At the first-ever Baseball5 European Championship in Vilnius, Lithuania from February 28-March 1, 2020, the Italians were a long shot from day one. Team Italy manager Maurizio Balla had barely enough time to piece together his roster of Elisa Grifagnano, Giulia Mattioli, Elena Slawitz, Luisa Macciotta, Matteo Pizzolini, Matteo Pascoli, Marco Pascoli, and Matteo Oldano prior to the start of the international competition. The players had less than one week to gel and coalesce as the Italian National Baseball5 Team. Accompanied by delegation manager Claudio Marinelli, skipper Maurizio Balla put Team Italy to the test in the Baseball5 European Championship.
Despite the odds, the newly-born Team Italy Baseball5 squad performed like seasoned professionals by going undefeated and winning Pool B after defeating Latvia 12-0, Belgium 17-7, Belarus 8-0, Moldova 11-5, Romania 11-3 and the Netherlands 12-4. Team Italy and Russia, winner of Pool A, were the only undefeated squads headed into to the quarterfinals.
Team Italy continued its winning streak in the Baseball5 European Championship after a pair of convincing victories over Israel by scores of 9-3 and 7-3 to advance to the semifinals. In the other quarterfinal contests, Russia remained undefeated with 11-1 and 14-1 wins over Romania, while France beat Belarus (5-1 and 8-1) and Lithuania defeated the Netherlands (10-6 and 6-2).
In the best-of-three semifinal series against France, the French took game one by a score of 7-4. Team Italy rebounded with a 6-2 victory in the second match. France prevailed in the end with a 7-3 victory in game three to advance to the final against Lithuania, winner of the other semifinal contest after beating Russia (6-1 and 3-2). As a result, France and Lithuania automatically qualifed for the Baseball5 World Cup, which will be held in Mexico in December.
In the battle for the bronze against Russia, Team Italy fell victim to the powerful Russians via a walk-off 13-3 mercy-rule loss in the first match and a 5-0 shutout in the second contest. With a respectable fourth-place finish and a 9-4 overall record in the Baseball5 European Championship, Team Italy showed promise by being the second-highest scoring offense (103 runs) in the international tournament. France won the inaugural Baseball5 European Championship title after defeating silver medalist Lithuania (20-10 and 12-1). Forza #Italia!
by Roberto Angotti