Coming off a 8-0 shutout over New Zealand the prior day in the Australia Pacific Cup (AP Cup) at Sydney's Blacktown International Sportspark, Team Italy defeated Chinese Taipei 6-3 in the morning and returned in the evening to suffer a 3-0 shutout to Australia A on February 1, 2020. With a record of three wins and three losses in the international competition, the Azzurre softball squad now faces undefeated Japan (6-0) in the AP Cup semifinal on Sunday, February 2 at 10:30 am. In their previous showdown on January 31, the undefeated Japanese prevailed with 2-0 shutout.
In the matinee against Chinese Taipei on February 1, Italian softball manager Enrico Obletter called on starting pitcher Alexia Lacatena. She threw 6.2 innings and allowed just seven hits with eight strikeouts. Reliever Lisa Birocci got the final out to secure the win for Team Italy. The Azzurre offense went right to work in the top of the first inning. Giulia Koutsoyanopulos led off with a single and advanced to second base when Emily Carosone walked. Erika Piancastelli singled, and Giulia Koutsoyanopulos scored on an outfield throwing error.
The Italians returned to tack up another two runs in the top of the second inning. Giulia Longhi led off with a walk. She was replaced on the bases by Fabrizia Marrone, who advanced into scoring position on a fielder's choice by Sarah Edwards. Laura Vigna hit an RBI single and later scored on an RBI triple from Giulia Koutsoyanopulos.
Team Italy put up another two runs in the top of the fifth inning. Andrea Howard singled and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Giulia Longhi. After Sarah Edwards reached first base on a walk, Fabrizia Marrone entered the game as a pinch runner. Andrea Howard scored on an RBI single by Lara Cecchetti, and Fabrizia Marrone crossed the plate on the RBI single from Laura Vigna to give Team Italy a commanding 5-0 advantage.
The Italians added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning. Back-to-back singles by Giulia Koutsoyanopulos and Emily Carosone followed by a sacrifice bunt by Erika Piancastelli put runners in scoring position. A wild pitch allowed Giulia Koutsoyanopulos to score from third base and give Team Italy a 6-0 lead. Chinese Taipei rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to make it a 6-3 game.
In the nightcap against Australia A, Team Italy skipper Enrico Obletter summoned pitching ace Greta Cecchetti to the mound. Australia A countered with Sydney native Gabrielle Plain, the pitching ace for the University of Washington. In her freshman year, Gabrielle Plain led the Washington Huskies to an appearance in the 2018 Women's College World Series. She held Team Italy to a lone hit by Beatrice Ricchi. Losing pitcher "Iron Greta" Cecchetti limited Australia A to just three hits and one earned run with three strikeouts and two walks in 5.1 innings of work. Reliever Ilaria Cacciamani collected the last two outs including one strikeout.
Team Italy returns for a rematch against Japan in the AP Cup semifinal on February 2, 2020 at 10:30 am, while Travelodge Aussie Spirit and Mexico clash in the other semifinal at 11:20 am. The winners of both games meet in the AP Cup final at 1:30 pm. Forza #Italia!
by Roberto Angotti