vigna, stole third base, and scored an error by the catcher. Laura Vigna also scored on a RBI single by Giulia Koutsoyanopulos to give Team Italy a 2-0 lead. The Azzurre softball squad added six more runs highlighted by an inside-the-park home run by Laura Vigna in the bottom of the sixth inning to end the contest.
With the victory, Team Italy evens its record to 2-2 and is currently in third place behind undefeated Japan (4-0) and Travelodge Aussie Spirit (3-1) in the 2020 AP Cup. The Italians have scored 16 runs and have allowed 12 runs during the international competition. Team Italy kicks off the Saturday, February 1 morning opener at 9 am against Chinese Taipei (ranked #6) before coming back for a 5 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