In the Australia Pacific Cup (AP Cup) semifinal at Sydney's Blacktown International Sportspark on February 2, 2020, Team Italy played with heart but came up short in the 3-2 loss to undefeated Japan. Italian softball manager Enrico Obletter went with starting pitcher Alice Nicolini to stifle the quick Japanese squad. Alice Nicolini did a good job in keeping Team Italy in the game by pitching five complete innings and limiting the explosive Japan offense to just three runs on four hits with two walks and one strikeout. Reliever Lisa Birocci also performed well on the mound by throwing one scoreless inning.
Japan got on the board early in the botttom of the first inning with two runs. Team Italy threatened to score in the top of the second inning when bases were loaded. Andrea Filler led off with a single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Marta Gasparotto. Andrea Howard reached first base on an infield error, and Elisa Cecchetti walked to load the bases for Laura Vigna. The Team Italy softball squad was unable to capitalize on the situation, and no runs crossed the plate.
Japan added another run in the bottom of the third inning. Team Italy tried to answer and get something started in the top of the fifth inning when Laura Vigna doubled, but in the end she was left standed in scoring position without registering a run.
With time running out, Team Italy played with a sense of urgency in the top of the sixth inning. Erika Piancastelli led off with a single. She was replaced on the bases by Fabrizia Marrone. Andrea Filler followed with a double to give the Italians two runners in scoring position. Andrea Howard came through in the clutch and delivered a two-RBI double to make it a 3-2 game.
Team Italy made a valiant effort to tie the contest in the top of the seventh inning. After Laura Vigna grounded out, Giulia Koutsoyanopulos singled and was thrown out at second base on a fielder's choice by Alessandra Rotondo. A wild pitch put Alessandra Rotondo into scoring position for Erika Piancastelli. However, the Team Italy slugger was unlucky when grounding out to first base to end the game.
Despite narrowly losing 3-2 to powerhouse Japan (ranked #2), Team Italy outhit Japan 7 to 5 and proved worthy of competing among elite softball countries in the AP Cup. The Italians will have the opportunity for a rematch when it matters most in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With the loss to Japan, Team Italy ended the AP Cup with a fourth-place finish behind Mexico, Travelodge Aussie Spirit, and Japan. Forza #Italia!
by Roberto Angotti