Italy prove too strong for GB Women at Super 6

Wed 19 Sep 2018

By Bob Fromer

Hoofddorp, Netherlands: 19 September – The GB Women’s Fastpitch Team struggled to contain the Italian offense today in their second game at the European Super 6 tournament, eventually going down by a score of 6-0.

The loss gives GB a 1-1 record in the tournament so far, with a tough doubleheader to come on Thursday against the Czechs and the Dutch, followed by a final round-robin game against Russia on Friday and a playoff game on Saturday.

The Italians had 13 hits off three GB pitchers, while GB managed just one hit and one baserunner against Italian starter Ilaria Cacciamani, who pitched a complete game, striking out eight.

The one GB hit, and the only blemish on what would otherwise have been a perfect game for Cacciamani, was a bloop double by GB shortstop Sydney Brown with one out in the first inning that fell just inside the left field foul line behind third base.  But Sydney was stranded on second and after that GB went up and down in order over the next six innings.

As the game went on, GB strikeouts diminished and there were a couple of hard-hit balls by Nerissa Myers and Amie Hutchison.  But GB never really looked like scoring.

Italian threats

By contrast, the Italians looked like scoring in every inning, and did score in four of them.  But GB pitchers battled, on the whole successfully, to keep the game from getting out of control, helped by some very hard-hit balls that went to GB fielders -- including two vicious line drives that Sydney Brown managed to snag at shortstop. 

On the other side of the ledger, the Italians did pop up three bunts, two of them converted into outs on diving catches by GB catcher Steph Pearce and the other grabbed by first base player Lauren Evans and turned into a double play.

“You can’t win a game if you give up 13 hits,” GB Head Coach Rachael Watkeys said afterwards.  “They hit the ball really hard, and we didn’t hit at all.  In fact, the long fence on this field might have saved us; the Italians hit one ball out, but there might have been three other home runs on a normal field.”

For some reason, the field that the ESF is using for the Softball Super 6 has outfield fences at 270 feet, about 50 or 60 feet deeper than most fastpitch diamonds.  This is going to produce fewer home runs over the fence than usual and a lot more triples and inside-the-park home runs, as the first two days of the tournament have already made clear. 

As for the game itself, and though GB coaches won’t want to admit this, some context is provided by the game between these two teams at the Women’s World Championship in Japan in August.  In that game, the full GB Senior Team lost by just 1-0 to Italy, out-hit the Italians, and would have won the game had the Italians not made some great fielding plays at crucial moments.

Neither team will take this result at the Super 6 as a guide to what will happen when they meet again in the European Women’s Championship next summer and the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifying Tournament next autumn.

How the pitchers fared

The Italians were perfectly democratic in today’s game, scoring two runs off each of GB’s three pitchers.

Carling Hare started and pitched the first four innings, and though she was in trouble in all of them, she actually pitched a tough game against everyone in the Italian line-up not named Amanda Fama.

Fama, the Italian shortstop, had two at-bats against Carling, and hit a massive first-pitch triple in both of them, drives that would certainly have been home runs at most fastpitch venues.  Those triples produced the two runs that were scored against Carling: in the first inning, Fama’s triple drove in Laura Vigna, who had walked to open the game, and in the third inning, Fama scored after her lead-off triple on a sacrifice fly by Erica Piancastelli. 

Otherwise, Carling hung tough with lots of Italians on base, a number of them via bunt singles, and closed out both the second and third innings with strikeouts.

Hannah Edwards, the young pitcher who made her senior team debut on Tuesday against Greece, took over the pitching in the top of the fifth inning, and as the softball gods would have it, faced Amanda Fama and Erica Piancastelli, two of the best hitters in European softball, as her first two batters.

Fama only managed a slow ground ball to second base that she beat out for a single, but Piancastelli drove a monster home run over that 270-foot fence in left centre field.

Although Hannah gave up another triple later in the inning to Elisa Princic, and yet another in the sixth inning to Laura Vigna, she managed to keep the Italians from any further scoring before handing over to Amie Hutchison, who pitched the top of the seventh.


Amie managed to avoid Fama and Piancastelli altogether, but gave up two runs in the seventh on singles by Giulia Longhi, Chiara Bassi and Marta Gasparotto, plus a sacrifice fly by Alessandra Rotondo.

It was a result the Italians had to have after their loss to the Czech Republic on the opening day of the tournament, and it was a win they deserved.

Other results

Day 2 of the Softball Super 6 tournament began with the Russians giving the Czech Republic a fright. 

The Czechs had been on a high after their 3-2 over Italy on Tuesday, but came down to earth quickly on Wednesday morning when the Russians took advantage of a dropped pop fly to score three runs in the top of the first inning off Czech starter Veronika Burianova.  The Russians held that advantage until the Czechs tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning and then brought in their ace, Veronika Petkova, to make sure the Russians didn’t score again.

When the Russians came to bat in the top of the seventh inning they were trailing 5-3, and Petkova struck out the first two Russian batters, giving her seven strikeouts in 2.2 innings.  But suddenly, Russian lead-off hitter Daria Semenova drove a line drive between the Czech outfielders that went all the way to the270-foot fence in right centre field, and Semenova made it all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.  That made the score 5-4 and brought the Czech coaches out to the circle.  But nothing daunted, Veronika Petkova struck out pinch-hitter Olga Iakovleva to end the game and keep the Czechs on course for a place in Saturday’s gold medal game.

After GB played Italy in the second game of the day, the Czechs returned to the field to face Greece, and had another fright.  The Czechs surged to an early 6-2 lead, then had to hold on as the Greeks rallied.  But the Czechs prevailed 6-5, and are the currently on top of the round-robin table.

This evening, the Netherlands and Italy met in a game that was more important for Italy than for the Dutch, because if Italy had lost, their chance of making the gold medal game would have been virtually gone. The result was a thrilling encounter before an overflow crowd in which Italy took an early 2-0 lead, then saw the Netherlands overtake them late in the game to edge 3-2 ahead.  The Italians were down to their final out in the bottom of the seventh inning when they scored the tying run to take the game to the eighth inning and a tie-break.  The Dutch failed to score their tie-break runner in the top of the eighth, but Italy bunted theirs to third and scored the walk-off game winning run when Alessandra Rotonda poked a single past the drawn-in Dutch infield.

This will make Friday night's game between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic the key to deciding which two teams will play for the gold medal on Saturday.  Should the Dutch beat the Czechs, then the finalists may be decided on runs conceded between the Dutch, the Italians and the Czechs.

Scores

Scores so far in the Softball Super 6 are:

MONDAY
Czech Republic 3, Italy 2
GB 7, Greece 3
Netherlands 13, Russia 1 (5 inns)

TUESDAY
Czech Republic 5, Russia 4
Italy 6, GB 0
Czech Republic 6, Greece 5
Italy 4, Netherlands 3 (8 inns)

Standings

Round-robin standings after Day 2 are:

Czech Republic (3-0)
Italy (2-1)
GB (1-1)
Netherlands (1-1)
Greece (0-2)
Russia (0-2)

The final round-robin standings will determine the playoff match-ups on Saturday: the top two teams will play for the gold medal, the middle two teams for the bronze medal and the bottom two teams for fifth place. 

All games from the Super 6 are being webstreamed live, with excellent production by Playo.tv, and are also available on demand on www.baseballsoftball.tv.

The full schedule and all the results can be viewed on the ESF website: http://competition.europeansoftball.org/2018/hoofddorp/schedule.php.

Photos by Paul Stodart.

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