Team Italy comes up short against Great Britain and misses out on Euro Baseball Championship Quarterfinals

Team Italy comes up short against Great Britain and misses out on Euro Baseball Championship Quarterfinals
Sweden and undefeated Great Britain advance to the 2023 Euro Baseball Championship Quarterfinals from Group B as a result of beating Team Italy in Třebíč, Czech Republic. Despite two home runs from Azzurri slugger Robel Garcia, Seattle Mariners top prospect Harry Ford hit two devastating blasts of his own to eliminate Team Italy’s chances for a medal with a 11-10 victory on Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Having suffered a shocking 8-3 loss to Sweden the night prior at Třebíč Nuclears ballpark in the Czech Republic, Team Italy returned for a must-win game by at least five runs against Great Britain in order to reach the European Baseball Championship Quarterfinals. Having recently qualified for the 2026 World Baseball Classic after a successful run in this year’s edition, the Brits were not to be underestimated. 

Team Italy manager Mike Piazza sent out starting pitcher Michele Vasalotti who faced a strong GB 1-2 hitter punch featuring Seattle Mariners’ catcher of the future Harry Ford and Philadelphia Phillies prospect Nick Ward. Great Britain countered with starter Fred Moiser, who posted a 5.12 ERA in 2023 during 12 appearances (19.1 innings including one start and one save) for the Middlebury College Panthers in Vermont. 

After a strikeout of leadoff hitter Harry Ford on three pitches in the top of the first inning , Michele Vassalotti was tagged by Nick Ward for a solo home run over the right field fence to give GB an early 1-0 lead. The Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect struggled with control issues early when issuing a walk to Ben Leid and hitting Shamoy Christopher but managed to escape further damage. 

Seeking offensive production in a hurry, the Azzurri lineup looked a lot different than the two previous games: Ricardo Paolini, 2B; Sebastiano Poma, LF, Robel Garcia, 3B; Federico Celli, CF; Alberto Mineo, 1B; Vito Friscia, DH; J.J. D’Orazio, C; Mattia Mercuri, SS; and Nathanael Batista, RF.

Team Italy answered with one run In the bottom of the first inning, After Ricardo Paolini legged out an infield single, Sebastiano Poma walked, and Robel Garcia was hit by a pitch, Federico Celli crushed a ball to deep right-center field that was dropped by the outfielder. Ricardo Paolini crossed the plate on what was ruled an RBI single, but Sebastiano Poma was called out at the plate trying to score. Alberto Mineo grounding out into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play prevented the Azzurri from taking the lead. 

Team Italy pitcher Michele Vassalotti looked impressive striking out the side in the top of the second inning. The Italians missed out on a chance to break the game open in the bottom of the second inning. Slugger Vito Friscia led off with a single over the head of third baseman Michael Flaherty. Mattia Mercuri followed with a double to right field. Then Nathanael Batista hit a soft grounder to the Brit third baseman, but Vito Friscia was tagged out on the base path to home trying to score. With runners on the corners and two out, Ricardo Paolini was issued a walk by reliever Ethan Solomon to load the bases for Sebastiano Poma, who was caught looking at the plate to end another scoring opportunity.

In the top of the third inning, the Brits rallied for three runs with a lot of help from  the Italians. Harry Ford connected with a solo homer over the left field fence to give Great Britain a slim 2-1 lead. Then Nick Ward picked up his second hit of the game with a single up the middle. A failed pick-off attempt coupled with a passed ball resulted in the runner reaching third base. A walk to Aaron Singh prompted a mound visit by pitching coach Rolando Cretis. An ensuing wild pitch allowed Nick Ward to score from third base and Aaron Singh to get into scoring position. 

With GB in front 3-1 and no out, Ben Leid grounded out to shortstop Mattia Mercuri. Then Michele Vassalotti dug deep for a strikeout of Christopher Shamoy. After a walk to Julian Sanders, he was replaced by reliever Mattia Sireus, who hit Michael Flaherty to load the bases and walked Kennard Dawson to give GB the 4-1 lead. A groundout by Rayondre Mercer ended the rally. 

In the bottom of the third inning, Team Italy answered again for four runs this time around. Slugger Robel Garcia took reliever Ethan Soloman deep over the right-field wall to cut the deficit to two. With one out, back-to-back singles by Alberto Mineo and Vito Friscia followed by a walk to J.J D'Orazio loaded the bases for the Italians. A productive RBI groundout by Mattia Mercuri and a two-run single by Nathanael Batista gave Team Italy a 5-4 advantage.

In the top of the fourth inning, Harry Ford led off with a single, stole second and eventually third base. Then Mattia Sireus struck out the dangerous Nick Ward, Aaron Singh and Ben Leid to preserve the Italian lead. 

Hungry for more run support, Team Italy produced two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Pinch hitter Andrea Sellaroli reached first base on an error by third baseman Michael Flaherty. Then Robel Garcia made GB pay with a two-run bomb over the right-field wall. The Brits went to the bullpen and summoned reliever Chris Messer, who got a quick groundout from Federico Celli before walking Alberto Mineo. Vito Friscia popped up to short, and J.J. D’Orazio struck out to end the inning with the Itaians on top 7-4.

In the top of the fifth inning, the Great Britain offense went wild with a five-run frenzy. A leadoff walk to Shamoy Christopher was followed by a hard-hit single by Julian Sanders that ricocheted off pitcher Mattia Sireus, resulting in reliever Alex Bassani entering the contest. He walked Michael Flaherty to load the bases. Then Kennard Sanders hit a two-run single. A strikeout of Rayondre Mercer provided a false sense of security as a three-run home run by Harry Ford gave the Brits a 9-7 lead.

Great Britain added to its lead in the top of the seventh inning after Alex Bassani was chased out of the contest and reliever Nick Davis entered the game with Kennard Dawson on third base. A sacrifice fly by Harry Ford gave the Brits a comfortable 10-7 advantage.

An Italian attempt to come from behind was made in the bottom of the seventh inning when scoring one run. GB reliever Chris Messer issued walks to Vito Friscia and Mattia Mercuri. Then Nathanael Batista registered an RBI single to put the game within reach 10-8.

Team Italy relief pitcher Nick Davis tried his best to keep the contest close by throwing 1.2 scoreless innings and only allowing one hit with two strikeouts.

Great Britain brought in reliever Jacob Lambdin in the bottom of the eighth inning. After a strikeout of Andrea Sellaroli, he issued a four-pitch walk to slugger Robel Garcia. A strikeout of Federico Celli and a flyout by Alberto Mineo ended the inning.

Marco Artitzu replaced Nick Davis on the mound. After Michael Flaherty singled, Nateshon Thomas walked and Rayondre Mercer singled, Harry Ford hit a sacrifice fly to add another run for the Brits.

Down 11-8 in the bottom of the ninth, the Italians needed four runs to win the game with absolutely no hope in making the European Baseball Championship Quarterfinals. Great Britain took no chances and summoned closer Demoi Hodge. After walks to Vito Friscia and Mattia Mercuri, Nathanael Batista singled to load the bases. A walk to Ricardo Paolini yielded one run and a sacrifice fly by Andrea Sellaroli produced a second run. A game ending strikeout of Robel Garcia secured the 11-10 victory for undefeated Great Britain.


After the 11-10 loss to Great Britain, Team Italy was relegated to the European Baseball Championship 9-16 Placement Round. The Italians remain in Trebic for a game against Ukraine on Thursday, September 28, 2023 at 12 noon (local time).


(Photo of Sebastiano Poma being tagged out at home plate by catcher Harry Ford by Corrado Benedetti DUCK FOTO PRESS)