Team Italy wins back-to-back U22 Women's European Softball Championships

Team Italy wins back-to-back U22 Women's European Softball Championships
With its 3-2 victory over host Czech Republic in the U22 Women's European Softball Championship final in Kunovice on Saturday, July 2, 2022, Team Italy won its third title in history to become the European nation with the most amount of championships

Team Italy made history when it won the U22 Women's European Softball Championship final against host Czech Republic in Kunovice by a score of 3 to 2 on Saturday, July 2, 2022 and became the country with the most amount of European Championship titles after breaking its 2-2 tie with Russia.

The first two scoreless innings of the U22 Women's European Softball Championship final demonstrated that this contest was going to be a nail biter. It got really interesting in the top of the third inning. With runners on the corners because of two infield errors and no out, Team Italy starting pitcher Alexia Lacatena literally took one for the team when her left shoulder was hit by a line drive and the ball remained in the infield instead of reaching the outfield. As a result, the lead Czech runner remained at third base and the bases were loaded.

All eyes were on Team Italy pitching ace Alexia Lacatena. Would she remain in the game or succumb to the pain and retreat to the dugout? Team physician Alessandro Buttà rushed out to the pitching circle and offered first aid. He doused her left shoulder with aerosol pain relief spray while pitcher Alexia Lacatena took deep breaths to ease the sting. The resilient athlete chose to stay in the contest with bases loaded and no out. Her decision paid off for Team Italy as she got out of the jam without surrendering the decisive run which would ultimately be the difference in winning the championship title.

The game remained scoreless until the top of the fourth inning when Czech catcher Eliška Slaninova hit a solo home run over the head of the hustling center fielder Giulia Koutsoyanopulos, who crashed over the collapsing center field fence trying to make a miraculous catch and possibly a softball web gem in the process.

The sleeping giant Team Italy offense finally woke up in the bottom of the fifth inning when three runs crossed the plate. Speedy Giulia Koutsoyanopulos led off with a single up the middle, advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Noemi Giacometti and bolted immediately to third base on contact when Anita Bartoli hit a routine grounder to the Czech second baseman. She successfully beat the defensive throw to third base which allowed Anita Bartoli to reach base in what would otherwise be a sure groundout at first.

With Italian baserunners on first and third, Azzurre team captain Elisa Princic came through in the clutch with a two-run single. She reached second base when the left fielder chose to throw home and moved on to third base on the overthrow at the plate. An RBI single by Virginia Mambelli put Team Italy on top 3-1. Czech Republic answered with one run in the top of the sixth inning to make it a 3-2 game.

Winning pitcher Alexia Lacatena dug deep and pitched a scoreless top of the seventh inning. It was most appropriate that she assisted in getting the final out by fielding a difficult ground ball and throwing a rocket to first base ahead of the runner to secure the U22 European Softball Championship title for undefeated Team Italy (11-0). Forza #Italia!





by Roberto Angotti

(Photo of Gold Medal Winner Team Italy at the end of the 2022 Women's European Softball Championship by Grega Valancic/WBSC Europe)