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Team Italy's Melany Sheldon (UMass Lowell)

After impressive AP Cup showing, Team Italy softball players are making an impact at U.S. colleges

In the 2020 Australia Pacific Cup (AP Cup), Team Italy placed fourth behind winner Japan, host Travelodge Aussie Spirit, and Mexico. In both games against Japan, Team Italy lost by slim margins (2-0 and 3-2) to the second-ranked softball powerhouse country. Since then, Team Italy players have returned to their respective college softball squads with a vengeance. There are also a handful of Italian players who are currently not affiliated with Team Italy but are enjoying success at U.S. colleges.

Team Italy outfielder and University of New Mexico Lobos junior Andrea Howard got hits in both contests against Japan in the Australia Pacific Cup. In fact, she was one of the Azzurre squad's best hitters in the AP Cup by going 5-for-16 (.312 batting average) with two doubles, one walk, three runs scored, and two RBI. Back home at the University of New Mexico, Andrea Howard has started in all nine games to date. She currently leads the Lobos (5-4) in home runs (4) and RBI (11), while hitting .296 with one double and four walks. Andrea Howard will have the opportunity to get a glimpse of what to expect in the Tokyo Olympics when the University of New Mexico plays Team USA on February 20, 2020 at 9 pm at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, California. To follow Andrea Howard and the UNM Lobos this season, click HERE.

Andrea Howard will also compete against Team Italy's Elisa Princic, who is currently a freshman on the University of San Diego (USD) Toreros roster. In seven appearances for the USD Toreros (4-5), she has compiled a .250 batting average with three runs scored, one walk, and one stolen base. Elisa Princic can offer Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter a scouting report on two opponents in the 2020 Olympics when the USD Toreros play Team USA on February 21 at 8 pm at the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City and later play against Team Mexico on March 24 at 4:30 pm at home in San Diego. To follow Elisa Princic and the USD Toreros this season, click HERE.

After making an impressive Team Italy debut in the AP Cup, Northwestern University graduate Andrea Filler returned to her alma mater to serve as the Softball Director of Operations for the second-straight season. Following Erika Piancastelli in the Azzurre lineup, shortstop Andrea Filler provided protection for the Team Italy slugger and went 5-for-14 (.357 batting average) with two doubles, one walk, two runs scored, and three RBI. Northwestern University is one of the finest softball programs in the country. With a 6-2 victory over DIvision I fourth-ranked Florida State on February 15, 2020, Northwestern (4-5) is climbing up the national Top 20.

Team Italy infielder Melany Sheldon was dependable as the defensive backup for Emily Carosone at second base and for Giulia Longhi at third base in the AP Cup. She has since returned to University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell to play in her final year in NCAA Division I as a senior member of the River Hawks softball team. In two starts and five at-bats for UMass Lowell (2-3) this season, Melany Sheldon has one walk to her credit. To follow Melany Sheldon and the UMass Lowell River Hawks this season, click HERE.

Italian American Sara Rusconi Vicinanza from Giovanile Collecchio Softball was listed on the preliminary Team Italy roster for the 2019 WBSC U19 Women’s Softball World Championship in Irvine, but she opted out at the last minute to pursue her dream of making the 12-time NCAA Division I National Champion and defending 2019 NCAA Division I National Champion UCLA Bruins softball team. Making four game appearances (including one start) for the second-ranked and undefeated UCLA Bruins (11-0), freshman Sara Rusconi Vicinanza is hitting .500 (2-for-4) with one home run and two runs scored. To follow Sara Rusconi Vicinanza and the UCLA Bruins this season, click HERE.

Freshman Chiara Bassi has started in eight of nine games at second base for the NCAA Division I South Dakota State College Jackrabbits (4-5). She is currently hitting .208 with one walk and one RBI. To follow Chiara Bassi and the South Dakota State College Jackrabbits this season, click HERE.

In her junior year at NCAA Divison II East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, infielder Sophia Cecchin is proving to be worth here weight in gold. Starting in all eight games at second base for the East Stroudsburg Univerity Warriors (2-6), Sophia Cecchin is hitting .333 with six walks, four runs scored, and one RBI. To follow Sophia Cecchin and the East Stroudsburg Univerity Warriors this season, click HERE.

In her senior year playing for the NCAA Division II University of Montevallo Falcons in Alabama, Mariel Bertossi is currently being used as the day-to-day catcher and hitting cleanup in the Falcons lineup. Starting all 12 games to date, she is hitting .273 with one triple, one home run, three walks, three stolen bases, and eight RBI. Mariel Bertossi recently helped the Montevallo Falcons win two of three games against Division II fourth-ranked University of West Florida over the weekend. Montevallo is 7-5 overall this season and 2-1 in the Gulf South Conference. To follow Mariel Bertossi and the Montevallo Falcons this season, click HERE.

Team Italy's Susana Soldi has kicked off her freshman year playing first base and batting second in the lineup for the Pensacola State College Pirates, a NJCAA Division I school in Florida's Panhandle Conference. Compiling a .350 batting average (14-for-40) with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, 10 walks, two stolen bases, 16 RBI, and 18 runs scored, Susanna Soldi has led the Pensacola State College Pirates to a 13-2 record. She has also picked one win in two starts pitching this season. To follow Susanna Soldi and the Pensacola State College Pirates this season, click HERE.

Freshman Tara Melassi plays for the Miami Dade College Sharks, a NJCAA Division I school in Florida's Southern Conference. The versatile infielder is hitting cleanup for the Miami Dade College Sharks (5-7) and boasts a .350 batting average with one home run, four walks, six RBI, seven runs scored and two stolen bases in 10 game appearances. To follow Tara Melassi and the Miami Dade College Sharks this season, click HERE.

Utility player Gloria Di Lauro has one walk for the Colby College Trojans (2-4) in two plate appearances during her sophomore season at Colby Community College, a NJCAA Division I school in Kansas. Fellow Italian utility player Alice Midiri, while playing for the NJCAA Division I McCook College Lady Indians (1-9) in Nebraska, had a chance to compete against Gloria Di Lauro's Colby College Trojans in game two of a doubleheader on February 11, 2020. Freshman Alice Midiri got two hits in the contest but that was not enough for her team in the 16-8 loss to Colby College. They have one last chance to meet again when McCook College hosts Colby College for a doubleheader on February 26. 2020. To follow Gloria Di Lauro and the Colby College Trojans this season, click HERE. To follow Alice Midiri and the McCook College Lady Indians, click HERE.

Sophomore Benedetta Scotto has played in four games as an outfielder for the NJCAA Division I Odessa College Wranglers (7-6) in Texas. The left-handed pitcher has not made appearances on the mound and has not had any luck in three at-bats so far. However, Benedetta Scotto has been effective as a pinch runner by stealing one base and scoring two runs. To follow Benedetta Scotto and the Odessa College Wranglers, click HERE.

Catcher Giulia Cianfriglia is in her freshman year at NJCAA Division II Spoon River College in Canton, Illinois. She is hitting .389 with one double, four walks, five RBI, and seven runs scored for the the Lady Snappers softball team (5-3). To follow Giulia Cianfriglia and the Spoon River College Lady Snappers this season, click HERE. Forza #Italia!

by Roberto AngottI