Italy wins first Women’s Euros since 2007

Sat 25 Jul 2015

By Bob Fromer

Rosmalen, Netherlands: 25 July – On a day of gale-force wind and heavy rain, the final games of the European Women’s Championship somehow managed to be played today in Rosmalen, and the main beneficiary was Italy, which won its first European title since 2007.

The Italians came from behind to win the game 2-1 thanks to a two-run, two-out single to left field by shortstop Eva Trevisan in the top of the fifth inning off veteran Dutch pitcher Rebecca Soumeru, and there was an irony involved that Trevisan may remember. 

In the Euro/Africa Olympic Qualifier in 2007, played at Ronchi de Legionari in Italy, the Italians were overwhelming favourites.  But the Dutch were protecting a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Italians had runners on second and third with two out, and it was Eva Trevisan who hit a vicious line drive that looked headed for the gap in right centre field and destined to send Italy to the Olympics – until a very tall Dutch second base player snared it out the air at the top of her leap.

The Netherlands has been the dominant team in Europe ever since, winning the last three European Women’s Championships.  But the Netherlands lost funding and key players after a failure to finish fifth at last year’s WBSC Women’s World Championships in Haarlem, and the Dutch are no longer the team they were.  The Italians knew this, and were more than happy to take advantage – especially on Dutch soil.

The Italian celebrations after first base player Priscilla Brandi made a fine running catch of Manoa Weijgertse’s foul fly ball for the final out of the game were joyous and prolonged.  The Italians, who ruled the roost in Europe from 1992 through 2007, have waited eight long years to get back on top.

Home run

The final was another battle between Italy’s #1 pitcher Greta Cecchetti and the majority of the Dutch pitching staff, since the Dutch coaches who have succeeded Craig Montvidas like to pull their pitchers at the first sign of trouble.

Cecchetti pitched the full game for Italy when the Dutch beat them 1-0 on Wednesday in the first playoff round, using four pitchers to do it.  Cecchetti pitched the full game on Friday when Italy beat the Dutch 2-0 in the 1 v 2 Page Playoff game, with the Netherlands using three pitchers.  And she pitched all seven innings in the final, giving up just three hits and two walks, to get the better of three Dutch pitchers once again.

But one of those three Dutch hits, by Holland’s rising young star, shortstop Suka van Gurp, soared over the fence in left centre field in the bottom of the second inning, aided by the gale blowing out towards left field, and that gave the Dutch a 1-0 lead that looked for a while like it might be decisive.

A couple of hours earlier, van Gurp had hit a fly ball triple against the Czech Republic, aided by the wind, that drove in the only run of a game that the Czechs did not deserve to lose – but that game decided who would play the Italians in the final.  That triple was the only hit given up by the Czechs’ fine young pitcher, Viktoria Petcova, who struck out 14.  But while the Czechs had six hits, they could not manage to find a run.

Turning points

Although the rain had largely stopped before the final began, and there was even a glimpse of the sun, conditions were cold and damp and the wind continued to try to blow fly balls over the heads of outfielders.  But the weather did not prevent a large and enthusiastic crowd taking up every available seat around the main field, and trading chants of “Ee-tal-ya” and “Hol-land” throughout the game.

And it was a fascinating game with some key turning points.

The first came in the top of the fourth inning, with the Dutch leading 1-0 on Suka van Gurp’s home run.  A walk, a strikeout and two more walks by Dutch starter Lindsey Meadows, who had cruised through the first three innings, loaded the bases for Italy with one out.  Inevitably, that meant a pitching change, and in came Holland’s longest-serving pitcher, Rebecca Soumeru.  With Italy desperate to push the tying run across the plate, Soumeru mesmerised both Alice Fiorio and Valeria Bartolomai with drops and change-ups, and had both of them called out on strikes.

However, Italy broke through against Soumeru in the top of the fifth.  Alice Parisi led off with a bloop double into left field that eluded Jessie van Aalst’s dive, and pulled off a delayed steal of third as Andrea Montanari grounded out.  Italy’s tiny second base player, Elisa Grifagno, put down a bunt in front of home plate, and Dutch catcher Karin Tuk failed to pick it up cleanly, then looked the runner back at third, and had no chance to get Grifagno, who then stole second base.

But Rebecca Soumeru struck out Priscilla Brandi for the second out and now looked to get out of the inning against Eva Trevisan.  The count went to 1-1, and Trevisan then drove a sharp single between third and short.  Now the Italians had a 2-1 lead.

Last chances

The Dutch were always going to have one more big chance, and it came in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Greta Cecchetti faltered for the first time in the game against the top of the Dutch line-up and gave up consecutive one-out singles to Chantal Versluis and Saskia Kosterink.  With runners on first and second and Jessie van Aalst at the plate, Dutch Head Coach Tracy Bunge took a familiar leaf out of the Craig Montvidas playbook, and tried a double steal to put both runners into scoring position.  But Italian catcher Valeria Bortolomai fired a strike to Erika Piancastelli to cut down Chantal Versluis at third, and cut the heart out of the rally.  Jessie van Aalst then bounced out to second to end the inning.

There was one last scare for the Italians, and it came from Dinet Oosting, who led off the bottom of the seventh inning for Holland.  Her fly ball to centre field was taken by the wind and just kept on going, driving centre fielder Andrea Montanari back towards the fence.  But at the last second, Montanari pulled down the catch, and the Italians were almost there.  Greta Cecchetti got the dangerous Suka van Gurp to pop out to first base, walked Karin Tuk, but induced another pop-up from Manoa Weijgertse that Priscilla Brandi clutched in foul territory as she ran into the sideline fence.

The balance of power in European softball has now shifted back south of the Alps, and with a possible Olympic Qualifier coming up in four years’ time if softball is reinstated for Tokyo 2020, the top softball countries in Europe – and that includes GB – will now be gunning for the Italians.

Final results

Final placings in the 2015 European Women’s Championships were:

1.  Italy
2.  Netherlands
3.  Czech Republic
4.  Russia
5. Great Britain
6.  Austria
7.  Germany
8.  Spain
9.  France
10.  Greece
11.  Sweden
12.  Ukraine
13.  Denmark
14.  Slovenia
15.  Poland
16.  Slovakia
17.  Croatia
18.  Switzerland
19.  Ireland
20.  Israel

The rain and winds on Saturday forced the cancellation of the last two games in the Consolation Page Playoff, with Greece and Sweden due to play and the winner to meet France in the Consolation Final.  So the final position of these three teams in the standings was determined by the first two games of their Page Playoff on Friday, where France beat Greece and Sweden defeated Ukraine.

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