The Olympic-bound Team Italy women's softball squad got a snapshot of what they can expect to see in Tokyo when top-ranked Team USA defeated the Italians 31-3 in an eight-inning exhibition game at USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera, Florida on April 21, 2021. The relentless Americans, who had previously outscored opponents 50-6 in their previous seven contests, were undoubtedly going to be a difficult team with an explosive offense to keep under control.
Team USA sent out starting pitcher Haylie Wagner, while Team Italy manager Federico Pizzolini called on pitching ace "Iron Greta" Cecchetti. It appeared Team Italy was off to the races at the start of the game. Leadoff hitter Laura Vigna legged out an infield single in the top of the first inning and reached second base when Amanda Fama grounded out to the pitcher. After designated player Emily Carosone walked, cleanup hitter Erika Piancastelli popped up to the shortshop and Andrea Filler grounded out to end the scoring threat.
Greta Cecchetti showed good command early with an easy 1-2-3 out inning in the bottom of the first inning. Beatrice Ricchi led off with a single up the middle in the top of the second inning, but Team Italy was unable to score. Iron Greta was not so lucky in the bottom of the second inning as she surrendered a home run to designated player Amanda Chidester and issued three walks to load the bases for Aubree Munro. Italian skipper Federico Pizzolini made a visit to the pitcher's circle to calm Iron Greta down. A groundout to shortstop Amanda Fama allowed one run to score. A strikeout of Janie Reed followed, but consecutive walks to Haylie McCleney, Kelsey Stewart, Ali Aguilar, and Amanda Chidester gave Team USA a 6-0 lead.
Reliever Alice Nicolini was summoned from the bullpen to help stop the bleeding, but unfortunately it added fuel to the fire. She gave up a three-run homer to Valerie Arioto, a two-run blast by Delaney Spaulding, and a two-run triple by Haylie McCleney to put Team USA on top 13-0. Team Italy needed some offense quick in the top of the third inning. Despite Laura Vigna getting her second single of the afternoon and Emily Carosone being walked again, Team Italy was unable to cash in.
In the bottom of the third inning, shortstop Amanda Fama showed some range up the middle and robbed Ali Aguilar of a leadoff single. Amanda Chidester walked and attempted to steal second base, but a perfectly placed throw by catcher Erika Piancastelli resulted in the second out. A three-run homer by Delaney Spaulding spoiled the near-perfect inning by Alice Nicolini.
Down 16-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Beatrice Ricchi picked up her second hit of the game, but Team Italy came up empty. Relentless USA went right back to work in the bottom of the fourth inning and picked up two more runs. USA reliever Samantha Show inherited an 18-0 advantage in the top of the fifth inning. Team Italy eliminated the possibility of a shutout by scoring one run. Fabrizia Marrone reached first base on a bunt single but was tagged out on a fielder's choice by Laura Vigna. Amanda Fama followed with a single, Then Emily Carosone grounded out to first base. Slugger Erika Piancastelli was walked to load the bases for Andrea Filler, who was hit by pitch to give Team Italy its first run of the game.
Reliever Ilaria Cacciamani entered the contest in the bottom of the fifth inning, and USA rallied for four more runs highlighted by a three-run bomb by Ali Aguilar. Even with a 20-plus run deficit in the top of the sixth inning, Team Italy was playing with pride as Giulia "Panda" Longhi singled to center field. Laura Vigna nearly picked up her third hit of the game, but a bang-bang defensive play by shortstop Hannah Flippen kept her off the bases.
Team USA blasted off again in the bottom of the sixth inning. A two-run homer by Hannah Flippen gave the Americans a commanding 24-1 lead. Team Italy put two runs on the board off USA reliever Randi Rupp in the top of the seventh inning. After Amanda Fama was hit by a pitch and Emily Carosone singled, Andrea FIller was also hit by a pitch to load the bases for Beatrice Ricchi. She hit a sacrifice fly to right field to enable Amanda Fama to score from third base. Then Beatrice Ricchi hit an RBI single to make the score 24-3.
Team Italy reliever Alexia Lacatena saw action in the bottom of the seventh inning. Although she was tagged for a total of seven runs, the young and promising hurler showed poise and composure throughout her baptism by fire. At the conclusion of the contest, Team Italy manager Federico Pizzolini expressed his appreciation for USA Softball and the USSSA Space Coast Complex for hosting the event. Special thanks go out to Team USA and Chris Sebren for facilitating the exhibition game.
Team Italy continues their Florida Spring Training at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex through April 24, 2021. Then the Azzurre squad departs for the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, where the Tokyo-bound squad will play a pair of doubleheaders against Team Canada on April 25 and 26 with games slated for 11 am and 1:30 pm each day. In addition, Team Italy will play an exhibition game against Florida International University in Miami on April 27 at 6 pm. Forza #Italia! #PerEnrico
by Roberto Angotti