GB Women lose hard-luck 1-0 game to Italy

Mon 6 Aug 2018

By Bob Fromer

Monday 6 August – Another great performance by the GB Women’s pitching and defense, and another frustrating performance by the offense, meant another agonising loss today at the WBSC Women’s World Championship in Japan, this time by 1-0 to Italy.

GB still hasn’t scored a run in this tournament, and that’s why the team has lost its first four games.  But they will never come closer than they did today, stymied only by some great Italian defense and one crucial baserunning mistake.

The loss, at Zett.A. Stadium in Ichihara City, means that GB has almost no chance of making the Championship playoffs, something they have never done in seven World Championship appearances.  But there are still games that can be won in this first round, with consolation playoffs to follow later in the week.  And in many ways, the performances here in Japan bode well for next year’s European Championship and then the crucial Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier that will follow.

But the team needs to find a way to turn its opportunities into runs.

GB out-hit Italy in this game by 5-3.  They had baserunners in all seven innings; Italy had baserunners only in the first and third.  The GB Team and coaches will be asking themselves how they lost this game.  The Italians will know that a lot of the credit for winning it goes to the left side of their infield: Amanda Fama at shortstop and especially Giulia Longhi at third base.

Here’s how things unfolded.

Rocky start

Neither team started their #1 pitcher in this game: GB went with Beth Fleming, who had been so effective on Saturday against China, and Italy chose Ilaria Cacciamani, who had yet to give up a run in the tournament.

GB almost took the lead in the top of the first inning.

Nerissa Myers drew a walk from Cacciamani to open the game, was bunted to second by Kendyl Scott and went to third on a groundout by Lauren Evans.  

Catcher Kirsten Mack then hit a long drive to right centre field that looked like it might have a chance to leave the park.  But Italian centre fielder Laura Vigna tracked it down and made a fine catch near the fence.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Italians scored the only run of the game.

With one out, Amanda Fama and then Erika Piancastelli drove singles to right field, with Fama moving to third.  When GB threw home to prevent a run scoring on Marta Gasparotto’s bunt, but failed to get an out, it looked like big trouble, with the bases loaded and only one out. 

But Beth Fleming has a knack of getting out of these kinds if jams, or at least minimising the damage.

A fine play by Chelsea D’Avilar at third, firing to Kirsten Mack for the force out at home on a bouncer by Giulia Longhi, brought the second out, but a wild pitch by Beth Fleming a few moments later allowed Erika Piancastelli to score.  A fly ball to right field by Beatrice Ricci ended the inning, but Italy had a run.

It turned out to be huge.


Shut-down pitching

For the most part, the rest of the game was about GB trying and failing to score, and we can deal quickly with how the Italians fared offensively after the first inning.

In the bottom of the second, Beth Fleming set the Italians down in order, striking out two.

As the bottom of the third inning got under way, Georgina Corrick came in to pitch, Beth Fleming having gone once through the Italian order, and immediately got into trouble: Andrew Howard punched a single to left field and Amanda Fama was hit by a pitch.

But Georgina got the next three hitters on a force play, a strikeout and a pop-up to shortstop, and over the last three innings of the game, nine Italian batters went up and down in order, three of them on strikeouts.  The only thing that disturbed the tranquillity for the GB defense was a long drive to left field by Amanda Fama with two in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Hayley D’Avilar tracked it, leapt and caught the ball just before she hit the fence.


Frustration

Here is the catalogue of how GB failed to score over the last six innings of the game, some of the chances more heart-breaking than others.

In the top of the second inning, Chiya Louie was hit by a pitch leading off the inning, and was bunted to second by Hayley D’Avilar. 

But Sydney Brown took a called third strike on a fine change-up from Ilaria Cacchiamani, and Chelsea D’Avilar struck out swinging, but only after a great at-bat in which she fouled off six tough pitches.

The top of the third inning would probably have produced a run but for Italian shortstop Amanda Fama.  Tori Charters pushed a single towards shortstop to lead off the inning, and once again the call was for a bunt by Nerissa Myers that put Tori on second.  Kendyl Scott then hit a smash into the hole between third and short.  It looked like a sure base hit to left field, and might have allowed Tori Charters, who runs well, to score.  But Amanda Fama made a great bank-handed pick on the ball and threw to Giulia Longhi at third to cut down Tori.  Lauren Evans then struck out to end the inning.

A single to left field by Chiya Louie (Aubrey Peterson pinch-ran) and a walk to pinch-hitter Amy Moore (Sydney Brown re-entered to run) put runners on first and second for GB with two out in the top of the fourth inning, and that was the end for Ilaria Cacchiamani, replaced in the circle by Italy’s veteran ace pitcher, Greta Cecchetti. 

Cecchetti struck out Chelsea D’Avilar to end the threat.

Tori Charters walked to open the top of the fifth inning, but the next three hitters went down in order.

The killer for GB was the top of the sixth inning. 

Kirsten Mack drove a lead-off single to left field, and made it to second when the ball skipped away from Italian left fielder Beatrice Ricci.  Emmilee Blowers came in to pinch-run.  Chiya Louie struck out on three well-placed rise balls, but Hayley D’Avilar hit a slow chopper to Giulia Longhi  at third base that Hayley was clearly going to beat out for a hit.  Emmilee Blowers took third on the play – but over-slid the base.  Alertly, Longhi fired the ball to Amanda Fama covering third, who applied the tag as Emmilee reached back for the base.

Instead of runners on first and third with one out, GB had a runner on first with two out, and pinch-hitter Chloe Wigington struck out to bring the inning to an end.

There was one more inning, and one more chance, in the top of the seventh.

Steph Pearce led off, pinch-hitting for Chelsea D’Avilar, and with two strikes, reached out for a pitch down and away and lined it between third and short.  But Giulia Longhi made a fine lunging catch.  Tori Charters then reached base for the third time in the game with a bunt single, and went to second as Nerissa Myers grounded out.  There was one out left, and the batter was Kendyl Scott, who had already been robbed once by the Italian defense.

The count went to two-and-two and Kendyl then hit the ball hard again.  But it was a line drive right to Giulia Longhi at third base.

Somehow, the Italians had made their lone first-inning run stand up, and somehow, a GB team that looked better on offense than the Italians had failed to score. 


Looking ahead

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the day when GB will play twice, facing Botswana at 10.00 am Japanese time (2.00 am in the UK) and then Australia at 6.00 pm (10.00 am in the UK).

On Wednesday, GB will finish the round-robin phase of the tournament with a game against Venezuela at 12.30 pm in Japan (4.30 am in the UK).

Although the availability of webstreaming has been erratic, these games should be available either on www.baseballsoftball.tv or on YouTube at: https://wswc.wbsc.org/schedule-and-results

The GB Team will definitely be looking to get on the scoreboard and in the win column during the next two days.


Scores

Scores from today’s games are:

Pool A
Puerto Rico 9, Mexico 0 (6 inns)
New Zealand 6, South Africa 0
Netherlands 6, Chinese Taipei 5
USA 12, Philippines 0 (4 inns)

Pool B
Australia 14, Botswana 0 (4 inns)
Canada 7, China 0 (6 inns)
Italy 1, GB 0
Japan 6, Venezuela 2


Standings

Below are the first-round pool standings at this point in the competition:

Pool A
Puerto Rico (5-0)
USA (5-0)
Mexico (2-2)
Philippines (2-3)
Netherlands (2-3)
Chinese Taipei (2-3)
New Zealand (1-3)
South Africa (0-5)

The Netherlands still has a chance of getting to the playoffs, but their game on Tuesday against Mexico will be crucial.  As many as five teams could be fighting for the playoff spots behind Puerto Rico and the USA, and a lot of them play each other.

Pool B
Japan (5-0)
Australia (4-1)
Canada (4-1)
China (3-2)
Italy (2-3)
Venezuela (1-4)
GB (0-4)
Botswana (0-4)

Italy also has a chance of making the playoffs, and it may all come down to their game against China on Wednesday.

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