Team Italy beats Mexico 7-6 in extra innings and faces Japan in Canada Cup playoffs

Team Italy beats Mexico 7-6 in extra innings and faces Japan in Canada Cup playoffs
Team Italy finished Canada Cup round-robin play at Softball City in Surrey, British Columbia on Friday night, July 14, 2023 by defeating Mexico 7-6 in nine innings and earning the right to battle top-seed Japan as the fourth-seed in the playoffs on Saturday, July 15, 2023 at 1:30 pm (ET)

After a 8-0 five-inning mercy-rule victory over Australia A earlier in the day, Team Italy returned for the final Canada Cup round-robin game under the lights at Softball City in Surrey, British Columbia on July 14, 2023. Azzurre women’s softball manager Federico Pizzolini handed the ball off to pitching ace Alexia Lacatena against Mexico. The Team Italy lineup looked like this: Marta Gasparotto, 1B; Laura Vigna, LF; Erika Piancastelli, RF; McKenzie Barbara, DP; Andrea Filler, 2B; Elisa Cecchetti, C; Melany Sheldon, SS; Giulia Longhi, 3B; Melany Sheldon, SS; Giulia Koutsoyanopulos, CF; and Alexia Lacatena, P.  

Starter Alexia Lacatena got off to a rocky start in the top of the first inning when Mexico scored four runs. After Savannah Wysocki reached first on an infield bunt, Marlene Espinoza singled and Jillian Cellis hit a three-run home run. Linnah Rebolledo followed with a double. A sacrifice bunt by Madelin Ruffin advanced the runner to third base. Alexia Lacatena got a strikeout of Yanina Trevino, but an ensuing RBI single by Kianaa Estrada prompted a pitching change. Reliever Ilaria Cacciamani entered the ballgame. Then Alexia Lopez reached second base on an error by shortstop Melany Sheldon. With runners on second and third, Ilaria Cacciamani reared back and struck out Alyssa Rebolledo to stop the bleeding and limit the damage. 

Mexico countered with fifth-ranked University of Washington starting pitcher Lyndsay Lopez, who compiled a 14-3 record with a 3.25 ERA in 94.2 innings and 89 strikeouts during the 2023 season. A leadoff walk to Marta Gasparotto and an infield single by Laura VIgna was followed by a strikeout of Erika Piancastelli. McKenzie Barbara grounded out to first to put two runners in scoring position for Andrea Filler, who came through in the clutch with a two-run single to cut the deficit to two. Mexico pitcher Lyndsay Lopez punched out Elisa Cecchetti to end the inning and preserve the 4-2 lead.

Team Italy pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani looked good striking out Savannah Wysocki in the top of the second inning but succumbed to the long ball when Jillian Cellis hit her second home run of the night.  

Down 5-2 in the bottom of the second inning, Team Italy answered with one run. Giulia Longhi singled, advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Giulia Koutsoyanopulos and scored on an RBI single by Marta Gasparotto to make it a 5-3 game. 

Despite surrendering a lead off single by Madelin Ruffin in the top of the third inning, Ilaria Cacciamani showed resilience with strikeouts of Yanina Trevino, Kiana Estrada and Alexia Lopez. 

In the top of the fourth inning, an error at second base by Andrea Filler allowed Alyssa Rebolledo to reach first base. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Savannah Wysocki. Ilaria Cacciamani got a quick strikeout of Marlene Espinoza. An intentional walk to Jillian Cellis and an infield single by Linnah Rebolledo loaded the bases for Madelin Ruffin, who struck out swinging to end the scoring threat.

Ilaria Cacciamani struck out Kiana Estrada for the second time and had an easy 1-2-3 out top of the fifth inning to keep the Italians in the contest. However, the Team Italy offense could not get any traction on Mexico pitcher Lyndsay Lopez in the bottom of the fifth inning.  

Ilaria Cacciamani got back-to-back strikeouts of Alyssa Rebolledo and Savannah Wysocki and recorded a 1-3 groundout in the top of the sixth inning. Italian hopes for a two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth inning began when Andrea Filler singled, She was replaced on the bases by the speedy Fabrzia Marrone, but a groundout by Elisa Cecchetti quickly erased the possibility. 

In the top of the seventh inning, Jillian Cellis walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Linnah Rebolledo. Ilaria Cacciamani fought back with strikeouts of Madelin Ruffin and pinch hitter Alejandra Casas.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Team Italy scored twice to tie the game 5-5. Back-to-back singles by Melany Sheldon and Giulia Longhi set the table for Giulia Koutsoyanopulos, who put down a sacrifice bunt to get both runners in scoring position. Marta Gasparotto hit a two-run triple but was later called out at the plate when trying to tag up a flyout to shallow left field by Laura Vigna.  

The game went into extra innings. Kiana Estrada moved Yanina Trevino from second to third base on a sacrifice bunt. Then Alexia Lopez hit an RBI single to give Mexico a slim 6-5 advantage. Ilaria Cacciamani struck out pinch hitter Stefania Aradillas for the second out. A groundout by Marlene Espinoza ended the top of the eighth inning. 

The Italians placed Laura Vigna on second base in the bottom of the eighth inning. She was thrown out tagging up on a flyout to right field by Erika Piancastelli. With two out, McKenzie Barbara crushed a solo home run to deep center to keep the score tied 6-6 and extend the game even further.

In the top of the ninth inning, Marlene Espinoza was placed on second base and Jillian Cellis was issued a walk. Linnah Rebolledo moved the runners over on a sacrifice bunt. A groundout to first by Madelin Ruffin and a strikeout of Yanina Trevino stranded the runners on base without scoring. 

Mexico went to the bullpen and summoned Raci Miranda in the bottom of the ninth inning. Andrea Filler was placed on second base. A flyout to center by Elisa Cecchetti could not advance the runner, but hero Melany Sheldon followed with the walk-off RBI single to give Team Italy the 7-6 extra-innings victory. 


Team Italy (4-3) returns to battle undefeated Japan (7-0) in the Canada Cup playoffs on Saturday, July 15, 2023 at 1:30 pm (ET). Second-seed TC Colorado (6-1) plays third-seed Canada (5-2) immediately following at 4 pm (ET). 

If Team Italy upsets Japan, the Italians will play the winner of the TC Colorado and Canada game at 9 pm (ET). Should Team Italy lose to the Japanese, the Italians would play another game later at 11:30 pm (ET) against the winner of the contest between fifth-ranked Israel (3-4) and eighth-ranked Greece (0-7). 

If Team Italy wins at least one of the two games, the Azzurre softball squad will continue in the Canada Cup playoffs on Sunday, July 16, 2023 beginning at 4 pm (ET) and concluding with the Gold Medal Final taking place at 9 pm (ET). Watch all the action on the Canada Cup Livestream.

Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti




Read also: Team Italy defeats Australia 8-0 via mercy rule at Canada Cup

(Photo of Team Italy pitching coach Nancy Evans speaking to the Azzurre squad before the Mexico game at the Canada Cup by Roberto Angotti)